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.


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 or, 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


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

{ 148 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim January 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I would also suggest William Wordsworth. “The Character of the Happy Warrior” is one of my favorties.

2 Robb January 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Teddy Roosevelt used to go up to Maine and yell poetry at the top of his longs while chopping down trees for a good time.

3 Graham January 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

It might be a strange suggestion (i.e. not a man), but Marianne Moore is one of my favorites. She’s from the same ‘school’ as Eliot and Pound but for a reason I can’t explain, her poems work really well for me.

4 Bryan January 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I would highly suggest Emily Dickinson.

5 Abe January 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Dont forget the beats.. Kerouac, burroughs, ferlinghetti. Also khalil gibran is very stimulating.

6 Susan Woehrle January 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

My favorite male poet at the moment is Charles Bukowski, because his poetry is so manly and dark.

7 Dan January 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Great post! Poetry is definitely underrated and under-appreciated today.

I have always been a fan of Edna St Vincent Millay’s sonnets and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” is as good as it gets when it comes to romantic poetry.

8 Cora January 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm

One way that I found it easy to find a love of poetry was by learning about slam poetry or spoken word poetry. This is poetry vocalized. Many poets post performances on youtube. One of my favorites is Rives. He mixes words like an architect and does it with a charm that makes it easy to get into.
Here’s a url for “Mockingbird” by Rives.

9 Joseph K January 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has to be my favorite poem of all time, and you should also check out Ogden Nash if you want something funny.

10 Craig January 19, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Jorge Luis Borges, for poetry and for writing about poetry.

11 Tommy January 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Well this is my first comment here, but because I love poetry (writing and reading it) I wanted to comment.

You left out a very manly poet:
John Donne.

So for those reading, enjoy:

“Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. “

12 Flaviu Simihaian January 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I strongly recommend Harold Bloom’s Best Poems of the English Language:

I’m still making my way through it.

Also, there is no better way to wait on a carwash, or a doctor’s office than memorizing a short poem.

13 Grant January 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Shaqille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, John Wooden – here’s a couple of manly men reciting Kipling:

14 Martin McManus January 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Edgar Allen Poe (happy birthday to him) is a great poet for men to read. The way the guys uses the language is beyond words…

15 Ben January 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I don’t know if it’s television that has replaced the bard so much as music.

All lyrical music is a form of poetry and evokes an emotional response in the listener. I think, in a lot of ways, poetry has been presented in a manly light simply by the performance of artists whom young people can aspire to be like. While pop music is hardly “high brow”, it does convey ideas through cadence and rhyme – thus through poetry.

As a kid (junior high), each year we had to memorize (and perform in front of the class) some poetry. I have fond memories of “The Highwayman”, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The Raven”.

However, my very favourite poem of all time is “The Bagpipe Who Didn’t Say No” by Shel Silverstein:

It was nine o’clock at midnight at a quarter after three
When a turtle met a bagpipe on the shoreside by the sea,
And the turtle said, “My dearie,
May I sit with you? I’m weary.”
And the bagpipe didn’t say no.
Said the turtle to the bagpipe, “I have walked this lonely shore,
I have talked to waves and pebbles–but I’ve never loved before.
Will you marry me today, dear?
Is it ‘No’ you’re going to say dear?”
But the bagpipe didn’t say no.

Said the turtle to his darling, “Please excuse me if I stare,
But you have the plaidest skin, dear,
And you have the strangest hair.
If I begged you pretty please, love,
Could I give you just one squeeze, love?”
And the bagpipe didn’t say no.

Said the turtle to the bagpipe, “Ah, you love me. Then confess!
Let me whisper in your dainty ear and hold you to my chest.”
And he cuddled her and teased her
And so lovingly he squeezed her.
And the bagpipe said, “Aaooga.”

Said the turtle to the bagpipe, “Did you honk or bray or neigh?
For ‘Aaooga’ when your kissed is such a heartless thing to say.
Is it that I have offended?
Is it that our love is ended?”
And the bagpipe didn’t say no.

Said the turtle to the bagpipe, “Shall i leave you, darling wife?
Shall i waddle off to Woedom? Shall i crawl out of your life?
Shall I move, depart and go, dear–
Oh, I beg you tell me ‘No’ dear!”
But the bagpipe didn’t say no.

