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14 Life-Changing Poems You Need To Read Right Now

I'M NOT CRYING, YOU ARE. Happy National Poetry Day!

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1. Maya Angelou - Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

2. W. B. Yeats - He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

3. John Montague - The Locket

Sing a last song

for the lady who has gone,

fertile source of guilt and pain.

The worst birth in the annals of Brooklyn,

that was my cue to come on,

my first claim to fame.

Naturally, she longed for a girl,

and all my infant curls of brown

couldn't excuse my double blunder

coming out the wrong sex,

and the wrong way around.

Not readily forgiven,

So you never nursed me

and when all my father's songs

couldn't sweeten the lack of money,

"When poverty comes throught the door

love flies up your chimney",

your favourite saying.

Then you gave me away,

might never have known me,

if I had not cycled down

to court you like a young man,

teasingly untying your apron,

drinking by the fire, yarning

Of your wild, young days

which didn't last long, for you,

lovely Molly, the belle of your small town,

landed up mournful and chill

as the constant rain that lashes it

wound into your cocoon of pain.

Standing in that same hallway,

"Don't come again." you say, roughly,

"I start to get fond of you, John,

and then you are up and gone";

the harsh logic of a forlorn woman

resigned to being alone.

And still, mysterious blessing,

I never knew, until you were gone,

that, always around your neck

you wore an oval locket

with an old picture in it,

of a child in Brooklyn.

4. Kat Francois - Does My Anger Scare You?

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com / Via katfrancois.com

Kat Francois is a performance poet from London, and World Poetry Slam Champion 2005. She performs regularly around the UK.

5. Derek Walcott - Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

6. U. A. Fanthorpe - Atlas

There is a kind of love called maintenance,

Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn't forget

The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way

The money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,

And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate

Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,

Which knows what time and weather are doing

To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;

Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers

My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps

My suspect edifice upright in the air,

As Atlas did the sky.

7. Terrance Hayes - God is an American

I still love words. When we make love in the morning,

your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.

Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering

of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am

alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink

on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.

Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin-

ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream

of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print

in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning.

Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in

love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.

Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives

alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.

8. Deanna Rodger - Nowadays

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Deanna Rodger is a 25-year-old spoken word poet from London.

9. Patrick Kavanagh - Canal Bank Walk

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal

Pouring redemption for me, that I do

The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,

Grow with nature again as before I grew.

The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third

Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,

And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word

Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.

O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web

Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,

Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib

To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven

From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

Alan Dunne / Via dublindailyphotos.com

Patrick Kavanagh was an Irish poet (1904-1968). A bench on the banks of Dublin's Grand Canal (the canal in the poem) was erected in 1968, with his statue sitting on one side to commemorate him.

10. Sylvia Plath - Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful "

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

11. Robert Frost - Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

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.

12. If - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;

If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Via famousauthors.org

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist, born in British India. He wrote The Jungle Book and won the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature.

13. Pablo Neruda - If You Forget Me

I want you to know

one thing.

You know how this is:

if I look

at the crystal moon, at the red branch

of the slow autumn at my window,

if I touch

near the fire

the impalpable ash

or the wrinkled body of the log,

everything carries me to you,

as if everything that exists,

aromas, light, metals,

were little boats

that sail

toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,

if little by little you stop loving me

I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly

you forget me

do not look for me,

for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,

the wind of banners

that passes through my life,

and you decide

to leave me at the shore

of the heart where I have roots,

remember

that on that day,

at that hour,

I shall lift my arms

and my roots will set off

to seek another land.

But

if each day,

each hour,

you feel that you are destined for me

with implacable sweetness,

if each day a flower

climbs up to your lips to seek me,

ah my love, ah my own,

in me all that fire is repeated,

in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,

my love feeds on your love, beloved,

and as long as you live it will be in your arms

without leaving mine.

14. Margaret Atwood - Variation On The Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,

which may not happen.

I would like to watch you,

sleeping. I would like to sleep

with you, to enter

your sleep as its smooth dark wave

slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent

wavering forest of bluegreen leaves

with its watery sun & three moons

towards the cave where you must descend,

towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver

branch, the small white flower, the one

word that will protect you

from the grief at the center

of your dream, from the grief

at the center I would like to follow

you up the long stairway

again & become

the boat that would row you back

carefully, a flame

in two cupped hands

to where your body lies

beside me, and as you enter

it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air

that inhabits you for a moment

only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.

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