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Jon's Favorites | Nelson's Favorites
Each of the editors of the Poets' Corner site
has put together his own list of favorite poems. Some in these lists cannot
be found here at Poets' Corner since they are still covered by copyright,
but that shouldn't stop you from finding and enjoying the works as
much as we do.
Editor Favorites of Steve Spanoudis
[This, by the way, turned out to be a daunting task. To get a list of 'favorites' short enough to post, and to be able to explain why these, amongst the thousands here and elsewhere, should be favorites. This is an incomplete list. I still need to pick something from Longfellow and Millay, Atwood and Larkin, Auden and Hughes, Reed and Parker and Spender and Plath and Eberhart and MacNeice and etc.
Here goes for now . . . . --Steve]
- Discordants by Conrad Aiken
If you look at the poems that I add to the collection, you may notice that a
recurring theme that nags at me is memory. This short poem by Aiken is a person whose memories of a lost love are written into everything that surrounds him. It is at once sad and beautiful, and beautiful to hear. The Carver is also a lovely piece by Aiken,
See, as the carver carves a rose,
A wing, a toad, a serpent's eye,
In cruel granite, to disclose
The soft things that in hardness lie. . . .
- Rudkin by Kenneth H. Ashley
Perhaps there are as many poems which are descriptions of people (especially poets' own love-interests) as there are descriptions of nature. This one I especially like. As with many of my favorites it deals with memory, and the way in which Ashley's Mr. Wright remembers Rudkin is beautifully done.
- Campus Sonnets by Stephen Vincent Benet
Benet's first three Campus Sonnets capture images of college life in a simple, clear way that makes them memorable. The fourth sonnet puts things in context of the Great War, and makes the glimpses of imagination, friendship, or living in the moment the more dear for their loss. Many times I have watched the words dance as in Before an Examination, many times I long for the college comraderie of Talk, and only now, decades later, do I truely appreciate the moments of a May Morning where '...there is neither past nor vague hereafter...'. I borrowed the idea of 'dancing words' for one of my own poems.
- Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough
Frustrated? Weary? About to give up? Not after you read this one.
This has always been my favorite pep talk. Simple, very readable, and very memorable.
- anyone lived in a pretty how town by e.e. cummings.
Any list of my favorites has to include something by cummings. One of my personal frustrations is that copyright prevents us from including this and many of his best works. 'Spring is like a perhaps hand', and 'maggie and millie and molly and may' are beautiful pieces, but this little love story about the very matched couple 'anyone' and 'noone' is so musical, and so characteristic of cummings, I always enjoy it.
- The Listeners by Walter De La Mare
All of De La Mare's works make good reading and good listening. Even this one, which is as absurdly simple an image as you can imagine writing about - a man knocks on a door. That's all you can say for certain about this poem. Everything else is a mystery -- what happened to the 'Listeners', who the rider is, who he made his promise to, and why -- we can never know, and so we feel the rider's frustration. Once again, I borrowed this idea of talking to the emptiness for one of my own poems.
- Go and catch a falling star by John Donne
You might, being critical, complain that this is just a little poem by some guy who had pretty bad luck with the opposite sex and was getting kind of resentful about it. But when the poet is John Donne, you end up with phrases like
...If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights
Till Age snow white hairs on thee...
That sound like incantations. Read it twice aloud and I dare you to forget it.
- October's Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt jackson
Moving south to the semi-tropics of Florida, I have come to miss April and October most - the months of changing seasons. And though a million descriptive poems of nature exist, this is the one I like best. Like most of my favorites, its sounds and rhythms are very song-like.
- A Lady Thinks She Is Thirty by Ogden Nash
Like cummings, I have to include a favorite by Ogden Nash, in my opinion the Master of light verse, though some of it has suprising substance. Unfortunately all of Nash's work is unreachable due to copyright. 'The Party' and 'Song Before Breakfast' are excellent, but this one about Miranda's 30th birthday is a gem, with stanzas like
...Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?
- A Flower of Mullein by Lizette Woodworth Reese
I have no doubt some people look at this as a wistful poem by someone with low self-esteem. Someone who is unnoticed, like a weed growing in a crack in the wall. But it also says simply a basic fact of life - that, while we may wander or look for the new and different and exciting, we are ultimately drawn to something that is familiar, a who or a what that has anchors in our memory, whether we understand them or not. Charles Kingsley says this well also in Young and Old.
- The Seed Shop by Muriel Stuart
I would be amazed if you had heard of Muriel Stuart prior to reading this. She had great popularity for a brief space after receiving praise from Thomas Hardy. Her poems were nearly impossible to find until a small collection was published a few years ago. This little poem captures, in amazingly few words, ideas of vast time and scope, of life and death, and of immortality.
- Locksley Hall by Alfred Tennyson
This is a powerful and often quoted poem, about painful memories of an unfaithful lover, the speaker's grief and bitter resentment, and his realization that life goes on, and that there is much ahead of him in life,
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
- Barter by Sara Teasdale
Teasdale, Like Elinor Wylie, has many excellent poems from which it is hard to choose a favorite. This one has a nice mix of images, sentiments, and philosophies. Like most of these poems, say it twice and you will be hard pressed to forget it. Here is a nice little quiz - what line does this poem share with another poem in my 'favorites' list?
- In the Long Run by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Wilcox is a poet that is hardly ever anthologized. Perhaps because her works are often a little too sentimental, a little too wordy, and often a bit preachy, advising against drinking and irresponsible sex, even with book titles like 'Poems of Passion' and 'Poems of Pleasure.'You may only recognize her for the phrase 'laugh, and the world laughs with you, weep, and you weep alone' from Solitude. This poem, though not a 'great work' by any means, postulates a logic to life, a sense of balance, the idea that all things will work themselves out '...in the long run.'