So the turtle crept off crying and he ne’er came back no more,
And he left the bagpipe lying on that smooth and sandy shore.
And some night when tide is low there,
Just walk up and say, “Hello, there,”
And politely ask the bagpipe if this story’s really so.
I assure you, darling children, the bagpipe won’t say “No.”

16 Brendan January 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Writing poetry can be daunting. I would highly recommend checking out Newspaper Blackout – they’re some of my favorite short poems and its a great way to get started.

17 Peter W. January 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I want to address that fallacy that men are – or ever have been to any great extent – raised to be utterly unemotional.

There is a huge difference between rejecting emotion, and between requiring emotion to be a servant, rather than a master.
Emotion that drives us to embrace strength, courage, humility, consideration and self-sacrifice has always been admired and encouraged. Emotion that leads us to cowardice, greediness and selfishness should, rightly, be rejected.

Some of my favourites:
Kipling’s “If”, and “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.”
“The Lay of the last Charger” By Adam Lindsay Gordon.
Or this one…..

“I bring this prayer to You, Lord
For You alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.
Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what no-one ever asks You for.
I don’t ask You for rest, or quiet,
Whether of soul or body;
I don’t ask You for wealth,
Nor for success, nor even health perhaps.
That sort of thing You get asked for so much
That You can’t have any of it left.
Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what no-one wants from You.
I want insecurity, strife,
And I want You to give me these
Once and for all.
So that I can be sure of having them always,
Since I shall not always have the courage
To ask You for them.

Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what others want nothing to do with.
But give me courage too,
And strength and faith;
For You alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.”

Lt. Andre Zirnheld, SAS


18 Javier January 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Novel Prizes Pablo Neruda & Gabriela Mistral.

19 Elías January 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I’d suggest Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I bet most of you have read the most well known of his poems, the one that begins “I like you when you are quiet…”. But it sounds much much better in Spanish.

I also enjoy Carroll’s ones in Alice in Wonderland, in their original language, of course. And agree with the blogger in that Homer is a must read.

This is my first comment in AoM. Congratulations for your great site!

20 Gal @ Equally Happy January 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm

When I went through a particularly rough time in my life, a constant companion was Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. The sheer spirit of that poem kept me going when nothing else did.

The longer poems, such as the ones you mentioned (Iliad, Dante and so on) tend to lose me but the shorter ones are an inspiration.

21 Daniel January 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I highly recommend Robert Service’s poetry; from the spooky classic “The cremation of Sam McGee” to the humorous “The Ballad Of How Macpherson Held The Floor,” and inspiring odes like “The Quitter” in between, Service’s career spanned decades and encompassed much what makes poetry manly.

22 Jill January 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

My father can recite many Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson and e e cummings poems off the top of his head, as well a “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” still a Christmas Eve tradition in our family.

23 JC Carter January 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Don’t forget the inspiring INVICTUS, but William Earnest Henley…

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 menace 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.

24 Erin January 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Bob Hicok is a fantastic contemporary poet…start with this one:

25 Kyla January 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm

As a woman who loves poetry, I am very encouraged by this.

Also add:
Dylan Thomas
John Keats
John Donne
Walt Whitman
Rainer Maria Rilke

26 Native son January 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm

OK, for the REAL novice, who hasn’t dealt with any poetry that didn’t start with “There once was a man…”, I recommend the following collections:

“Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle” Odd title, but a nice little collection of poetry that just might suck you in. Includes a nice mixture of works, originally a Scholastic Book (yep sold at the elementary school book fairs!), hard to find.
“101 Best-Loved Poems” compiled by Roy J. Cook. VERY MANLY! Kipling, Longfellow, Tennyson, Kilmer, McCrae, Shakespear, Poe, Holmes, etc, etc. etc.
“Collected Poems of Robert W. Service” – Just for FUN!

27 andy January 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Is that A VMI picture? That IS manly!

28 Seth January 19, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Great post. I’ll second both Robert Service and Invictus, as well as drop a link to Alistair Humphrey’s cool recital of Ulysses:

I’ve been using the app “Remember Me” on my Droid to memorize a number of poems this year, including Invictus, Ulysses, A Psalm of Life by Longfellow and a few from R. Service. I’ll have to add to my list now.

29 uc50ic4more January 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Ralph Waldo Emerson: I cannot highly enough recommend reading his work; poetry or otherwise.

