Be a Man. Read a Poem.

by A Manly Guest Contributor on January 19, 2011 · 148 comments

in Blog

Photograph by Gordon Ball. Copyright Gordon Ball.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ty Karnitz.

Poetry.

The word spawns images of dark coffee houses, bongos, berets, women with black hair and clothes, and feelings best kept private. The word has a stigma on it these days. Poetry is for angst filled teens and Hallmark cards. Today, poetry seems to be the antithesis of manly.

But it wasn’t always so. Poetry has been written and read by men for generations, reaching back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks, Sumerians, and even to the ancient oral traditions. Poetry used to be read and recited around a fireplace or in a cafe as a form of entertainment. And Theodore Roosevelt, an epitome of manliness, loved poetry, and as president gave government jobs to poets on the condition they do nothing but write new poems.

In the past, poetry was part of a gentleman’s formal education. Today, we’re taught poetry in school, but because it’s forced on us we reject it. We claim poetry is not for us men because poetry is emotional, and as men, we’re told from a very young age that emotions are not for us. Because of this, poetry can be difficult to approach for the modern man. Besides, we have other forms of entertainment that are more accessible.

Somewhere in the past century, our society has changed. Television, it seems, has taken poetry’s place. We as a society no longer need a bard to recite lyrics to us to keep us entertained. We have television and movies, and when we want to read there are always novels and short stories, or magazines or newspapers. So poetry has lost its place in the world and because of that, we’ve forgotten about it. But maybe the gentlemen of the past knew something we don’t. Maybe they read poetry not only because they didn’t have television but also because it did something for them, because poetry isn’t only about flowers and rainbows. Poetry is about war, friendship, nature, spirituality, and everything a boy needs to know about being a well-rounded man.

What Poetry Can Do For You

Or Why Should I Read This Stuff?

Our society is built upon the past. Western traditions are the foundations of our daily lives, even if we don’t always know it. Reading poetry, especially old poetry, can help the modern man better engage the world around him. In the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, the three most frequently quoted writers in the English language are poets: William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Alexander Pope, respectively. You also find references to poems in books, films, and other media. O’Brother Where Art Thou is a good example of this. The movie was based off of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, one of the most prominent books in the last century, was also based off Homer’s epic.

By engaging in poetry, then, what you’re doing is educating yourself about the traditions of the men that came before. Reading it will help the modern man see connections to the past in our present culture.

Poetry can also be a great story, and you don’t have to read an epic poem that is hundreds of pages long to find one with an engaging tale.

Good poets can make their words immediate and profound and can make a man think about how he sees the world and what’s in it. They can pack the truth about the human experience into just a few lines, and make a man reconsider how he thought about life or nature. An inspirational poem might be just the right sort of manvotional for the day, too (Think “Reveille” by A.E. Houseman).

But reading poetry doesn’t just have to do with understanding allusions or bettering yourself. Comedic poetry is lighthearted and reading the poetry of Bill Watterson, the author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic can put you in a better mood. Shel Silverstein, the children’s poet and author of books like Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, is also the author of some pretty interesting poetry for adults.

Poetry hasn’t gotten the stigma of love attached to it for nothing. Love abounds in poetry—if romance had a language, poetry would be it. Everywhere you look you can find examples of men who’ve used poetry to woo a pretty lady. In movies and on sitcoms we see men use clichéd poetry to win the heart of a lady. Unfortunately, in the real world, using clichéd poetry doesn’t always work. Today’s woman wants more, and if you can show her that you took the time to write your own poem, one that doesn’t go something like “Roses are red, violets are blue, and I love you…” you just might win her heart. Or perhaps you could find a love poem that speaks to you that not everyone knows and share it with her.

Reading poetry can be difficult and daunting. The language and structure is different from what we’re used to, and it also often rhymes, which can be hard to get past. If the poem is especially long, it’s sometimes hard to comprehend what you’re reading because the rhymes overpower the images, and you have to constantly go back and reread the poem to make sure you got it right. But by taking the time to read and understand poetry, you’re helping yourself build your comprehension, and that can help in all areas of your life. Reading poetry will work out those brain muscles, helping you quickly plow through those boring office reports so you can get done and on your way with life.

