Top 10 Pocket Poets and Their Poems
For many a National Poetry Month celebrant, the highlight of the month is Poem in Your Pocket Day, that wondrous day when poetry appears magically from pockets everywhere for impromptu readings in the school bus line, or over the table in the coffee shop or even alone in the woods.
What could be more fun (and at least twice the wiggling around) than taking not just a poem in your pocket, but the poet too. Our Take Your Poet to Work Day poets are happy to pull an extra shift (they’re already warming up for the annual celebration on the 3rd Wednesday in July). Pick your pocket poets (and their poems) from this collection for Poem in Your Pocket Day—which is today, April 21—and make someone’s day (maybe with the poet reading his or her own poem!).
(Click on the poet cutouts to get a printable version for your very own pocket.)
1. Walt Whitman
O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
2. Anna Akhmatova
All that I am hangs by a thread tonight
as I wait for her whom no one can command.
Whatever I cherish most—youth, freedom, glory—
fades before her who bears the fruit in her hand.
And look! she comes . . . she tosses back her veil,
staring me down, serene and pitiless.
“Are you the one, ” I ask, “whom Dante heard dictate
the lines of his Inferno?” She answers: “Yes.”
3. T.S. Eliot
Macavity—The Mystery Cat (excerpt)
Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.
4. William Shakespeare
Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
5. W.B. Yeats
The Living Beauty
I’ll say and maybe dream I have drawn content—
Seeing that time has frozen up the blood,
The wick of youth being burned and the oil spent—
From beauty that is cast out of a mould
In bronze, or that in dazzling marble appears,
Appears, but when we have gone is gone again,
Being more indifferent to our solitude
Than ‘twere an apparition. O heart, we are old,
The living beauty is for younger men,
We cannot pay its tribute of wild tears.
6. Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
7. Edgar Allan Poe
A Dream Within A Dream
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
—Edgar Allan Poe
8. Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
9. Matsuo Basho
Awake at night–
the sound of the water jar
cracking in the cold.
10. Pablo Neruda
One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
— Pablo Neruda
Photo by David Usher, Creative Commons license via Flickr.