“Beneath low hills, in the broad interval
Through which at will our Indian rivulet
Winds mindful still of sannup and of squaw,
Whose pipe and arrow oft the plough unburies,
Here in pine houses built of new-fallen trees,
Supplanters of the tribe, the farmers dwell.”

30 Tom January 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm

To cover the spirituality base I also suggest Wordsworth. Especially ‘Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey’. It’s breathtaking.

31 Jade @ Tasting Grace January 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm

For men, I’d highly recommend Allen Ginsberg. If you have a woman in your life, surprise her with some Pablo Neruda.

32 Stephen Henderson January 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Reminds me of this:
“So if you hate poetry or don’t have the time or are just indifferent, consider that this might be symptomatic of some deep failure in you instead of in the poetry. And then, don’t just admit to the failure and go on hanging your head. Hunt for beauty. Track it down.” -Doug Jones

I’ll recommend Richard Wilbur

33 Sean January 19, 2011 at 9:41 pm

THANK YOU so much for this post! I, for one, love poetry, which is good since I teach British and American literature to 12th and 11th graders, respectively. Many of you have mentioned some of my favorites so– being trained as a medievalist I have various “soft spots” for epic poetry, for Chaucer, for the Pearl-Poet, and for the Classical poets. Of more recent vintage, I read Tennyson, Blake, Byron, Keats, Edward Lear, Wilfred Owen, and Sigfried Sassoon– these last two being members of the “War Poets” and both casualties of The Great War.

One poet that I have not seen mentioned is the Greco-Egyption Konstantin Kavafy. His poem “Ithaka”– referencing Homer’s The Odyssesy and the story of Oddyseus– has become a favorite of mine, as the poem speaks to the rewards of setting out into the unknown: think Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in a Mediterranean/Greek context.

34 Nick January 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Does anyone else appreciate the irony of a post about poetry not having a poem in it?

35 Nic January 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Nice post once again.

I have just put my 8 month old daughter to sleep by reading the Iliad by Homer to her. The rhythmic sound of the epic poem coupled with Daddy’s monotonous voice is perfect for sending her off to the Land of Nod.

On a more serious note:
- she is able to hear a variety of words and sounds that are uncommon in everyday (Aussie) English
- I absolutely love putting her to bed (which helps Mummy or Mommy in the US)
- it already seems like poetry could be something that we will share together

Perhaps after reading Homer I might pick up my copy of Byron for her. Byron is one I would give a double thumbs-up. I would also like to second John Donne.

36 Daniel January 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Between the post and 30+ comments, I’m surprised that Maya Angelou was left off the list. Maybe I’m biased because I remember learning about her in grade school and then having seen her in person at my college. Fabulous poet.

37 Haden January 20, 2011 at 12:03 am

My personal favorite, by Whitman

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and

Walt Whitman

38 Doug Lobdell January 20, 2011 at 2:24 am

I still remember the first poem I ever memorized, by ee cummings:” I don’t mind eels, except as meals, and the way they feels.” Since then memorizing poetry – much longer – has become a hobby.

I was in a vocal group a few years ago, and was told “everyone needs to prepare a solo.” Since I’m definitely a backup kind of singer, I instead prepared a dramatic poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” by Robert W. Service (Service REALLY should have been on your recommended list!).

If you want a MANLY poem, the only one better than “Sam McGee” is Kipling’s “If” – which was one of the next I memorized. So while I was in the groove I learned “Mandalay” (also Kipling), “Casey at the Bat” (maybe the finest example of American popular poetry, although “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” which I also learned, may be better), Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Frost’s classic “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” (now THERE’S a man’s poem!). That all was 10 or 12 years ago. While I now would need a good review to recite most of those, there’s one poem, by a children’s poet who is much better-loved than Silverstein or Watterson, that I still perform, impromptu, annually: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” by Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss. Recited dramatically, this hold kids and adults alike in thrall every holiday season!

The best book out there for anyone curious about poetry and wanting to get started per your recommendations is “Best Remembered Poems,” edited by Martin Gardner. It’s got almost every classic poem you’ve ever read and remembered, for under seven bucks.

39 ChristopherSfromCA January 20, 2011 at 3:02 am

“O Pioneers” by Walt Whitman is my favorite poem. great imagery and manliness.

