Core Learning Poems

Thom Gunn: “From the Wave”
By Joshua Weiner

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Touch, risk, trust, improvisation—“the intellect as powerhouse of love.”
Nikky Finney: “The Afterbirth, 1931”
By Kwame Dawes

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
“somethin’ wasn’t right:” How Finney captures an American nightmare.
Charlotte Mew: “The Trees Are Down”
By Molly Peacock

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A poet anticipates the  contemporary narrative lyric—and her own unfortunate end.
Josephine Miles: “Cage”
By Don Bogen

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
An overlooked masterpiece depicts a feuding couple and the dreamy freedom just outside their door.
Margaret Avison: “New Year's Poem”
By Linda Bierds

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
How to balance image, thought, and story to convey the numinous.
Seamus Heaney: “Casualty”
By Joshua Weiner

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
In this “Troubles” elegy, the poet revisits a fisherman and pub-goer he once knew.
Emily Dickinson: “It was not death, for I stood up,”
By Robin Ekiss

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Music and adolescent angst in the (18)80s.
Lucille Clifton: “brothers”
By Kazim Ali

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
The poet shines a bright new light on Lucifer, who answers God in a whirlwind of verse.
Walt Whitman: “Time to Come”
By David Baker

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
The young poet shows the first stirrings of genius.
Stevie Smith: “Not Waving but Drowning”
By Caitlin Kimball

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
This poem finds its author not raving but frowning.
Robert Lowell: “Skunk Hour”
By Troy Jollimore

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Witness the making of a new American poetics.
Walt Whitman: “A Passage to India”
By Robin Ekiss

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Exploring the spiritual in the great master's ode to architecture.
William Carlos Williams: “To a Poor Old Woman”
By Stephen Burt

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A poem from the Great Depression reveals the egalitarian nature of pleasure—and the formal innovation of a modernist master.
Sylvia Plath: “Fever 103º”
By Kary Wayson

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in”—the incinerating vision of “Fever 103º.
Yusef Komunyakaa: “Facing It”
By Robin Ekiss

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
What happens when metaphor meets a monument?
Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The Windhover”
By Ange Mlinko

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
A rapturous re-reading of the poet's love poem to life.
Lucille Clifton: “won't you celebrate with me”
By Robin Ekiss

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Lucille Clifton celebrates self-discovery in “won’t you celebrate with me.”
John Donne: “The Sun Rising”
By Stephen Burt

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
The poet tries to start a revolution from his bed.
Robert Browning: “Fra Lippo Lippi”
By W. S. Di Piero

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
In the realm of the world-class talkers.
Louise Bogan: “A Tale”
By Caitlin Kimball

POEM GUIDE SYNOPSIS
Was her first poem her best?

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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