How to Get Started

Reading poetry shouldn’t become a chore, so if you’re uneasy about it or don’t want to tackle a volume of poetry all at once try reading a poem a day, or once a week. Make reading poetry a little ritual. Perhaps on Saturday mornings, read a poem over your first cup of coffee before moving onto the newspaper. And when you read it, don’t worry about dissecting it like you used to in school. Read it for fun, or as a challenge to yourself. If you like the poem, good, and if you don’t, move on to another. Even if the poem is one that everyone says is the best poem ever, if you don’t like it just move on. Don’t dwell on it and tell yourself, “I obviously don’t get poetry because I don’t like this poem, which is the greatest poem ever written.” Poetry is art; you’re supposed to have your own opinion on it.

You can buy a collection of poetry from any of your local bookstores or check one out from the library. But, if that takes too much effort, you can also browse websites that are dedicated to putting up poems, so you can read them for free. Try poemhunters.com or poetryloverspage.com, or just google the name of a poet and see what free poems of theirs are available.

Poets to Try

Obviously you should read whatever type of poetry interests you. If you’re interested in epics from the past you can read The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Illiad, The Aenied, or Paradise Lost.

Some poets to try are:

The Usual: Homer, Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, William Blake, Alexander Pope, Robert Frost

Some Others: W.S. Merwin, Billy Collins, Bill Watterson, Shel Silverstein

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What’s your favorite poem or poet? Share your suggestions in the comments!

{ 148 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Derek Strykowski January 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Beowulf, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Paradise Lost. . . . Ah yes, I hold these great epic poems close to my heart. If I could make one addition to Mr. Karnitz’s excellent article, it would be to encourage all of you to grab some popcorn and a bunch of friends. Then, crack open your favorite poem and start reading aloud.

Reading an epic poem aloud is not only (in many cases) more “authentic,” it also makes for a rowdy good time. You might be surprised at how the action really comes alive, and many people will find the spoken verses much easier to follow than in print.

I have just completed writing my own article on this subject, actually:

http://abouttheartist.org/2011/01/21/homer-and-the-lost-art-of-storytelling/

Enjoying the comments!

102 Henning K. Christensen January 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm

It took me five long days, and four long nights, to challenge myself. I am a mere seventeen years of age, but have the mind of an eldrely man. I took upon me the challenge of learning If by Kipling by heart, a challenge I thought was too grand for my mind.

After two days I caught myself citing the second verse in the back of my head while talking to a friend. I knew, at that moment, that no task was too grand for the mind itself. In the midst of a personal crisis, I found comfort in the poem. I have yet to see the wonders of the world, but one thing is certain: I have seen the wonders of my mind.

After learning the poem by heart and mind, I now see that I can do far more things than I ever imagined; All thanks to this site. At this time, I am learning italian – so that I can learn latin. I hope to, one day, be able to cite Shakespeare by heart, and find comfort in any situation I may find myself in.

I thank you, for giving me the pleasures of this life; To see that I am capable of forcing my mind to memorize the written powers posessed by others, so that I can improve myself.

103 wes January 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Shel Silverstein is so entertaining to read, and anyone who does not know who he is, he wrote a few johnny cash songs, including “A boy named Sue” and “25 minutes to go”, but his poetry is oddly interesting and I’m glad you mentioned him.

104 GJ Marks January 22, 2011 at 4:09 am

Someone mentioned EE Cummings – my life changed when I got into that. Also Richard Brautigan, WCW and Khalil Gibran. Langston Hughes was my gateway drug into poetry.

105 Victor Lorthos January 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

Charles Bukowski. One of the most prolific and manliest poets of the modern age, he was a depression-era wreck of a man with a beautiful soul and a penchant for drinking, women, gambling, bars, and loneliness. His work influenced many writers and songwriters of our day, including people like Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton.

Look him up and read some of his stuff, you will not regret it.

106 Rick Schrager January 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm

A poem, is akin to a verbal snapshot of events and emotions. Carl Sandberg was a master of capturing comings-and-goings of his place and time. His Chicago Poems are an example of engaging verse.

Thank you for the fine article.