40 ChristopherSfromCA January 20, 2011 at 3:04 am

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!
For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood intervein’d,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, (bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d.
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call–hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind,
Swift! to the head of the army!–swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

-Walt Whitman

41 Bollywood - News, Actress, Stars, Gossips, Movie, Reviews January 20, 2011 at 5:47 am

Your article make it seem so easy with your topic. but It’s seems too complicated and very broad for me.

42 DJKafka January 20, 2011 at 6:17 am

Great post, and great suggestions from everybody.

For those utterly confused as to just where the hell to start, I recommend Garrison Keillor’s “Good Poems” ( He selected these from a boatload of others for his radio show/podcast (, and I must say that he did a great job of it.

43 Lucius January 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

My favorite has to be RIchard Brautigan, if just for his sense of humor. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Robert Bly yet. I appreciate the poems that people have included, here is one by William Butler Yeats. Talk about being in the moment.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

44 Patrick January 20, 2011 at 7:59 am

Excellent read. I love articles like this. I have recently been thinking of watching The Dead Poets’ Society again. I am definitely in the mood to watch it now.

By the way, Dover Thrift publishes multiple books on poetry available on Amazon for $1.50-$4.

45 Brad January 20, 2011 at 8:49 am

Self Pity D.H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

46 Darren January 20, 2011 at 8:51 am

Glad to see people asking for Neruda. And Billy Collins…he’s fantastic. GREAT poet.

Carl Sandburg? His rant against Billy Sunday is epic; there he defines what a man isn’t (i.e., Billy Sunday).

Wendell Berry, besides being a great essayist and novelist, is a damn fined poet. The Mad Farmer’s Manifesto is a top ten manly poem. His writing is earthy and sensual but you don’t realize it until a few minutes later. Actually, this is my favorite from the Mad Farmer series.

The Mad Farmer’s Love Song

O when the world’s at peace
and every man is free
then will I go down unto my love.

O and I may go down
several times before that.


P.S. I’d like to thank everyone here for not mentioning Robert Bly. Faux manly, in my opinion.

47 scuff January 20, 2011 at 9:07 am is awesome, full of great poems.

48 Jeff January 20, 2011 at 9:13 am

I fully concer, real men read poetry. I have as one of my prized books Rudyard Kipling Complete Verse Definitive Edition. At my father’s funeral, I recited from memory; “When earth’s last picture is painted”, as a tribute to him. It was very gratefying to see the look of suprise and the comments afterwards. Nobody expected this from me, they were all taken by suprise. It left a lasting impression. So gentlemen if you want to impress a lady, find a couple of poems and commit them to memory.
By the way, as a bonus, Kipling had a fantastic understanding of the human condition. There are many “one liners” that are worth the effort to seek out and memorize. One of my favorites is; “If any question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied”. I’ve taken my fun where I have found it… Kipling like The Bard is for the ages.

49 Thomas Jackson January 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

An old man from my lodge would quote an occasional poem in our conversations. One of my favorites is Horatius at the Bridge,by Macaulay.

It’s longer, but the rhythm and meter (~pacing) draw you in.

In the poem, a vile and trecherous enemy named Sextus is one of several named enemies who are marching against the city of Rome in her earliest days. This day was long before the time of the Caesars, when Rome was still a republic. The Roman Consul and the elders rose to the only action they could take in the few minutes before the angry Etruscans arrived: they had to destroy the bridge leading to the town. But what brave and selfless hero would dare hold the gates while they did this?

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods.

“And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?

“Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon straight path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?”

This, my friends, is a man’s poem. The rest of it is here:

50 Claude January 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

In English Lit we were forced to read some poetry. I found works by John Dunne (not sure of the spelling) and was shocked by the amount of humor and sex in his poetry.

Really an eye opener for me.

51 Ryan January 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

I like the “don’t forget the beats” comment. The first picture in this article is a group of fellas reading “Howl.” I suggest reading Ginsberg! Read the rest of his beat buddies like Abe said in comment five! Kerouac is the Springsteen of poets; while you’re at it, read Springsteen, he’s a fantastic poet.

