Celebrating Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day. This day was started because of the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a day to appreciate and support poets and poetry around the world. We asked a few of my staff members to share some of their favorite poems. Here are our picks in celebration of Poetry Day.

A Man Said to the Universe / STEPHEN CRANE

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

 

Harvest Song / JEAN TOOMER

I am a reaper whose muscles set at sun-down. All my oats are cradled.
But I am too chilled, and too fatigued to bind them. And I hunger.

I crack a grain between my teeth. I do not taste it.
I have been in the fields all day. My throat is dry. I hunger.

My eyes are caked with dust of oat-fields at harvest-time.
I am a blind man who stares across the hills, seeking stack’d fields
of other harvesters.

It would be good to see them . . . crook’d, split, and iron-ring’d handles
of the scythes . . . It would be good to see them, dust-caked and
blind. I hunger.

(Dusk is a strange fear’d sheath their blades are dull’d in.)
My throat is dry. And should I call, a cracked grain like the oats
. . . eoho—

I fear to call. What should they hear me, and offer me their grain,
oats, or wheat or corn? I have been in the fields all day. I fear
I could not taste it. I fear knowledge of my hunger.

My ears are caked with dust of oat-fields at harvest-time.
I am a deaf man who strains to hear the calls of other harvesters whose
throats are also dry.

It would be good to hear their songs . . . reapers of the sweet-stalked
cane, cutters of the corn . . . even though their throats cracked, and
the strangeness of their voices deafened me.

I hunger. My throat is dry. Now that the sun has set and I am chilled.
I fear to call. (Eoho, my brothers!)

I am a reaper. (Eoho!) All my oats are cradled. But I am too fatigued
to bind them. And I hunger. I crack a grain. It has no taste to
it. My throat is dry . . .

O my brothers, I beat my palms, still soft, against the stubble of my
harvesting. (You beat your soft palms, too.) My pain is sweet.
Sweeter than the oats or wheat or corn. It will not bring me
knowledge of my hunger.

 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night / DYLAN THOMAS

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

We Real Cool / GWENDOLYN BROOKS

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

 

Invinctus / WILLIAM ERNEST 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.Catch / LANGSTON HUGHES Big Boy came
Carrying a mermaid
On his shoulders
And the mermaid
Had her tail
Curved
Beneath his arm.Being a fisher boy,
He’d found a fish
To carry—
Half fish,
Half girl
To marry

Always / PABLO NERUDA

I am not jealous
of what came before me.Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet,
come like a river
full of drowned men
which flows down to the wild sea,
to the eternal surf, to Time!Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth,
to start our life!

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