107 Edwin January 23, 2011 at 12:20 am

If you really want to romance a woman try reading a couple of Pablo Neruda’s poems and memorizing one or two and then recite it to your girlfriend or crush.

108 greatzamboni January 23, 2011 at 1:08 am

I’ve read my son and daughter The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, (Coleridge) its pretty hypnotic… and for me, i’ve always got Invictus, by William Ernest Henly, memorized to inspire me or others when needed.

109 Patrick January 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

As Derek Strykowski pointed out, Beowulf is another epic poem. There are TONS of epic poems in the old Icelandic, Norse and Germanic lays. Excellent reads, every last one of them. The Poetic and Prose Edda being two collections of such poems.

110 Chad C. January 23, 2011 at 8:30 am

I love the discussion that’s happening here. One of my favorite poems and poets is Mark Strand. The poem that did it for me is called Keeping Things Whole.

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Billy Collins is tremendous, ee cummings is a favorite of mine, William Carlos Williams, and Philip Levine — http://edwardbyrne.blogspot.com/2009/09/philip-levines-what-work-is-on-labor.html

Thanks to Brett and Kate for providing this platform.

111 Alastair Humphreys January 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Whilst doing an unsupported expedition across Iceland last year we recorded ourselves reciting a poem each day. Here’s how it turned out:
http://vimeo.com/14916296

112 Joey Joe Joe January 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Read Bukowski. His writing will make you want to drink and fuck, and maybe start writing yourself.

113 Peter Yankowski January 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm

If you want poetry for men, look no further than Randall Jarrell. His poems speak to the soul….

90 North
At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe,
I clambered to bed; up the globe’s impossible sides
I sailed all night—till at last, with my black beard,
My furs and my dogs, I stood at the northern pole.

114 Larry A.F. January 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm

It’s a good point that poetry is art and therefor subjective. Until you find a poet (or poets) that really appeals to you, you won’t be too enthusiastic about the medium. For me, it was Robert Frost, and then Robinson Jeffers and Theodore Roethke. I also have to admit that haiku holds a special place in my soul and I often find myself composing them as I go about my day, especially if my day takes me out into nature.

115 Steve White January 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Great timing! I’ve been contemplating the need to explore poetry in my life. I never got the hang of it in school and was more interested in novels and short stories, but as I enter middle-age and begin mellowing, I find myself remembering and enjoying poems I’ve read along the way. I’m particularly partial to Robert W. Service, the “Bard of the Yukon,” and Cowboy Poetry. There’s not much more manlier than a cowboy astride a horse, singing to to his “doggies.” If cowboys can write and recite poetry, why can’t the rest of us?

116 Stephen January 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm

And of course Banjo Patterson with Man from Snowy River, Waltzing Matilda and Clancy of the overflow among many others. And his contemporary Henry Lawson. I think
the two even had a poetry war so to speak in the newspapers of the time.

117 John January 24, 2011 at 10:12 pm

And then there’s what may be the most powerful war poem ever written, In Flander Fields, written from the viewpoint of the dead soldiers in 1915:

IN Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

As interesting as the poem is powerful is the context under which it was written. Check out this link for that info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields

And if you’re still interested, there are many “replies” to the poem that can be Googled…

118 Christian January 24, 2011 at 10:21 pm

My favorite poet by far HAS to be John Donne. I don’t read much poetry, but I always identify with his words.

119 Levi Herrera January 26, 2011 at 2:17 am

Robert Bly is a contemporary poet who is well-credited for his masculine themes and simple verse. His poem “The Black Figure Below the Boat” (from his collection Morning Poems) has been my recent study – the kind of “stop whining and just get busy” type of manliness that young men like myself sometimes need to remember.
Besides Bly, I like poets that challenge me spiritually and intellectually: John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot. They write metaphysical poems, which are extremely difficult, but the pleasure in reading them is that you can read them hundreds of times and still learn more.
Good poetry should please you and edify you. And I have learned that you never truly enjoy a poem, until you begin to learn it by memory.