52 Yates January 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

Don’t forget the Psalms! Many, many illusions are made to the psalms and they take up a significant portion of the bible. (Apparently God values poetry)

I’m sure most of the readers are familiar with this Psalm:

53 Larry January 20, 2011 at 10:03 am

I don’t know how you can recommend poets and leave out Dylan Thomas. From “Fern Hill” to his prose poems like “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” he is the best of the 20th century..

54 Daniel January 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

“No man is an island . . .”

John Donne

55 Daniel January 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

I also want to add, along with John Donne:

TS Eliot
Ranier Maria Rilke
Jim Morrison

56 Sam January 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

I greatly enjoy poetry and have always been fascinated by the way in which words and ideas can convey emotions to other human beings.


57 CoffeeZombie January 20, 2011 at 10:42 am

I’m glad to see others mentioning Robert Service. I learned of him in middle school, when my parents took us on a cruise along the coast of Alaska. At one of the stops, I picked up a book of his poems, and a CD of them being read. In addition to his more serious poems, he had some great humorous ones, such as my favorite, Maternity:

There once was a Square, such a square little Square,
And he loved a trim Triangle;
But she was a flirt and around her skirt
Vainly she made him dangle.
Oh he wanted to wed and he had no dread
Of domestic woes and wrangles;
For he thought that his fate was to procreate
Cute little Squares and Triangles.

Now it happened one day on that geometric way
There swaggered a big bold Cube,
With a haughty stare and he made that Square
Have the air of a perfect boob;
To his solid spell the Triangle fell,
And she thrilled with love’s sweet sickness,
For she took delight in his breadth and height—
But how she adored his thickness!

So that poor little Square just died of despair,
For his love he could not strangle;
While the bold Cube led to the bridal bed
That cute and acute Triangle.
The Square’s sad lot she has long forgot,
And his passionate pretensions …
For she dotes on her kids—Oh such cute Pyramids
In a world of three dimensions.

I can’t read that one without a smile. :-)

As a side note, I have long wished I could get some friends together for an evening of drinks and poetry reading. Perhaps I should just plan it out, invite my friends, and hope I’m pleasantly surprised…

58 Ray Crego January 20, 2011 at 10:43 am

One of my favorite things to read is the Norse Mythology found in the Poetic Edda. Very cool stories to be found in there.
The most famous poem within is the Völuspá which tells of the creation of the world and the end of the world.

‘ Of old was the age | when Ymir lived;
Sea nor cool waves | nor sand there were;
Earth had not been, | nor heaven above,
But a yawning gap, | and grass nowhere.’


59 Willis January 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

One of my favorite poets is Robert Service – his poems focus on adventure and every man’s need for freedom. For starters, “A Rolling Stone” is great reading. I have it and a few others of his memorized. Countee Cullen’s “I have a Rendezvous with Life” is another great one. And of course the poetry of the Bible offers a wealth of wisdom, beauty, and direction. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs especially.


60 Chicago Typewriter January 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

Props for the Billy Collins mention. I think “The Death of the Hat” is a perfect fit here on the Art of Manliness. It is definitely a personal favorite of mine, what resonates for me is the way it captures the essence of a way of life that is forever gone. I usually decline to speak in generalities, but, any man who thinks that poetry is somehow effeminate has read entirely too much Maxim.

That aside, I’ll let Mr. Collins do the speaking:

“The Death of the Hat”

Once every man wore a hat.

In the ashen newsreels,
the avenues of cities
are broad rivers flowing with hats.

The ballparks swelled
with thousands of straw hats,
brims and bands,
rows of men smoking
and cheering in shirtsleeves.

Hats were the law.
They went without saying.
You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd.

You bought them from Adams or Dobbs
who branded your initials in gold
on the inside band.

Trolleys crisscrossed the city.
Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor.
Men with hats gathered on the docks.

There was a person to block your hat
and a hatcheck girl to mind it
while you had a drink
or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato.
In your office stood a hat rack.

The day war was declared
everyone in the street was wearing a hat.
And they were wearing hats
when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea.

My father wore one to work every day
and returned home
carrying the evening paper,
the winter chill radiating from his overcoat.

But today we go bareheaded
into the winter streets,
stand hatless on frozen platforms.

Today the mailboxes on the roadside
and the spruce trees behind the house
wear cold white hats of snow.

Mice scurry from the stone walls at night
in their thin fur hats
to eat the birdseed that has spilled.

