I used to be into writing poetry -- it was very bad, until I hit college. I do the world at large the favor of not writing it anymore, but I still love reading it. This is a list of some of my favorite poems. Actually, there are several two-for-ones in there… here are 8 poems I love...
1. “Lady Lazarus,” by Sylvia Plath
“Out of the ash; I rise with my red hair; And I eat men like air.” Oh, Sylvia. My BFF calls me Ms. Plath — incidentally, I call him Mr. Wilde because he is a snark master and dresses fabulously — but more because I tend to be morbid than because I have this kind of talent. “Ariel” is beautiful as well, as are about a dozen others.
2. “the Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot
I am a huge fan of T.S. Eliot, and “The Hollow Men” is my absolute favorite. However, I am also a big fan of “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Eliot’s language is what I love best, his turn of phrase. And those phrases, strange as they can be, still ring a bell with something inside of you.
3. “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg
“I saw the best mind of my generation destroyed by madness, starving; hysterical, naked,” may well be one of the most recognized first lines of any poem. It has to rank pretty high, at least, and it borders on iconic. But it’s the rest of the poem that really strikes deep. I love it most for its raw, wide open imagery. It’s a frigging masterpiece.
4. “Billy Sees Stars,” Catie Rosemurgy
Actually, I love every page of My Favorite Apocalypse. I was assigned this book in a college writing workshop, and fell in love on the spot. “Billy Sees Stars” is one of my favorites, obviously, but the entire book is fantastic, and actually tells a story.
5. “Sweet Violets,” Dorothy Parker
This is proof that a poem does not have to be long to be amazing. Like the poem, “Sweet Violets” is brief, but it’s no less poignant or touching for its length -- or lack thereof. Dorothy Parker had wit and whimsy, which I think are essential to really good poetry.
6. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” John Keats
This is my favorite Keats poem because it was the first one I ever read -- and, of course, I love all things French. I’ll tell you an embarrassing secret: when I was a dreamy eyed preteen, I used to believe I was destined to fall in love with the … reincarnation of John Keats. What can I say, his pictures got to me too. This kid was a genius, though, lots of pieces are worth a read.
7. “She Walks in Beauty,” Lord Byron
I’m just fond of the romantics. I love many of Lord Byron’s poetry (not to mention a lot of the fiction and nonfiction that’s been written about him), but again, this one’s my favorite because it’s the first I heard. “One shade the more, one ray the less.” L.B. has got a way with words, all right.
8. “Holy Sonnet XIV,” John Donne
Although one of his Holy Sonnets, this reads more like a passionate love poem. “Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” Rawr, right? This is another example of how the most iconic poets were able to say a lot by saying a little. This one gives me the shivers.
Honorable mention goes to Stephen King’s “Paranoid: A Chant.” I love that poem. It gives me the shivers for another reason. Do I have any partners in poems out there? Which poems do you love best? Do share!
Top Photo Credit: Photojennix Photography