My Favorite Poems…end of National Poetry Month

Since this is the last day of National Poetry Month…*tear*…..I would like to share some of my favorite poems over the years.  I think we all identify with different works over time as we age.  There may be a poem you didn’t understand when you were 12 that really hits home now at 20.  Please check out some of my favorites and I would also love any suggestions that you may have that I can check out for the future. Thanks.

“Oranges” by Gary Soto……read this poem at 14 and fell in love with it immediately.  It is just one of those poems that reminds you of being a teen and having little crushes.  Refreshing.


by: Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted –
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
in mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

 My English teacher introduced us to Emily Dickinson when I was a sophomore in high school.  I really liked her very short, interesting poems.  Technically, most of her poems didn’t have titles, but the “I’m Nobody! Who are You” poem was always one of my favorites.  I was such a shy and mysterious kid and this spoke to me.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

Emily Dickinson, 18301886

I’m Nobody!  Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To Tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

 Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” is probably one of my favorite poems of all time.  This poem is so deep with layers of meaning.  Anyone that has been an “outsider” at some point in their life can recognize themselves in this poem.  I performed this poem for my class junior year of high school.  Love it still…

 We Wear the Mask

by: Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Nikki Giovanni was  the main poet I followed in my late teens.  I read many of her poems and it struck me in a way that other poets had not at that point in my life.  I was coming into my own as a young woman and I felt Ms. Giovanni knew exactly what I was feeling.  She visited my college when I was a freshman and I was so awestruck.  Some people might be awestruck to meet their favorite actor or musician…for me it was meeting my favorite poet. I was so shy and scared to get her to sign my book.  But I still have that book with her signature to show off for years to come. The structure or lack of structure (at times) of her poetry opened up my mind.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day

by Nikki Giovanni

Don’t look now
I’m fading away
Into the gray of my mornings
Or the blues of every night

Is it that my nails
keep breaking
Or maybe the corn
on my second little piggy
Things keep popping out
on my face
of my life

It seems no matter how
I try I become more difficult
to hold
I am not an easy woman
to want

They have asked
the psychiatrists     psychologists     politicians and
social workers
What this decade will be
known for
There is no doubt          it is

If loneliness were a grape
the wine would be vintage
If it were a wood
the furniture would be mahogany
But since it is life          it is
Cotton Candy
on a rainy day
The sweet soft essence
of possibility
Never quite maturing

I have prided myself
On being in that great tradition
albeit circus
That the show must go on
Though in my community the vernacular is
One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show

We all line up
at some midway point
To thread our way through
the boredom and futility
Looking for the blue ribbon and gold medal

Mostly these are seen as food labels

We are consumed by people who sing
the same old song          STAY:
                                                     as sweet as you are
in my corner
Or perhaps                                    just a little bit longer
But whatever you do                     don’t change baby baby don’t change
Something needs to change

Everything     some say     will change
I need a change
of pace     face     attitude and life
Though I long for my loneliness
I know I need something
Or someone.

I strangle my words as easily as I do my tears
I stifle my screams as frequently as I flash my smile
it means nothing
I am cotton candy on a rainy day
the unrealized dream of an idea unborn

I share with the painters the desire
To put a three-dimensional picture
On a one-dimensional surface

 Robert Frost was an amazing writer.  I wish I could write poems the way he did.  There is not a lot that can be said about this poem other than it is numero uno in my book. Always has been…always will be.  This is my life!! Thanks, Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

By : Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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