And now my father, after a life of work,
wears a hat of earth,
and on top of that,
a lighter one of cloud and sky—a hat of wind.

61 Scott January 20, 2011 at 11:23 am

Hip hop!!! One of the best modern forms of poetry today…but I’d recommend skipping the radio and pick up a early roots record or something (ie illadelph halflife).

62 JonathanL January 20, 2011 at 11:27 am

The mention of TS Eliot is a good one. TS Eliot took me from just writing poetry to actually reading and appreciating REAL poetry.

63 Chaka January 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

My standard for a good poem is one that rewards you on the first read but also reveals even more riches when you re-read it. Seamus Heaney writes these kind of poems. So does Wendell Berry.

64 James January 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

My favourite poet is John Clare whose work I first encountered when I was 17. That poem was ‘I am’, his most famous piece which I found to be incredibly.

When I investigated his work further I found a wealth of beauty; the joy of nature which he expresses with such powers of description resonate deeply within me and I will staunchly defend Clare against anybody who says that he’s a mere novelty “peasant poet”.

65 Jerry January 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Chicago Typewriter for introducing me to the Billy Collins poem “The Death of the Hat”. That is a fantastic poem. I must check out his other writings.

66 William January 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm

There are so many great poets that it’s nearly impossible to avoid the pitfall of “You forgot… he’s the greatest!” Suffice to say that if you explore, you will likely find a poet that speaks to you. Try an anthology. Or search the internet for poems of a particular genre, such as “war poems” or “love poems” or humor, nature, etc. Let the poet speak to your soul. Thanks for this article!

67 Bill January 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Great post and great comments. Just a few responses to some.

To the person who said he or she got more into poetry when they started listening to it spoken out loud, that’s a great point. Poetry is absolutely meant to be read out loud, not just read silently to oneself, although that’s rewarding to. So, I agree, but it doesn’t just have to be “slam” poetry or whatever — read every type of poetry out loud.

And to the comment that music has taken over poetry and not TV, I disagree in a way. Music, and words set to music, are just another type of poetry. Indeed, a great deal of poetry has been written with musical accompaniment in mind throughout history (these are often referred to as lyric poems). I think popular music is a source of some of the greatest recent, or at least recently popular, poems of the past 50 years. However, most popular music artists don’t care as much these days, and so young people aren’t getting much in the way of good poetry from that type of thing. In terms of the important things you can get from poetry (understanding of yourself and humankind, new ways to look at the world, or finding that others view the world the same as you do), yes I feel that TV and films have taken over much of the time, as opposed to poems, novels, painting, or any other art form.

Also, I agree with some that people not too into poetry at the moment should definitely check out beat writers. However, be careful not to get stuck reading just that. Maybe it’s a problem with younger people, but I’ve met so many who claim a love of poetry but have only read those authors because they’ve heard that they were “rebellious,” and that’s how they want to be viewed too. Just make sure you become well-rounded in everything.

Finally, here’s my current favorite, which Donovan did a nice job setting to music back in the day:


by: W.B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

68 Brian January 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I am glad to know that Poetry is manly again. I’m currently reading both Beowulf and the Odyssey for school.

69 Mitch Somerville January 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

John Donne is my favorite by a narrow margin. My favorite poem of his is “The Dream”

One of the things that really appeals to me about Donne is the way his religious and romantic poetry are so linguistically and stylistically similar. He saw that love was love, whether he be describing his lust for an unrequiting woman, or his reverence of the divine.

70 FC January 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

“if” by 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 imposters 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 wornout 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 breath 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!

71 Ed Sorrels January 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Comes immediately to mind my favorite man’s Poet whom I have enjoyed since I learned to read. Robert Service is to me a poet with a flair of expressing his thought’s in what could be called a “Manly Fashion” and I have thru the years memorized quite a few.

72 Ty Karnitz January 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi everyone,

While writing the article I know I left a lot of great poets out. I’m only going to make the excuse that there are a lot of poets and I couldn’t get them all in there once.

At Nick, post 34, I just want to say that I didn’t include a poem in the original post because I was afraid of copyright laws (because I’d want to use a more modern poem).

