50 Poems You Need To Read Right Now

In this article, we gave you the blueprint to succeed as a poet. We showed you how you can become a great poet and performer, and build an audience of your own.

But before you think about becoming a great poet, I’d recommend you become a good reader. Now my argument is only going to be framed through this article, where I leave you with 50 poems you need to read right now, and I will consider myself to have lost, if it doesn’t make you whip your pen out, or open your computers and start writing with better ideas and stronger inspiration.

The thing is this massive place called the web wide world has too much for you to ever feel short of material to pick up, read, research and understand. Think about the time when physical distance stopped a reader from picking up a book. You don’t have that excuse anymore!

So the trick then is to read poetry from all across the world available online or in libraries, and not restrict your reading to one particular kind of poetry written in a particular decade in a country. Where do I begin, I hear you ask? We’ve curated a list of 50 poems from around the world and around different periods that you can begin reading right away!

Modern Indian Poets – 

 As an Indian poet, it’s essential to situate ourselves in the context of what we are really contributing to the long history of Indian poetry, and to be able to do that consciously, reading some of the best contributions made in the recent past is the place to start.

1. From Songs of Kabir by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra –

‘Me shogun.’
‘Me bigwig.’
‘Me the chief’s son.
I make the rules here.’

It’s a load of crap.
Laughing, skipping,
Tumbling, they’re all
Headed for Deathville.

In the blink
Of an eye, says Kabir,
The king will be
Separated from his kingdom.”

To be absolutely honest, this is not how one would imagine a poem to begin : “Me shogun,” “Me bigwig” but this poem is a classic example of a translation which brings to life the essence of an original Kabir poem, in a language more commonly understood and spoken in everyday life – a common characteristic of the post 60s Indian poets who brought in a modern sensibility to their writing.

2. ‘The Bus’ from Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar

Jejuri is a poem written as a series of shorter poems which begins with the bus ride to the temple town of Jejuri, in the poem ‘The Bus,’ and ends with the poet returning from Jejuri, in the poem ‘The Railway Station.’ Read this book length poem, almost as you would listen to a concept album to completely understand the physical journey of the poet as well as that of his mind.

3. Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali

This is a very popularly read Agha Shahid Ali poem, written in the form of a ghazal – a poem consisting of couplets complete in themselves. Each couplet ends on the same word, and the last couplet often carries a proper name (usually of the poet’s). What better example than this one. If you really liked it, and are interested in more of Agha Shahid Ali’s poems, I’d recommend you begin with this one.


4. Self Portraits by A.K. Ramanujan

In this poem, A K Ramanujan really questions his identity, and compares himself with everyone else, seeing a loss of his own identity. It’s about the identity of a son to his father. It’s a simple poem with a greater meaning, one that is found in the reader’s own introspection of their identity.

5. Nine Poems on Arrival by Adil Jussawalla

 

Adil Jussawalla’s contribution through his book of poems, Missing Person has been unparalleled, yet one finds no copy of the same running in print anymore. It is divided into two parts and, “presents a problem, the guilt of the bourgeois intellectual…and the poems don’t offer any solutions.” They are cinematic, discontinuous, opening with the audience – “House full. It’s a shocker. Keep still.

Adil Jussawalla is a poet who needs to be read, and while one cannot find Missing Person, and no one poem must be picked, severed from the series to be individually quoted, here’s one poem of Jussawalla’s that you must read.

6. An Introduction by Kamala Das

Call this an autobiographical poem or a confessional poem, Kamala Das has poured her heart out. It’s a poem that a woman was not “supposed to” write as one can see from a completely different style employed by the pre-independence poet  Sarojini Naidu in her poems, ‘Palanquin Bearers for instance. Kamala Das broke this with her extremely powerful voice that questions everything it wants to and everything it must.

I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.”

7. Eunice by Eunice De Souza


“Eunice, Embroidery Sister said
this petticoat you’ve cut
these seams
are worthy of an elephant
my dear

Silly braless bitch
Eunice is writing bad words sister
she’s sewing up her head
for the third time sister

the limbs keep flopping
the sawdust keeps popping
out of the gaps
out of the gaps
out of the gaps
sister”

Adil Jussawalla (mentioned above) said of Eunice De Souza, “She makes no attempt to make us like or pity [her] persona and yet we find ourselves respecting it deeply. Those readers who prefer a softer or more lyrical line around its edge may find it extremely unpleasant.” This poem is straight-forward, it’s Eunice de Souza speaking the truth, speaking it as it is.

