Core Learning Poems

1 to 20 of 76 Poems
  • By W. S. Merwin
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    What can one poet teach another, in person, that cannot be learned just by studying the poems? How can a poem on a page embody that live, one-time-only connection? If you don’t have to meet the poet—if all that matters...

  • By Wilfred Owen
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    From an early age, Wilfred Owen seems to have demanded a lot out of the people around him. His younger brother Harold, as Philip Larkin recounted in a review of Jon Stallworthy’s Owen biography (1975), claimed that: “[Wilfred] as an...

  • By Edna St. Vincent Millay
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    A person stands and looks at mountains, turns to look at a bay, lies down and screams, and gets up. This is nearly all that “happens” in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s "Renascence,” the poem that made her famous at just...

  • By Juan Felipe Herrera
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    “Blood on the Wheel,” Juan Felipe Herrera’s effusive, energetic catalog of violent extremes, may sound almost improvised; the poem passionately leaps from scene to scene, phrase to phrase, reacting against the pervasive injustice that Herrera notices and envisions in the...

  • By W. S. Graham
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Asked to list the key figures of 20th-century British poetry, even the most widely read of us might forget to include W.S. Graham. A Scottish poet who lived in Cornwall, England for over 40 years, Graham enjoyed a paradoxical relationship...

  • By Rae Armantrout
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Look at an old picture of yourself—a candid group photo is best, but a posed head shot or even a painting will do. How would you have described yourself back then? Would you describe yourself the same way now? How...

  • By John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t the first to make a big show about nothing; nor was the notorious 17th-century figure John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the first writer to choose “nothing” as his subject. Traditions of paradoxical, funny poems and speeches on...

  • By James Tate
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    At least since Freud, jokes have been regarded as shortcuts to the unconscious. They reveal the sunny parts of even our darkest and most worrisome fears and desires. If “told” jokes are expressly linguistic revelations, “practical” jokes—performances that are funny...

  • By Elinor Wylie
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    A wild peach’s sweetness is easy to savor. It grows spontaneously; its discovery feels providential, a reward for one who strays from the path. But a peach essentially is a human creation, the product of years of rigorous cultivation. Wild...

  • By Thom Gunn
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    At the time of his death in 2004, Thom Gunn was considered by many to be one of the best poets writing in English. Born in England in 1929, but a resident of San Francisco since the mid-1950s, Gunn was...

  • By Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    The 19th century was a grim time to give birth. Before public health became a significant concern for governments, an estimated 175 deaths occurred for every 1,000 births in the United States, with the number jumping significantly depending on geography,...

  • By Margaret Avison
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    I have always been drawn to poems that contain, within their meditative movements, a hint of narrative and a textured visual richness. Certainly Margaret Avison’s lovely “New Year’s Poem” holds that triple attraction: deeply meditative, it is a feast for...

  • By Lucille Clifton
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    What happens when an individual comes face to face with her “creator”?

    This scene plays out in science fiction all the time: heroes journey to the ultimate inner sanctum in their quest for the “truth” and find nothing...

  • By Seamus Heaney
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Seamus Heaney is likely the best-selling English-language poet alive. Famous, at this point, for being famous (he received the Nobel Prize in 1995), Heaney began earning acclaim with his first book, Death of a Naturalist (1966). Critical interest and popular...

  • By John Ciardi
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    John Ciardi devised the form of the trenta-sei (thirty-six, in Italian) in 1985. It had its first publication after his death in the 1989 volume Echoes: Poems Left Behind. One wouldn’t expect the form to have worked its way into...

  • By W. S. Merwin
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    “The Nails” is one of the best breakup poems ever. It was featured in The Moving Target, W.S. Merwin’s fifth book of poetry, published in 1963 when he, like a number of U.S. poets, jumped out of the mainstream’s narrow...

  • By Josephine Miles
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    What stuck me about “Cage” when I first saw it among the previously uncollected work in Josephine Miles’ Collected Poems 1930-83 was its lyricism. Although Miles wrote lyric poetry all her life, she is generally recognized as a poet more...

  • By Amy Lowell
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    When I first began reading the modernists, Amy Lowell had already become little more than a footnote to the work of Ezra Pound. His insistence that she had ruined his early movement, imagism, seemed entirely justified by that one Amy...

  • By Elizabeth Alexander
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    With its careful humor and gentle ironies, Elizabeth Alexander’s “Race” ends up as a poem about race and family, a poem about how poems tell stories and a poem about how race can guide the stories poems tell. Alexander has...

  • By Walt Whitman
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    On July 6, 1855, the first advertisement appeared in the New York Tribune for the slender green book that changed the course of American poetry. Two dollars was a fair price for the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Walt...

1 to 20 of 76 Poems

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