And now, for my favorite poem

“Rain Travel”
By W.S. Merwin

I wake in the dark and remember
it is the morning when I must start
by myself on the journey
I lie listening to the black hour
before dawn and you are
still asleep beside me while
around us the trees full of night lean
hushed in their dream that bears
us up asleep and awake then I hear
drops falling one by one into
the sightless leaves and I
do not know when they began but
all at once there is no sound but rain
and the stream below us roaring
away into the rushing darkness

73 Ammon January 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Some poets to try:
John Donne
Percy Blythe Shelley

74 John January 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Good article, I agree with almost everything you said.
I like the poems Bukowski wrote, like “Dinosauria, We” and “How to be a Good Writer”. They’re very cool, if anyone wants to look it up.

75 Steve January 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Much appreciated post.

Like many others, I have to highly recommend John Donne (above all others), Robert Service, and Beowulf.

Also, may I suggest you check out Francis Thompson and the incomparable Sir Philip Sidney. Not only did he write great poetry, but he was considered the man who typified manliness in his age. He died in his 30s, after being wounded in battle on the European continent. Dying from his wounds, an attendant came by to offer him water, but he insisted that the water be given to his subordinate, as he considered the other man’s needs greater than his own.

What a guy.

76 CJ January 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Charles Baudelaire
William Carlos Williams
Pablo Neruda
Just a note: One must be careful when selecting a translated work. A huge burden rests on the translator. Some sacrifice meaning or rhythm for rhyme’s sake or vice verse. It pays to shop around, you may find you actually like a poet that you thought you couldn’t bare.
These comments are a treasure trove of poets I knew little or nothing about.
Thanks all.

77 wingtips January 20, 2011 at 3:30 pm

There are two:

Good Friday, Riding Westward, 1613, by John Donne


To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
by Thomas Michael Kettle
dated ‘In the field, before Guillemont, Somme, Sept. 4, 1916’.

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,—
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

78 Matthew January 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Great! Memorize poetry too. It’s the only real way to understand a poem, to let it become part of your soul through contemplative repetition. MY favorite poem:
If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have crowned Neaera’s curls,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.
(G. K. Chesterton – 1913)

79 wingtips January 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Bravo, Matthew. I have never read Chesterton’s poetry; thanks for allowing me to see what I am missing. For a more sombre meditation on a related theme:

“I See His Blood Upon the Rose”
by Joseph Mary Plunkett
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

80 Nat Cousins January 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thank you for this article from someone who has been reading a writing poetry regularly for years. And thank you Chicago for the Collins piece. A favorite of mine. Since quirky love poems were winked at, may I suggest “Litany” by Billy Collins. Here is a poet for new enthusiasts or non-enthusiasts and enthusiasts alike. Collins is extremely accessible while taking you somewhere you never thought you’d end up from the start of his poems. Thanks again for the article AOM. Read on!

81 JG January 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Hemingway’s “Blank Verse” (1916).

What are your thoughts?

82 Lena January 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

GK Chesterton cracks me up! And sometimes he makes me think. I read him every time I need a bit of a change to help spark my creativity. Refreshes the old bean!

The Ballad of Abbreviations and the Ballad of Suicide are pretty funny.

83 Mike Duty January 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I’ve read more poetry since I’ve started visiting this site than I read in high school. I love all the Manovationals. But, something I found somewhere else is “Go Down Death” by James Weldon Johnson. I first came across it when I found this video of it being read by Wintley Phipps on YouTube. This means deep bass voice really fits with the poem.

84 Kyle January 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Proof that poetry can be bad ass: “The Boxer Who Just Returned from London” by C.R. Avery

85 Arthur Vanderbilt January 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I would recommend any book of poems by Charles Bukowski.

I also love the haiku of Basho.

86 Bob K January 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm

better still … WRITE poetry….

Don’t worry if it doesn’t have a precise meter or rhythm.
Ruminate, then just put down what you feel.
Ponder, then go back to it later.

At first, what you say may be trite or cliche-ridden.
But over time you will learn to guide the flow of words that well up from within.
You will get to that place where you can say, ‘There. I said it.’ and know that you have.

87 Brad January 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I cannot recommend too highly “Horatius at the Gate”, by Thomas Babington Macauley.

Very, very moving, epic work by a past Secretary of State for Great Britain, among his many accomplishments.

88 Brad January 20, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Oh, and for Sam:

Go Army! Beat Navy!