8. The Heroin Sestina by Jeet Thayil


A sestina is a poem where you repeat the initial six end-words of the first stanza, through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi (which ends with three of the same end-words). Jeet Thayil’s ‘The Heroin Sestina’ is a great example of how to use this form well without breaking the flow of the poem.

“Allow
me in this one time and I’ll give you heroin,
just a taste
to replace the useless stuff you know.
Some say it comes back, the time,
to punish you with the time you killed, leave you stone

sober, unknowing, the happiness chemical blown
from your system, unable to taste the word heroin
without wanting its stone one last time.”

9. Absences by Dom Moraes

 

This poem was written as an attempt to understand what it would be like if the entire world was dead –

Smear out the last star.
No lights from the islands
Or hills. In the great square
The prolonged vowel of silence
Makes itself plainly heard”

Dom Moraes, one of the first generation modern poets of India, wrote this after a walk by the beach, where he saw across the water, an empty quiet island, with nobody about. In his opinion, he felt a tremendous pride after writing this, as it became a precursor to a lot of new poetry he wrote.

10. Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher by Nissim Ezekiel


This is one of the most beautiful and important poems for a poet. It conveys the idea of patience in writing the perfect poem, and finding silence within yourself to begin creating. The poet, Nissim Ezekiel, easily one of the earliest modern poets in India, compares this silence and patient waiting of the poet to that of a lover and a birdwatcher.

11. Kamatipura by Namdeo Dhasal, translated by Dilip Chitre


In the poem, Namdeo Dhasal depicts the dark and hideous world of Kamatipura – Mumbai’s largest red-light area. The metaphorical porcupine in the poem portrays the plight of prostitutes in this district, which was close to where the poet grew up and lived among petty criminals.

 


It’s also important to note at this point that Namdeo Dhasal was one of the most brilliant Marathi Dalit poets, along with being the founder of the Dalit Panther movement, and was hungry to fight the injustice and exploitation against the Dalits in India.

12. Habit by F.M. Shinde

This one’s another poem by a Dalit poet, which differs completely in style from the previous poem by Dhasal. While most Dalit poetry echoed the ‘agony of the oppressed or the anger of the rebel,’ this poem deals with a sort of acceptance and habituation where once you’re used to the pain and subjugation, you never afterwards/feel anything.

Poets From Pakistan, Afghanistan And The Middle East – 


13. Purdah by Imtiaz Dharker

Imtiaz Dharker is a Pakistan-born poet, artist and documentary filmmaker, who lives in India and Britain, and published her first book of poetry in 1989. In this poem, she portrays what the Purdah has come to stand for in her life.

Purdah is a kind of safety.
The body finds a place to hide.
The cloth fans out against the skin
much like the earth that falls
on coffins after they put dead men in.”

14. Last Night Your Lost Memory/Raat Yunh Dil Mein by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

 

Raat yunh dil mein teri khoee hui yaad aayee
Jaise veeraane mein chupke se bahaar aa jaaye
Jaise sehraa mein haule se chale baad-e-naseem
Jaise beemaar ko be-vajah qaraar aa jaaye”

                          ***

Translation by Mahmood Jamal :

“Last night your lost memory
came to me,
As spring comes quietly upon a wilderness
As a cool breeze
blows gently across desert sands
As a sick man
without reason finds relief.”

This is a great example of a quatrain of love, written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. A quatrain is a four-line stanza/poem often with a rhyme scheme of ABCB, or ABAC. Faiz was often well known for his ghazals.

15. Six Poem Series (Qasida) by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

 

Shadab Zeest Hashmi revives the qasida form in these six poems beginning with ‘Qasida of the Bridge of Teacups’ and closing with the ‘Qasida of the Last Chai.’ Originally seen in pre-Islamic Arabia, a qasida is a form of poetry written often in high praise, either laudatory, elegiac or satiric.

