Poetry is a natural fit for these occasions when we celebrate accomplishments and also share wisdom regarding what lies ahead. These poems provide a variety of responses to endings and new beginnings: ones that express love and pride, give hope and strength, and wish the best for our graduates.
If— by Rudyard Kipling: This classic poem—which acts as more of a pep-talk for times of hardship than for a congratulatory note for times of achievement—still issues forth advice for those off to tackle new challenges in new places.
It Couldn’t Be Done by Edgar Guest: In hard times when we are unsure about what is possible, we can share this inspirational poem that advises readers to disregard the nay-sayers and instead “tackle the thing / That ‘cannot be done,’ and you’ll do it.”
The School Where I Studied by Yehuda Amichai: This Israeli poet is known for his powers to recall and to lend new meanings to memories. In this translation, the poet revisits his old school and reflects on his time and old loves there, realizing now that “the windows of a classroom always open / to the future.”
Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti: A poem about what lies ahead on a graduate’s figurative road ahead: how it’s natural to be fearful and uncertain, and yet how there will be help and support every leg of the journey.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost: This well-known poem can be a perfect guide when we are uncertain as to which path to take next in life. While it may be difficult to choose a path at the outset, be confident that the one you choose will be the better one, because of the person who is travelling it.
For a Girl I Know about to Be a Woman by Miller Williams: A humorous and healthy dose of dating advice, from that most conflicted of positions: the father’s.
The Writer by Richard Wilbur: This father recalls those moments in his daughter’s life and writes, ”Young as she is, the stuff / Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy: / I wish her a lucky passage.”