(Sergeant First Class, Infantry – 82d Airborne – I Retired 3 years ago – grin)

89 Ethan C. January 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Don’t forget two other very manly poetry traditions – the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.

Yes, writing, reciting, and enjoying poetry was a key part of the Viking lifestyle. A good example is Egill Skallagrimson (his last name means “son of Grimskull” — yes, that’s a Viking name all right). He is renowned as both one of the most mighty, fearsome warriors in all Icelandic history, as well as one of the finest poets in the ancient Scandinavian tongue.

And don’t forget the glorious, manly poems of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, either. Beowulf is about as manly a poem as one can get, as it chronicles the monster-slaying exploits of a great hero. And if you enjoy Beowulf, look up other Anglo-Saxon poems, like “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer.” They can be more sad and stoic, but they express such things in an amazing, muscular, consonant-driven style.

90 David January 20, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Gary Snyder is the ultimate in masculine poetry. Kenneth Rexroth, too.

91 Kevin January 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Bob K nailed it on the head. Don’t just read a poem, write a poem – then say it out loud. Writing poetry is practice for expression and rhetoric that will help you in everyday life. I’m not saying reading poetry is useless, but it won’t develop skills for linguistics or persuasiveness that you get from putting your thoughts into words and standing up in front of an audience.

92 DM January 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm

My favorite poem for all time is:


What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

93 Sergey January 20, 2011 at 9:59 pm

This is an excellent post. I have always neglected poetry because of my past associations with it. After reading this post, however, I feel motivated to go out there and explore the poetry of the world.

94 Ben January 20, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Here’s two poetry books that I enjoy and that I think prove that poetry is Manly!

Smoke From This Alter by Louis L’Amour–Yes the great western author himself wrote a book of poetry.

Havamal, The Sayings of the Vikings. I found a copy while in the Marines and we were in Norway for cold weather training operations back in 1995. This small book is a reported to be over 1000 years old and is a guide of how to manage your life, treat others, and more. Most of it’s poems are short, for example:

How to Cultivate Friendship

A true friend
whom you trust well
and wish for his good wil:
Go to him often
exchange gifts
and keep him company.

95 Steven January 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Two words: Robert Burns.

And here’s a classic of his:

Is there for honest poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that?
The coward slave, we pass him by —
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toils obscure, an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a’ that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine —
A man’s a man for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that,
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.
Ye see yon birkie ca’d ‘a lord,’
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that?
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a cuif for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that!
But an honest man’s aboon his might —
Guid faith, he mauna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities, an’ a’ that,
The pith o’ sense an’ pride o’ worth
Are higher rank than a’ that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That man to man the world o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

96 Perry Randall January 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm


I apologize if anyone has mentioned Siegfried Sassoon already, but I feel he does deserve one (or more) plugs.

“A Whispered Tale”

I’d heard fool-heroes brag of where they’d been,
With stories of the glories that they’d seen.
But you, good simple soldier, seasoned well
In woods and posts and crater-lines of hell,
Who dodge remembered ‘crumps’ with wry grimace,
Endured experience in your queer, kind face,
Fatigues and vigils haunting nerve-strained eyes,
And both your brothers killed to make you wise;
You had no babbling phrases; what you said
Was like a message from the maimed and dead.
But memory brought the voice I knew, whose note
Was muted when they shot you in the throat;
And still you whisper of the war, and find
Sour jokes for all those horrors left behind.

97 Benjamin David January 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

E.E. Cummings.

98 Paul January 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

The Raven, by Poe is still my favourite poem. I learned it off by heart as a kid after watching on the Simpsons and even now as an English teacher can recite it to the kids I teach, and I absolutely love the language, the rhythm, the imagery…it’s very profound.

99 Nathan January 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Ditto ee cummings! My favorites, from heart-felt to bawdy:
“since feeling is first”
“i carry your heart with me”
“i like my body when it is with your”
“may i feel said he”

Any of these is a great gift for the woman in your life, depending on the circumstances.

When I was little, my dad’s favorite was Lewis Carol’s The Jabberwocky:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought –
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

100 Mike Tidwell January 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Stephen Crane wrote more than manly short stories. His poetry has thick bark on it as well. What do you think of this One?

In the Desert
by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter–bitter,he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter’
And because it is my heart.”

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