120 Sam January 26, 2011 at 2:46 am

The poet and essayist Wendell Berry provides many poems and essays that all men, and women, would benefit from reading. His writings provide an incredibly insightful view of the effect that modern life can have on us. Here is one of my favorite poems of his. these are definitely words to live by:

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know. So, friends, everyday do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion–put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? Go with your love to the fields. Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest in your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark a false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than neccessary, some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
-Wendell Berry
‘Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front’

121 Eric January 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I see a few here mentioned cowboy poetry, and I’d like to put in a second for that. There is a ton of old and new cowboy poetry (and old cowboy songs usually hold up well as stand-alone poetry) just waiting to be discovered by the uninitiated… a lot of poetry lovers have never explored this genre, and will be amazed at the richness it contains, especially for men. From charmingly hoakey, to expansively reverent, to sorrowfully alone… you can find a bit of everything manly in the poetry of cowpunchers. And if you are looking for poetry to be spoken aloud, you can do no better than these. A few of my favorite cowboy poets, and some of my favorite titles by them. Check ‘em out:

Henry Herbert Knibbs – “To My Dog, ‘Quien Sabe’ (In the Happy Hunting Grounds) ”
Baxter Black – Goodbye, Old Man
Wallace McRea – “Reincarnation”, “Things Of Intrinsic Worth”
Red Steagall – “The Fence That Me & Shorty Built”, “Born To This Land”, “The Memories In Grandmother’s Trunk”
Arthur Chapman – Out Where The West Begins

I could go on and on. But start with those. If they don’t get you hooked on cowboy poetry, nothing will.

122 Gallinar January 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Let’s not forget the greatest poet of the 20th century: Pablo Neruda.

123 Shahid Mir January 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Great article!! Most poets mentioned were men…..It is manly to write poems……Its gotta be manly to recite them and share them…..

I write poetry and read some too…….I cannot remember poems at all….Not even my own…Havent figured this one out yet….

Shahid.

124 Dave January 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Who sticks out to me as the classic “man’s man” poet, I think would be Gary Snyder. Easily one of my favorites — his poetry will resonate with a man who loves nature, travel, spirituality, and likes a good poem to offer a nice observant view of the world.

125 Cadet Young January 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

haha I am just amused that the picture at the tp is of a classroom here at VMI. I have Advanced Composition in that room, #217

126 Will S. January 30, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Robert E. Howard. Yes, that Robert E. Howard.

127 Bryan January 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Why has poetry fallen out of favor with men? I attribute it to the “Ascent of the Gutter”. What better way to exterminate masculinity altogether than to identify it with the worst possible excesses of loutishness, violence, and ignorance? Imagine the outcry if the porn film version of a “sorority” became the archetype upon which all girls were expected to base their womanhood? Nevertheless, the equivalent has happened for men. The basest and most juvenile of masculine foibles have become the “ideal” of “manhood” in our country. What better way to keep the plebes in their place than to teach them that education is “sissy”?

128 Bryan January 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Man’s man poet?

Homer.

129 MAJ S January 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Rage, goddess, rage; sing of the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles…

So! The Spear Danes in times gone by
Were ruled by kings of courage and greatness…

130 warriorpoet912 February 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

As a children’s book author/poet, I am always pleased to hear the gospel spoken about the power of poetry. I love that the author says, “if you like the poem, good, but if not (even if it’s a “classic”) move on.” Poetry is meant to be felt, not analyzed to death. With that, I give you a poem I recently came across, which, unfortunately, had no title. If anyone knows it, please pass it along.

by Sir Henry Newbolt

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

131 Mark February 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Charles Bukowski changed my thoughts on poetry

132 Richard February 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The Road Ahead or the Road Behind
George J. Moriarty

Sometimes I think the fates must grin as we denounce them and insist,
The only reason we can’t win is the fates themselves have missed.
Yet, there lives on the ancient claim – we win or lose within ourselves,
The shining trophies on our shelves can never win tomorrow’s game.
So you and I know deeper down there is a chance to win the crown,
But when we fail to give our best, we simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all and saving none until the game is really won.
Of showing what is meant by grit, of fighting on when others quit,
Of playing through not letting up, it’s bearing down that wins the cup.
Of taking it and taking more until we gain the winning score,
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead, of hoping when our dreams are dead,
Of praying when our hopes have fled. Yet, losing, not afraid to fall,
If bravely we have given all, for who can ask more of a man
than giving all within his span, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.
And so the fates are seldom wrong, no matter how they twist and wind,
It’s you and I who make our fates, we open up or close the gates,
On the Road Ahead or the Road Behind.

