Poem Sampler

Fathers Day Poems

A fistful of poems about fatherhood by classic and contemporary poets.

Fathers Day is a rich holiday on the poetry calendar, and we present this selection for the dads as well as their kids. We’ve selected several poems about fatherhood, ranging from the classic ("Only a Dad" by Edgar Guest) to the contemporary (Maxine Kumin’s “Spree”). Some of these poems speak of fathers with love, admiration, and praise (“The Gift”), while others speak with resentment, sorrow, and regret (“In Dreams”). We've also got poems about children from the perspective of the father, from the first moment (“On the Birth of a Son”) on through the various stages of life (“Dressing my Daughters”).

In Praise of Fathers

To Her Father with Some Verses by Anne Bradstreet
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,


Father
by Edgar Guest
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;


Fifteen by Leslie Monsour
The boys who fled my father's house in fear
Of what his wrath would cost them if he found


Only a Dad by Edgar Guest
Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,


My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;


The Gift by Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.


Playing Dead by Andrew Hudgins
Our father liked to play a game.
He played that he was dead.


The Harp by Bruce Weigl
When he was my age and I was already a boy
my father made a machine in the garage.


Childhood Ideogram by Larry Levis
I lay my head sideways on the desk,
My fingers interlocked under my cheekbones


In Praise of Fatherhood

Bewitched Playground by David Rivard
Each could picture probably
with great care his brother drawing

Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams
If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen

Dressing My Daughters by Mark Jarman
One girl a full head taller
Than the other—into their Sunday dresses.

Heart's Needle by W.D. Snodgrass
Child of my winter, born
When the new fallen soldiers froze

On the Beach at Night by Walt Whitman
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,


On the Birth of a Son by Su Tung-Po
Families when a child is born
Hope it will turn out intelligent.

Proust's Madeleine by Kenneth Rexroth
Somebody has given my
Baby daughter a box of
Old poker chips to play with.

The Writer by Richard Wilbur
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,


Dads at Work

Brock by Paul Muldoon
Small wonder
he’s not been sighted all winter

Carpentry
by Carl Dennis
Carpenters whose wives have run off
Are sometimes discovered weeping on the job.


Child on the Marsh
by Andrew Hudgins
I worked the river’s slick banks, grabbling
in mud holes underneath tree roots.

Manufacturing by Alan Shapiro
Up in the billboard, over old South Station,
the Captain, all wide grin and ruddy cheek,


Supernatural Love by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
My father at the dictionary-stand  
Touches the page to fully understand


This Can’t Be
by Bruce Smith
the place of consequence, the station of his embrace.
Or else I’m not son enough to see


Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,


Spree by Maxine Kumin
My father paces the upstairs hall
a large confined animal

Family History

Grandfather by Michael S. Harper
In 1915 my grandfather’s
neighbors surrounded his house

The Father of My Country by Diane Wakoski
All fathers in Western civilization must have
a military origin.

Digging by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb  
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

O my pa-pa by Bob Hicok
Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs

Moonshine by Yusef Komunyakaa
Drunken laughter escapes
Behind the fence woven

In Memory

All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton
Father, this year’s jinx rides us apart
where you followed our mother to her cold slumber;

Beyond Harm by Sharon Olds
A week after my father died
suddenly I understood

Burning the Fields by Linda Bierds
In the windless late sunlight of August,
my father set fire to a globe of twine

Epigrams: On my First Son by Ben Jonson
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.


His Stillness by Sharon Olds
The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.


The Hospital Window by James Dickey
I have just come down from my father.
Higher and higher he lies


In Dreams by Kim Addonizio
After eighteen years there’s no real grief left
for the man who was my father.


Landscape, Dense with Trees
by Ellen Bryant Voigt
When you move away, you see how much depends
on the pace of the days—how much


The Lost Pilot by James Tate
Your face did not rot
like the others—the co-pilot,

Men at My Father's Funeral by William Matthews
The ones his age who shook my hand
on their way out sent fear along


My Father's Wedding by Robert Bly
Today, lonely for my father, I saw
a log, or branch,


Our Father by Irving Feldman
This stranger whose flesh we never ate,
who, rather, sat at table with us, eating,


To Alexander Graham by W. S. Graham
Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father


Youth by James Wright
Strange bird,
His song remains secret.

 

More Father's Day Poems from the Poetry Foundation archive.

Originally Published: June 16, 2009

COMMENTS (3)

On June 17, 2009 at 2:16pm J.C. Casabella wrote:
Reading "Those Winter Sundays" reminds me of Robert Lowell's "Harriet II" which is also a good poem about being a father (and pondering the world of tumult that awaits our children). Blueblack I guess is where that comes from. It might be a good one to add... maybe.

On June 19, 2009 at 4:26pm Brittany Dennison wrote:
"My Papa's Waltz" is categorized as a
PRAISE of a father? What?!

On June 16, 2011 at 10:33am Mereyll Manalansan wrote:
Hehe Happy Father's Day Dad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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