I love this poem for the fact that it speaks of self care in the face of loving another person, in the reality of how broken and distraught we can become when we are rejected or when our love is not met by the same intensity and magnitude that we give it. To love, we must first be able to love ourselves. And by no means is how another human being loves us the measure with which we should calibrate our value. Derek Walcott’s (1948-1984) poem is like a warm hug from a friend who holds you as you come to this realization.
i carry your heart in my heart by ee. cummings
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”
I love this poem from the depths of my heart, and ee cummings (1894-1962) was a love poem genius.
The Second Coming by W B Yeats
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
I often turn to this poem when there are political upheavals in my home country or in the international scene. For instance, Trump or the aggressive tribalism we experience every few years even among the educated population is “mere anarchy loosed upon the world.” I find that in most social cases, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity.” This poem was introduced to me by Chinua Achebe’s foreword on how he came about the Title ” Things Fall Apart” on the book that catapulted him to literary fame in the 1950s and 1960s.
something not everyone knows how to love.â
Often men come up to me and tell me that my assertion and character is like that of a man- that is to say, I am assertive, I refuse to be pushed around, I refuse to receive less than I should get, I choose to not be bridled by patriarchal societal norms. As if that is that something I should apologize for. To this I respond with a quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”
thinking they couldnât hear you, but they smelt it on you,
you must have known that they could taste the desperate on your skin?
why did you make them love you until you could not stand it?
where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?”
I let you leave, I need someone who knows how to stay.”
Domestic violence, the lack thereof of love where it should be, the intricate complex nature of what we call love, love as we have seen it in our families, as we have experienced it, is all summarized in this short poem by Somali Kenyan born (1988) Warsan Shire.
Warsan Shire’s poems, not just the above mentioned, are the poems that have brought me a lot of healing when I have undergone emotional turbulence in my personal life.
sing her song of life
& handled warmly.”
“Dark phrases of womanhood/ of never havin been a girl/ half-notes scattered/ without rhythm/ no tune/ distraught laughter fallin/ over a black girl’s shoulder/ it’s funny/ it’s hysterical/ the melody-less-ness of her dance” need I say more about why I love this poem. I am an African Girl, and I feel very privileged to be educated and well into my twenties. Most girls are not as lucky – some experience early childhood marriage, FGM, beading, lip plating, ear stretching, some get raped repeatedly by their relatives. For instance, girls from the age of 14-22 attend the Reed dance in Swaziland, and one, who catches the eye of the king will get married off to him no matter her age. The sheer fact that it happens in this day and age is something that infuriates and saddens me. By no means should the efforts to emancipate the girl child and to free women from generational oppression ever stop. We have got a lot of work to do.
enjoy bein yrself”
When sorry loses meaning, when the word has been abused and used as an excuse, apologies seem like a mockery. There are some who abuse the love and affection that they receive and assume that sorry is the fixing glue that patches all and makes things alright. The continual distortion of trust is painful, and there comes a time when one needs to break away to lead a more fulfilling life.
Ellen West by Frank Bidart
The yolk of the moon on me.”
The simplicity and the usage of phrases like “moon hard madness” are what pulled me in. Jonathan (1935-1993) understood that there are things in this life that can break a person, things beyond human power, things like death and calamity and mental illness. And for this reason, he asks that in this lifetime he be spared mental illness, for it is a calamity that is like a thousand daily deaths, the insane one goes on living without really living, and carries an illness for which there is no known cure.
Ecclesiastes 12 from The H. Bible
Like earlier said, this was my first real read of poetry, and I love it now just as I love it then. The imagery used speaks about the condition of human life, and how the body degenerates in old age. For instance, the verse “when the grinders cease because they are few,” the wise man is talking about losing teeth, and the difficulty in chewing, and when he speaks of “those looking through the windows grow dim”, he is talking about how eyes lose their strength. “the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint” because of the gradual loss of hearing. My favorite lines, that I understood much later, and whose imagery is very powerful talk about the shatter that accompanies death and they are “Remember him–before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well..”
A timeless piece, less known, but very accurate on the nature of life.
The Love Song of J Prufrock by T.S Eliot
Reading this poem is like coming home, and finding an old friend, who knows you, and who will understand what you have lived even without much being said. T. S Eliot (1888-1965) got this published at the age of 27 but he was very much an old soul in a young body. He sees human life for what it is, a p
assage though time, and he does not reduce any of it, not even how smoke lingers upon pools of water as it leaves the fireplace and dissolves into the air.
The poem is written in simple language,, but requires concentration and a keen mind to go deeper.
What poems have you liked most in this list & why? What are some of your favorite poems?
Thank you for reading!