We must be our mothers in our laugh, shaking out arrows
that pierced us on the map. But we don’t laugh
because someone handed us separate keys and your door
became an unnamable distance. Our last chai has our salt,
our silica, our duet of Malhaar against the blind new borders.”
– Qasida of the Last Chai

16. Poem by Zia Movahhed

 

“For God’s sake
Write a poem
without words like
‘my heart is filled with sorrow’
A poem praising the smile
the greetings
and the joy and delight it is
to sip a hot tea
along with a quatrain by Khayyam
A poem
close to the children on the swings in the park
alongside the worried smiles of the mothers
A poem which may
make the children naughtier
the poet had filled the pages yesterday
Today
it was blank and white again
The words had fled during the night
Write a poem which may
make the words
compassionate towards each other
A poem which may
make the words, like blue skies
clean the air,
flatten the paper folds
A poem which
when sung by the gardener
during the famine
may lead to large produce of wheat
even in salt lake
A poem
for God’s sake
A love sonnet
A poem
impossible to write in this land.”

I couldn’t find an online link to this poem, but I just had to include it in this list, because it’s so beautiful. This is a poem of hope, a poem to find the child still happy. It’s a poem that tells you to continue loving and creating : simple acts of defiance in a country which has not seen them, but longs for them.

17. Barefoot Souls by Maram Al Masri

Son of Magda
Age: 13

I do not remember her face,
I was very small when my father
carried me off to my grandmother’s house
far,
far away.

My grandmother did not like
the one who had brought me into the world,
with every prayer she would demand that God
would punish her.

She would say, hers is the blood of the devil.
she would say, she abandoned you
for the cats to eat you up.

Eighteen months old … that’s very young
for a child
to have to defend himself.”

The above poem is from a longer series linked above. Maram Al Masri, a respected Syrian poet’s series of poems called Barefoot Souls are unique, heartbreaking portraits of women with each poem written from the voice of their sons and daughters : ‘Son of Magda, ‘Daughter of Sana,’ and so on. You can read more about her in this wonderfully elaborate article on her poetry.

Modern and Contemporary American Poetry – 

18. On Being Brought From Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley

To understand ‘On Being Brought…’ one must first understand that this poem was written at a time when Africans in America were bought/traded as slaves at the will of the ‘White’ Americans, in the pre-nineteenth century. This poem is said to contain a mild rebuke towards white readers, to remember that Africans must be included in their Christian stream : “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, /May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.”

19. Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson

If you’re looking at understanding the best ways to use personification with abstract concepts, this is a perfect poem to read, as Emily Dickinson uses this device so beautifully. Personification is to give human attribute to something non-human. Death has been personified in this poem, and as the poem transitions in its syllabic structure, the tone of the poem has also been carefully worked to bring transition in the nature of Death
from : “Because I could not stop for death/He stopped kindly stopped for me
to : “Or rather — He passed Us—/The Dews drew quivering and Chill—”

20. Out Of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking by Walt Whitman


This poem carries a musical and rhythmic quality –
“From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings and
  fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as
  if with tears,
From those beginning notes of yearning and love there in
  the mist”

A boy matures into a poet, and looks back over his past life, seeking an answer to the meaning of suffering and death. Walt Whitman is to be remembered as one of the most influential poets ever to have contributed in the distinctive lyrical free verse form. One cannot miss mentioning here, his breathtaking book of poems, Leaves of Grass, which is a must-read.

21. The Dead by Mina Loy


This is a poem by Mina Loy, who was born in London but moved to New York, and contributed immensely as one of the most experimental poets of the modern era – in terms of both form and content. She is regarded as a futurist, a dadaist, a surrealist poet, but more than anything else, she is often regarded as a feminist poet, and this poem, ‘
The Dead,’ like a lot of her other poems, is said to be read as a “corrosive expression of personal anger and grief.”

“We spit up our passions in our grand-dams        

Fixing the extension of your reactions
Our shadow lengthens
In your fear”

22. The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams


And as you navigate through these poems, you’ll get an insight into the different styles from long free verse of Walt Whitman, to short descriptive ones of Dickinson and Loy. But I now introduce you to another poem quite different from the ones you’ve read above, one contributed by the master poet William Carlos Williams. It’s a classic example of imagism – a movement which emerged to favour “precision of imagery and sharp language.”


This poem was written after an incident in the poet’s life when he met a man who – “worked in the cold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his backyard I saw his red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens.”

