Some farewells are mundane; others are momentous. Whether we say goodbye to lovers, family members, friends, or old habits—temporarily or forever—these poems capture those complicated emotions.
SNEERING, SOUR, AND SCORNFUL FAREWELLS
If many goodbyes are difficult, parting from a lover can be devastating. These poets indulge their wrath, but manage to do so with twinges of irony and humor.
“Parting Song” by Jill Alexander Essbaum
“Bitch” by Carolyn Kizer
“On Monsieur’s Departure” by Queen Elizabeth I
“Sonata” by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Me heart detests, reviles, denounces, loathes
Your absence with a passion like a furnace.
GOODBYE, LOVE: ACCEPTANCE AND MOVING ON
Instead of taking you through every stage of grief for a lost love affair, we’ll jump to the final one: poems like these, which find their way to solace.
“Leave-Taking” by Louse Bogan
Let us know this for leavetaking,
That I may not be heavy upon you,
That you may blind me no more.
“Stanzas” by Emily Brontë
... follow out the happiest story—
It closes with a tomb!”
“So We’ll Go No More a Roving” by Lord Byron
“Movement Song” by Audre Lorde
PARTIES, CARS, AND AIRPORTS: GOODBYES TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS These poems evoke small moments, significant turning points, and even death: whatever the occasion, the farewells are deeply felt.
“The Party” by Jason Shinder
“In My Dreams” by Stevie Smith
“Waving Goodbye” by Gerald Stern
I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds ...
“At the San Francisco Airport” by Yvor Winters
These poets, in anticipating goodbyes and endings, find ways to seize the day and enjoy the present moment.
“Ode I.11” by Horace
“Bronzed” by Dean Young
seemingly a constant to the naked eye is one
Sometimes saying goodbye means quitting something you’re good at, breaking a bad habit, or refusing to join ranks with a cause you don’t believe in.
“On Quitting” by Edgar Guest
“A Farewell to Tobacco” by Charles Lamb
“Gone Away Blues” by Thomas McGrath
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
These are “anti-goodbye” poems of a sort: they refuse sentimental farewells, or insist that goodbyes are only temporary.
“Aloha’oe (Farewell to Thee)” by Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Lili’uokalani
“Closings” by Donald Hall
“Indians Never Say Good-bye” by Leanne Howe
The rest of the visit blurs. My last memories are from that day. She waves to me from her front porch.
SEE ALSO: Occasions: Farewells & Good Luck