133 Jordan February 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Epic poetry is some of the manliest literature in world history. Beowulf and The Divine Comedy are my two favorites, with both of Homer’s epics and the medieval German epic Das Nibelungenlied another favorite. Definitely check out the The Battle of Maldon. It exists only as a fragment of a few hundred lines, but it explores a lot of ideas that The Art of Manliness has thrived upon–courage, sacrifice, leadership, true manhood.

Seamus Heaney, John Keats, Shakespeare, and the great Geoffrey Chaucer are also favorites.

And I don’t want to be that guy, but… it’s Edgar ALLAN Poe. He’s been my favorite poet since 5th grade.

134 Daniel Martínez February 6, 2011 at 12:58 am

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135 Brian February 6, 2011 at 11:23 pm

If I had to read one poet for the rest of my life it would be Robert Frost. He speaks of nature and the cold New England winter. The Road Not Taken is one of my favorites as is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening both speak to taking life as it is. If I could have a second poet though it would be Edger Lee Masters and his Spoon River Anthology. Its the collected final thoughts of people living in a small town most of them are hilarious my favorite is still Fiddler Jones.

136 H Nelson February 9, 2011 at 12:10 am

Great write up. Poetry is most definitely manly.

I’ll echo many of the poets that have already been suggested:

Blake
“Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none go to buy”

Wordsworth
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Eliot
The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Donne
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Thoreau
Hardy
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

I have also recently become a fan of several of the UK-based “dub-poets.”

Linton Kwesi Johnson
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq9OpJYck7Y

Benjamin Zephaniah
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3HjMcY50Kc&feature=related

137 Cody February 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I think when “manly” and “poet” are mentioned, Bukowski is the most obvious thought, but I find that Wendell Berry, in particular, is the “manliest” of my favorite poets.

I don’t necessarily admire the man that Edward Estlin Cummings was, but I love his poetry.

John Ciardi, William Carlos Williams, Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov, Alan Dugan, Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Adam Zagajewski, Miller Williams, Billy Collins, Charles Simic, James Tate, Brian Patten are all favorites of mine.

138 Kait February 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I would personally recommend William Yeats, Henry Longfellow, John Haines, and above all Padraic Pearse. Pearse was a man with a deeply sensitive and poetic soul as well as a fierce and unyielding love for Ireland. He started up a school to help boys reclaim some of their Irish heritage and was instrumental in the Easter Uprising of 1916. Before heading out, I believe he wrote his mother a poem. Entitled simply ‘The Mother’, it goes as follows;

I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong songs that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow- And yet I have my joy;
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

Yeah. Invoking both a mother’s grief and a fierce struggle for independence all in one poem. I feel more manly just thinking about Pearse some days.

139 Salvatore February 15, 2011 at 1:47 am

Read Milton Acorn. World War 2 veteran. Canadian. And the only poetry that is Pipe-Grit-Man.

140 Bryce October 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

Everyone should know one poem by heart;
INVICTUS

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever Gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade.
And yet the terror of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll;
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

141 Dean January 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I love a good poem or short story by Charles Bukowski.

142 Ryan January 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm

A Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock by Eliot is good one for a way not to be.
For some words of wisdom to say to a educated woman try “To His Coy Mistress” or “To the Virgins”
Also a fan of anything John Donne

143 Adriaan Gerber March 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes — Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women’s undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

144 Paul Mackley June 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm
145 Josh October 4, 2013 at 6:08 am

Please spare one thought for S.T.C!

146 Shane October 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

Thank you for encouraging us 21st century men to enlighten ourselves with literature and poetry. I myself write traditional poetry. You can find my work here: http://shanehubbardpoems.wordpress.com/
Pour a glass of wine, settle in by the fireplace (or on the porch swing if it’s summer), and enjoy!

147 Hepburn December 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

worthy….

148 nate January 20, 2014 at 8:55 pm

-W.H. Auden
-Robert W. Service
-Longfellow
-Basho
-Fukuda Kodojin
-William Cowper

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