23. Marriage by Marianne Moore


The poem is a brilliant example of Marianne Moore’s style so full of allusions and quotes within her poems. How different one can say are TS Eliot’s allusions originating from literary sources, from those of Moore, which originate from everyday places – billboards, newspapers, tourist brochures etc. For example – “
Liberty and union / now and forever.” read under a statue of Daniel Webster. You can refer to this article for the various allusions.

24. Cut by Sylvia Plath


Darkly humourous poem, and mildly disturbing one’s senses, ‘Cut’ is a poem written by Sylvia Plath. This poem on one level talks about the speaker’s thumb almost being cut off while chopping onions. And then there are various other interpretations of this poem, one of which suggests that the poem is about an emotional wound of the poet where her life has ultimately been reduced to a “stump” of a cut, ugly thumb. I have linked an annotated version of the poem which explains line by line certain references used, or phrases that may not be clear on first reading. Give Sylvia a good reading!

25. America by Allen Ginsberg


Now you might have read Allen Ginsberg’s Howl – one of the most stunning contributions to the history of modern american poetry. But I urge you to read it again today line by line, as you would a short poem. I also urge you to read ‘America,’ which is a great example of a stream of consciousness style of writing used often by the Beat Writers and Poets and it carries an undertone of accusation driven towards America (in the middle of Cold War) bluntly as well as sarcastically : “America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the world.”

26. Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

The poet speaks with confidence and pride about where she thinks her beauty lies, defying the stereotypes of the exterior, superfluous definition of it. Now this poem can be read without the background of Maya Angelou, or this poem could be read with the background of Maya Angelou, and her struggles. It stands out both times because of its timeless, extraordinary power to make the reader feel good about their strength and beauty too, as the poet does about hers!

27. Middle-Aged : A Study in an Emotion by Ezra Pound

 

I think it’s important to mention Pound and his contributions, while we’re discussing the various contributions by poets, as he was the one poet whom every single poet knew, and had been engaged in some sort of relationship with – from Pound being the guiding force behind T.S. Eliot’s published poems in magazines as well as full length anthologies, to being a friend of Frost’s, and somewhat being credited with having modernised Yeats and his voice. ‘Middle-Aged’ will give a wonderful insight into Ezra Pound’s poetry.

28. Sticks by Thomas Sayers Ellis

This is a poem written from memory, a poem autobiographical, a poem about the poet’s father. The poet mentions that often in the neighbourhood, everything was about survival, so being an “enormous man” meant you were fit for survival, and everything about a person was gauged in that sense, which the poet said left out “aspects of the intellect in certain cases”

“My father was an enormous man
Who believed kindness and lack of size
Were nothing more than sissified
Signs of weakness.”

29. Duende by Tracy K Smith


A startling look into the history of suppressed cultures, ‘Duende’ is a poem written by the US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith. I would highly recommend that you read the poem while listening to the Soundcloud reading of it, in the link above.

“A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—

If you liked this, you can read ‘Watershed’ by Tracy K Smith, another masterpiece by the same poet.

30. Dope by Amiri Baraka


This is a poem that reflects the realities of a ghetto. It is written almost like it’s meant to be read out loud, performed. It repeatedly points the reader/listener towards the racism faced by the African Americans in the US politics and how one becomes complacent sometimes in their own oppression and forgets to fight back. Do not miss the absolutely dynamic energy of the poem, as performed by Amiri Baraka himself.  

wasn’t it nice slavery was so
cool and
all you had to do was wear derbies and vests
and train chickens and buy your
way free if you had a mind to, must be the
devil, wasnt no white folks,
lazy niggers chained theyselves and threw
they own black asses in the bottom
of the boats.”

31. Shake The Dust by Anis Mojgani


This is an anthem for the underdogs. Written by Anis Mojgani, this poem uses the simple technique of a chorus to create big impact, and calls for the ones in the margins to –

“Grab this world by its clothespin,
and shake it out again,
and again
and hop on top and take it for a spin,
and when you hop off shake it again,
for this is yours.”

Anis Mojgani is an incredible spoken word poet, and you can watch the performance of this poem here, but I’d recommend you read the text of the poem first!

32. Headfirst by Ocean Vuong


This poem is written from the point of view of the poet’s mother. Ocean Vuong was born in a family of Vietnamese immigrants in the US, where the women could not read or write but that did not stop them from telling stories to little Ocean when he was growing up. In this poem, he discovers the possibility of stepping into the shoes of his mother. If she could write, this is what it would be.


