Core Learning Poems

W.S. Graham: “Dear Bryan Wynter”
By Hannah Brooks-Motl

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
How a poem brings language to loss and speaks to the dead.
Elizabeth Alexander: “Race”
By Stephen Burt

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
What can we assume when we read a poem?
John Keats: “La Belle Dame sans Merci”
By Martin Earl

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Beyond self-expression.
Elinor Wylie: “Wild Peaches”
By Caitlin Kimball

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
An escape leads a young poet to confront her impulses.
Agha Shahid Ali: “Tonight”
By Stephen Burt

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A contemporary take on an ancient Arabic form.
Linda Pastan: “The Deathwatch Beetle”
By Aimee Nezhukumatathil

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Pastan captures the sound of mortality while echoing Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
Gertrude Stein’s “The house was just twinkling in the moon light”
By Joel Brouwer

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
An intimate glimpse into one of the 20th century’s most fascinating marriages.
Robert Hass: “The Nineteenth Century as a Song”
By Joy Katz

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Robert Hass, Baudelaire, Marx, and a bomb-building anarchist.
John Ashbery: “Paradoxes and Oxymorons”
By Megan Snyder-Camp

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Savoring the movement of the mind.
John Keats: “To Autumn”
By Caitlin Kimball

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
In Keats’s finest season, even the gnats are mourning.
James Tate: “The Cowboy”
By Stuart Krimko

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
How to be funny and sad.
George Eliot: “I Grant You Ample Leave”
By Hannah Brooks-Motl

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A poet's poem from a novelist-poet.
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea: “The Answer”
By Ange Mlinko

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
How poetry became the 18th century’s social media network.
Thomas Hardy: “The Shadow on the Stone”
By Jeremy Axelrod

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
After the poet lost his wife, he found his voice.
Gary Snyder: “Four Poems for Robin”
By Troy Jollimore

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A turbulent first love recollected in something like tranquility.
Percy Bysshe Shelley: “Ozymandias”
By David Mikics

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A poem to outlast empires.
Linda Bierds: “The Ghost Trio”
By Averill Curdy

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
An exploration of the human imagination, with memories of a lost world.
W.S. Merwin: “The Nails”
By Jeffrey McDaniel

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A long-lost meditation on heartbreak and pain.
Mina Loy: “Lunar Baedeker”
By Jessica Burstein

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
The poet navigates the unknown world.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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