Poems worth memorizing
Are you taking the National Poetry Month Memorization Challenge, and trying to find some satisfying, musical poems to learn? Here's a list to start you off! You'll find some classics, some contemporaries; some short, some long. We're still building this list, so check back later for more ideas!
Nice and Short
Feeling intimidated by the prospect of learning four poems in one month? Never fear! These poems are short enough for just about anyone to get by heart in two or three sittings.
"Western Wind" by Anonymous
O WESTERN wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
"FIRST FIG" BY EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
"Oread" by H. D.
Whirl up, sea—
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.
"THIS IS JUST TO SAY" BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
"I MAY, I MIGHT, I MUST" BY MARIANNE MOORE
If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.
"Doubt Thou the Stars Are Fire" from hamlet by William Shakespeare
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
Click on some of the titles below to see some terrific poems that are a bit longer.
"Fishing in the Keep of Silence" by Linda Gregg
God, who thinks about
poetry all the time, breathes happily as He
repeats to Himself: there are fish in the net
"Death, Be Not Proud" by John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so
"My Soul in a Skep" by Dena Rash Guzman
Voting isn’t enough for me. I won’t waive pitchforks.
I will use torches to light fires to cook pies of apple hearts.
I will love it. I will not walk through walls when I am a ghost.
I will keep my soul in a skep.
"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
"The School Children" by Louise Gluck
The children go forward with their little satchels.
And all morning the mothers have labored
to gather the late apples, red and gold,
like words of another language.
"Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
"To John Keats, Poet, at Spring Time" by Countee Cullen
“John Keats is dead,” they say, but I
Who hear your full insistent cry
In bud and blossom, leaf and tree,
Know John Keats still writes poetry.
"The Wound Dresser" by Atar Hadari
Where he found dresses—out on the field since Vicksburg—
or where he finds clean tables
to cut gowns on, who in hell knows
"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
"When Does That Happen" by Kenzie Allen
all china bull, all quick-breathing
prey in the grass, all enlivened
"The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
"America" by Claude McKay
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
"Wake" by Lisa Huffaker
That bright wound on the water hails the dawn
of afterwards, delineates the break
between before and what must carry on.
"Lord Randall" by Anonymous
“I ha’e been to the wild wood: mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”
"The Wind-Hover" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
"note, passed to superman" by Lucille Clifton
sweet jesus superman,
if i had seen you
dressed in your blue suit
i would have known you.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" by William Shakespeare
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
"Honey and Paper" by Monika Cooper
Winding out long
the honey of her head, she smooths again
the caked and crumpled page to read the signs
in her imaginary almanac.
"Preludes" by T. S. Eliot
I am moved by fancies that are curled
around these images, and cling:
the notion of some infinitely gentle,
infinitely suffering thing.
"A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London" by Dylan Thomas
And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
"Death of a Cat" by Michael Larson
I don’t know how she died
if not by being crushed. Apparently
she misperceived the speed of death’s approach.
"Tears, Idle Tears" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld
"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning
While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves,
And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.
"The Waiting" by Stephen Dunn
It tried your patience, it made you hungry for a man
who was hungry. I am that man, I said,
but I said it calmly.
"The Poet" by Paul Laurence Dunbar
But ah, the world, it turned to praise
A jingle in a broken tongue.
"Because I Could Not Stop For Death" by Emily Dickinson
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
"July 6, 1535: London" by Adam Cooper
This was not how a criminal dies,
a rebel, or a hero, or a saint,
but more how a son can be robbed
of his dear inheritance, by a litigation,
folded, creased, and stamped
on foolscap’s whisper-thin translucence.
"Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
"The Garden" by Andrew Marvell
What wondrous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
"Matter" by Adam Kirsch
All these demurrals try to hide
The truth that we cannot avoid
When face-to-face with her whose flame
And sight and thought won't come again,
That matter's not an envelope
the soul can put off and take up
"Sea Rose" by H. D.
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift
"Sonnet" by Dan Beachy-Quick
Must I anger and must my anger pearl,
My anger pearl, must I pearl, must I polish