33. Ode to Kanye West In Two Parts, Ending In A Chain Of Mothers Rising From The River by Hanif Willis Abdurraqib

 

An ode is a lyric poem addressed directly to a subject which is often a person or an object. Now you might remember John Keats’ ‘Ode to Nightingale,’ ‘Ode to Autumn,’ or ‘Ode to Grecian Urn.’ But here is an ‘Ode to Kanye West,’ written by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, a poet from the US, who uses this form not in the exact traditional way to directly address the musician, but as a way to find a solution, if there exists one, to his own grief in the silences.

“there are only so many ways to dream about a corpse before you find new things to call sleep, or a new thing worth closing   your eyes for the woman pulling you to the warmth of her living mouth or Nina Simone’s voice laid tight and naked over something your boys can rap to until there is enough money to move out the hood and into somewhere not creased with songs of the lifeless.”

34. Red Beans by Victor Hernandez Cruz

When you read this poem, you might find yourself identifying various images of the colours – red and white, that the poet uses “red beans next to white rice” “hills of starch border burnt sienna of irony.” This poem can be seen as a metaphor for the native Puerto Ricans, one that comes from the poet’s identity himself, and their history of being conquered and colonised in the past, red symbolic of them, and white the colonisers.

Classic European Poetry – 

35. Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Here’s introducing you to an example of Romantic poetry, a category that everyone has come to dislike for being too much about nature and not really making a point. But let’s really take a moment to understand – what gave birth to this language and style of the poets writing poetry at the time.

Romantic poetry came about as a reaction against the industrial revolution and the age of reason – a world with its emphasis on reason and logic and science, and for most young poets, this world had really stopped making sense. For them, poetry was not about being formal, and following set standards and rules. For them, it was about using an everyday language and talking about the everyday subjects around them. They wanted nature to be appreciated as it was than be dissected and examined by scientists. So if you ask me, I’d say Romantic poets were the real deal!

Give this poem a read, it’s written by S.T. Coleridge supposedly in his dream, and if it weren’t for a guest visiting him, this poem would probably have been longer.

36. Daffodils by William Wordsworth


“I wandered lonely as a cloud,” or famously called Daffodils, is another example of a poem by a Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, written after his sister Dorothy and he walked across the Lake District where they lived, and came across a belt of daffodils. The poem was inspired by a lesser known journal entry written by Dorothy about this event. Beautiful figures of speech like hyperbole (exaggeration) and personification can be seen in the lines –


“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
         Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

37. On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats


This poem has become somewhat iconic in conveying the captivating power of a really stunning piece of art. Keats, earlier unimpressed with Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s
Illiad and Odyssey, read the translation by Chapman one night along with his friend, and having been completely blown away by it, ended up presenting this piece of magic to his friend.

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken”

38. Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

A sonnet is a 14 line poem, with varying rhyme schemes depending on the kind of sonnet one writes. A Shakespearean/English sonnet, for instance follows : ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme, written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets in his lifetime and this one in particular is probably one of the most read and loved love sonnet where the speaker compares his lover to a Summer’s day, except he calls him more lovely and more temperate than summer as –

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

39. With How Sad Steps by Philip Sidney


If you’re looking to study the sonnet format further, sonnets falling under the Petrarchan umbrella of love poetry like Philip Sidney’s and Edmund Spenser’s sonnets are great ones to read and study. You’ve already seen an example of Shakespearean sonnet with the rhyme scheme mentioned above.  The rhyme scheme for this sonnet, one picked up from Sidney’s
Astrophil and Stella is ABBA ABBA CDCDEE (the first eight lines being called an octet, and the last six lines being a sextet).

40. The Canonisation by John Donne


This is
a great example of metaphysical poetry, where John Donne asserted his scholasticism with lines like “What merchant’s ships have my sighs drowned?/Who says my tears have overflowed his ground? /When did my colds a forward spring remove? /When did the heats which my veins fill /Add one more to the plague bill? ” representative at the time of the explorations and scientific discoveries that were taking place.

But what was most representative of these poets was a device called the metaphysical conceit, which is essentially a stretched comparison between a spiritual aspect of a person and a physical thing in the world, that could sometimes gone on through the entire poem.

