Poem Sampler

Fathers Day Poems

Classic and contemporary poems for and about dads.

by Becca Klaver
Fathers Day Poems

Whether you’re looking for a poem to send to your dad, pausing to remember a father figure who has passed away, or meditating on literary influence, this selection of poems, articles, blog posts, and podcasts presents the loves and lives of fathers.

POEMS

Feel Me” by May Swenson: The poet ponders her father's confusing last words.

Lines to My Father” by Countee Cullen: How a father can seem both down-to-earth and larger than life.

My Father’s Diary” by Sharon Olds: The poet looks to her father's writings to know more about his younger, truer self.

The Sign in My Father’s Hands” by Martín Espada: Reflecting on a father's values and politics, from a time when the poet was too young to comprehend.

“My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono” by Christopher Chambers: The poet remembers one of his father's most uncharacteristic moments.

“Blood” by Naomi Shihab Nye: Making sense of tradition and our roles in the world by looking back at a father's lesson.

To My Father’s Business” by Kenneth Koch: A look into a father's work, and the differences between a father and son.

My Father Teaches Me to Dream” by Jan Beatty: This poem also portrays the artist child’s need to leave Dad’s workaday world.

The Lost Pilot” by James Tate: Addressing one's father while attempting to imagine his experiences in war.

“Rarefied” by Albert Goldbarth: In the first of several vignettes, the poet analyzes his father's fashion sense. 

In Dreams by Kim Addonizio: The poet says she no longer dreams about her dead father, but in her dreams she wanders and chases an uncatchable scrap of paper. It’s the pursuit—her metaphor—that leaves her with a sense of loss.

“Youth” by James Wright: The poet’s father’s private, reliable presence is “as quiet as the evening” but the poet knows his father, too, will “be getting dark soon.” 

Little Father” by Li-Young Lee: Exploring the symbolic way we learn to bury our loved ones.

“The Gift” by Li-Young Lee: The poet remembers the tenderness his father used when he removed a painful sliver from the poet’s hand. When the poet must remove a splinter from his wife’s thumb, he realizes his father taught him to see beyond peril and fear.

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

 

AUDIO

Silent Fathers, Noisy Sons: Poems for Father’s Day: Donald Hall reads his poem “Christmas Eve in Whitneyville,” and Alfred Molina reads David Ignatow’s “For My Daughter in Reply to a Question.”

Honor Thy Father’s Day: Robert Hayden and Terrance Hayes take the Hallmark out of the holiday.

 

BLOG POSTS

Father’s Day” by Kwame Dawes

A Toast for the Fathers” by Annie Finch

A few words about ‘The Lost Pilot’ by James Tate” by Jeffrey McDaniel

 

ARTICLES

My Father Was White but Not Quite” by Fanny Howe: During her father’s legal battles in the civil-rights and McCarthy eras in Boston, poet Fanny Howe found her life’s work studying the self, the natural world, and the “fist of survival.”

Beat America” by Aram Saroyan: What did we learn from Ted Berrigan, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg?

What Can Poetry Do for Parents?” by Elliott Vanskike: Poetry offers plenty of benefits for the beleaguered parent.

 

POEM GUIDES

Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden: A short history of one of the most anthologized poems in English. The poet chronicles the ordinary, unacknowledged acts of a father.

 

Originally Published: June 16, 2010

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Biography

Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2009). A founding editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, she holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and is currently a PhD student in Literatures in English at Rutgers University. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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