Whether you’re an ecstatic new mom or dad, a patient respondent to a child’s twenty questions, a hair-pulling parent of a teenager, or an empty nester, below you’ll find poems about the wonder, worry, and weirdness of parenting.
LULLABIES, SONGS, AND BLESSINGS
Poems to whisper beside cribs and sing from rocking chairs as you wish luck and love upon a new life.
“Lullaby” by John Fuller
Your life was ours, which is with you.
Go on your journey. We go too.
“Lullaby” by Amanda Jernigan
Born in a time
of darkness, you will learn the trick of making.
“Scallop Song” by Anne Waldman
To wonder at the sight of baby’s beauty
Ne let the monsters fray us with things that not be
“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
“A Prayer for My Daughter” by William Butler Yeats
May she become a flourishing hidden tree,
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be
BIRTH AND NEWBORNS
These brand-new parents from many walks of life share in common an all-consuming devotion to their newborn children.
“Song for Baby-O, Unborn” by Diane di Prima
but I can show you
enough to love
to break your heart
“Pity” by Camille T. Dungy
This is how you found yourself: thirty-three,
nursing a son. Soon there was another.
“July 4, 1974” by June Jordan
and running through the darkness with his own
“Only Child” by D. Nurkse
I cradled my newborn daughter
and felt the heartbeat
pull me out of shock.
“Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward” by Anne Sexton
Yours is the only face I recognize.
Bone at my bone, you drink my answers in.
BABIES AND TODDLERS
Infants begin to grow older, and parents reflect on the needs, questions, and paradoxes of their little ones.
“Babies” by Alice Fulton
born gorgeous with nerves, with brains
the pink of silver polish or
jellyfish wafting ornately
through the body below.
“A Poet to His Baby Son” by James Weldon Johnson
Take the advice of a father who knows:
You cannot begin too young
Not to be a poet.
“Clinical Thermometer Set with Moonstone” by Alice Notley
I’m stricken deaf when I mention it my babies
cry they want everything quick!
“I Leave Her Weeping” by Liz Rosenberg
She is counting on me to lower the boom
that is her heavy body, and settle her down.
“Heart’s Needle” by W.D. Snodgrass
All those days we could keep
Your mind a landscape of new snow
These poems consider the large impact that everyday choices of parents can make on their small children.
“Food” by Brenda Hillman
So often, at our sunny kitchen table,
hearing the mantra of the refrigerator,
I’ve thought there was nothing I could do but feed you
“My Daughter at the Gymnastics Party” by David Bottoms
She looked down, then up, hanging in that balance
of pride and fear
“The Leaf Pile” by Alicia Ostriker
mothers are very strong
he is too young to do anything about this
will not remember he remembers it
“Dead Butterfly” by Ellen Bass
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?
“Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday” by Rachel Zucker
how we conflate historical time
with personal time, how on 9/11 I took my nine-month old son
to his first day of day care and the city exploded, went up
in smoke, and no one but me cares that he spent hours there
TEENAGERS AND ADULT CHILDREN
Kids grow up, fall in love, have their own children—and then come home again.
“A Note on My Son’s Face” by Toi Derricote
I did not look in that mirror
and see the face that could save me
from my own darkness.
“How You Know” by Joe Mills
I want to say love is this
desire to help even when I know I can’t
“My Son the Man” by Sharon Olds
I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one.
“Testament” by Carolyn M. Rodgers
there is no such time
to tell you
that some pains ease away
“Home Again, Home Again” by Marilyn Taylor
Reclaiming the bedrooms they had in their teens,
Clean towels, warm comforter, glass figurines.
SEE ALSO: more poems about parenthood.
ARTICLES AND BLOG POSTS
These poets explore how poetry can (and can’t) fit into a life devoted to raising children.
“What Can Poetry Do for Parents?” by Elliott Vanskike
If my kids ever needed to turn to poetry, I wanted to start laying down the circuitry.
“A Toast for the Fathers” by Annie Finch
Father’s day came and went, and I’ve been wanting to say something about my dad, and all my poetic fathers, after all the talk about mothers.
“babies, parents, and poetry” by Jeffrey McDaniel
On some level, even though I am drained and have less time, I trust that the process of being a father, the unconditional love that comes with it, the whole new way of life rippling with responsibilities, will alter my essence in profound ways and will ultimately influence the work that grows out of me.
“As If Nature Talked Back To Me” by Ange Mlinko
Raising children requires an existential optimism that most poets whose names aren’t “Walt Whitman” haven’t had since the dawn of modernity.
“The Real Life” by Rachel Zucker
This is a list of 30 things I’ve done since April 16th instead of blogging.