Core Learning Poems

21 to 40 of 73 Poems
  • By William Carlos Williams
    Poem Guide Synopsis


    Written in 1934–35, near the depth of the Great Depression, “To a Poor Old Woman” begins as a poem of democratic sentiment and casual observation, with social injustice not very far in the background. The poet watches a “poor old...

  • By Agha Shahid Ali
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    There are no instant classics, but Agha Shahid Ali’s ghazal “Tonight” comes close: appearing in three versions between 1997 and 2003, this version, which is the poem’s last and longest incarnation, gave its title to Ali’s posthumously published Call Me...

  • By Charlotte Mew
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Once I had to get along with some people who could never agree on anything. Then our neighbor cut down a tree. Instantly we united in mourning. It is irresistible to identify with trees. Tall emblems of endurance, they possess...

  • By John Keats
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    When John Keats was finishing “La Belle Dame sans Merci” in the early spring of 1819, he was just weeks away from composing what would become some of English literature’s most sustained and powerful odes. “La Belle Dame,” a compact...

  • By John Keats
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Fall is in the air. So we are reminded here in the Northern Hemisphere, by the arrival of back-to-school catalogs and tiny inedible gourds littering the desks of teachers and bank tellers. No matter how far we are from our...

  • By Nikky Finney
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Nikky Finney’s “The Afterbirth, 1931” appears in Rice, a beautifully designed book filled with daring poems of painful eloquence. Rice was Finney’s second book, arriving 10 years after her 1985 debut, On Wings Made of Gauze. As part of the...

  • By Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    E-mail, texting, IM: thanks to the Internet, we compose messages to each other as spontaneously as our parents picked up the telephone. Among the literate classes of Europe, poetry used to be a kind of social media too. Poetry back...

  • By Sir Philip Sidney
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Sir Philip Sidney is a key figure of the Elizabethan era, the fountainhead of the modern poetic tradition. He was born in 1554 in Kent, England, around the same time that the first sonnets in English (by Sir Thomas Wyatt)...

  • By Wallace Stevens
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    To tease out the meaning of “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” one of the most famously elliptical poems of the 20th century, maybe we should start by looking into the meaning of ice cream itself.

    It turns out that its implications...

  • By Sylvia Plath
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Sylvia Plath begins her poem “Fever 103” with a one-word question: “Pure?” as if from the middle of an unheard conversation. She asks impatiently, “What does it mean?” and then plunges in, conjuring up the heat of a high fever:
    The...

  • By Gertrude Stein
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    It was Gertrude Stein’s habit to write through the night, while her beloved Alice B. Toklas slept. Stein would leave notes for Toklas to find when she rose in the morning, ready to type the pages Stein had written out...

  • By Emily Dickinson
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Many poets have written about the sea: Whitman, Baudelaire, Rimbaud . . . a list that goes all the way back to Homer. For some people and poets, the ocean represents adventure and escape. For others, its vastness suggests the...

  • By Elizabeth Bishop
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Elizabeth Bishop claimed that it took her around 20 years to finish her poem “The Moose.” Even for a poet as methodical as Bishop, that seems like an unusually long time to hold on to an idea, to sketch out...

  • By Donald Revell
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    William Butler Yeats insisted that artists become their own opposites, assimilate what seems most remote. Otherwise, he thought, happiness would escape them: “all happiness,” he wrote, “depends on having the energy to assume the mask of some other self, that...

  • By Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Shelley’s friend the banker Horace Smith stayed with the poet and his wife Mary (author of Frankenstein) in the Christmas season of 1817. One evening, they began to discuss recent discoveries in the Near East. In the wake of Napoleon’s...

  • By John Ashbery
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Stepping into John Ashbery’s poetry is like stepping into another mind that is surprising and sad and full of odd gleam. His poems don’t snowball toward an epiphany, nor do they stick to the story. They veer as the mind...

  • By Walt Whitman
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    In 1869, two marvels of engineering altered the course of history forever. That May, the last spike was driven into the ground on the American transcontinental railroad, connecting the country definitively from East to West. Six months later and half...

  • By George Oppen
  • By William Carlos Williams
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    At age 15, I was a bit of a mess. My mother had died the year before, leaving my father and me alone to piece together our lives. I was fumbling around, looking for a way to make sense of...

  • By Thomas Hardy
    Poem Guide Synopsis

    Thomas Hardy
    Emma Hardy lay dead in a coffin at the foot of Thomas Hardy’s bed for three nights before her disconsolate widower finally had her buried. By the winter of 1912, with Modernity swiftly colonizing English culture, such an operatic...

21 to 40 of 73 Poems

Other Information