41. The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

Although born in America, T.S. Eliot and this poem have been classified as belonging to British modern literature, as Eliot shifted to England very early in life and wrote most of his poems under the influence of Ezra Pound, whom he met there. Later, Eliot also renounced his American citizenship and became a British citizen. This poem was published in 1922, and written in five parts. It is considered to be his crowning achievement and is full of dialogues, changing speakers in the poem and allusions – all common characteristics of the 20th century modern British poetry.

42. Inglan Is A Bitch by Linton Kwesi Johnson

This poem’s not a sweet one. It is representative of the stark experiences of the poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, an African-Caribbean immigrant living in England. This style of poetry is known as Dub Poetry, and originated in Jamaica in the 1970s, where poets were often accompanied during performances by drum and bass players. What’s immediately striking about this poem is that it is written to mimic Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Jamaican accent, which is a striking way of reclaiming his voice.

“dem have a lickle facktri up inna Brackly
inna disya facktri all dem dhu is pack crackry
fi di laas fifteen years dem get mi laybah
now awftah fiteen years mi fall out a fayvah

Inglan is a bitch
dere’s no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
dere’s no runnin’ whey fram it”

Watch a video of the poem here, and read it in the link above.

43. Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah


Written as both a comical as well as a critical poem, ‘Talking Turkeys’ is an appeal to those who consume excessive turkey meat during Christmas. It’s written as a pledge on behalf of turkeys –

I once knew a turkey His name was Turkey
He said ‘Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?’
I said, ‘I am not too sure Turkey
But it’s nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy and waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash.’

44. Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney


A young boy collects frogspawns from a flax-dam, but the trip to flax-dam goes wrong and results in the boy feeling threatened by the frogs. Hence, the title is symbolic of this death of a naturalist within the boy. Seamus Heaney is often remembered for his groundbreaking work with the award winning translation of one of the oldest epic poems in English called Beowulf which was written originally in Old English and has been translated into Modern English by various translators, Heaney’s standing out for his “freedom in using the modern language.”

45. Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy


This poem was written at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s government (which also makes for the unseen background of the poem), when underprivileged parts of society suffered educationally and economically. It’s about a violent teenager, with a neglected education, and it must be read with annotations that can be found in the link above for better understanding of the speaker, and the references in the poem.

46. Meditation/Recueillement by Baudelaire


Look the dead years/ dressed in old clothes crowd the balconies of the sky/Regret emerges smiling from the sea.”

Baudelaire writes the most beautiful lines, as he converses with his sorrow (personified here) discussing how different the state of the world is from the state he is in. He walks with sorrow, and urges it to look at the dead years bending themselves in the sky, and the dying sun putting itself to sleep, and to hear the night softly moving in.

47. Eulogy of the Spring’s Eve by Anna Akhmatova


A eulogy is a kind of poem which
praises someone or something highly, especially when written as a tribute to someone who has just died. This poem from Anna Akhmatova’s Midnight Verse is a stunning example of this form –

“The blizzard had calmed in pine groves,
But, tipsy without any wines,
– Ophelia over her waters –
White silence all night sang to us.”

48. To***Kern by Alexander Pushkin


“I keep in mind that magic moment:

When you appeared before my eyes
Like ghost, like fleeting apparition,
Like genius of the purest grace.”

And thus begins the love poem by Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin. A fun fact to remember Pushkin’s craftsmanship and literary stature is that in Moscow, a statue of Pushkin’s was unveiled to the speeches of Dostoevsky and Turgenev, who claimed that  the “statue allowed the Russian to claim themselves as a great nation ‘because this nation has given birth to such a man’” Now I’m not sure how that works, but Russia has produced some of the best writers and poets, so can’t deny them that claim.

49. What Must Be Said by Günter Grass


I’m sharing this poem in the list because it put Gunter Grass into trouble and I don’t mean a few backlashes here and there. I mean, the Nobel Laureate was declared persona non grata in Israel, and
barred from the country, and I want you to think about this poem. Read it as the Guardian article suggests, “as a warning that the Jewish state’s nuclear programme was a threat to an already fragile world peace.”


50.  vocabulary by Safia Elhillo

And lastly, I’m going to leave you with a Sudanese poet, Safia Elhillo, whose every single poem deserves to be read, but I’m sharing one that introduced me to the poet, and blew my mind away for her craftsmanship with words, and how she creates silences between them.

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