As temperatures drop and school winds down, you may find yourself with a fair amount of free time in the coming weeks. Instead of venturing into the chilly world outside, grab a cup of tea and warm yourself up with some poetry.
By Aliyah Conley
Modern Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
This saucy American poet won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 and is well known for her feminist activism. Her poetry grapples with everything from relationships and femininity, to nature and mortality. Grab some chai and snuggle up to Edna as she resonates with you on every level imaginable.
Check out: “God’s World,” “Renascence,” “Sonnet V” from Second April, “The Spring and Fall,” and, “What Savage Blossom.”
Excerpt from “Renascence”
“The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I ‘most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.
I screamed, and -- lo! -- Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest...”
Romantic Poet: John Keats (1795-1821)
Keats’ name has probably popped up on your radar before. His poetry drips with romantic longing and pairs well with a warm blanket.
Check out: “To Autumn”
Excerpt from “To Autumn”
“Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”
Victorian Poet: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Born in 1828 in London, Rossetti hoped to become a painter. Throughout his life, he dabbled as a visual and literary artist producing breathtaking works such as the prose tale, “Hand and Soul.” Thankfully, extensive archives of his work have been digitized and are publicly available online.
Check out: “Autumn Song”
Excerpt From: “Autumn Song”
“And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?”
Romantic Poet: Anna Seward (1742-1809)
British Romantic poet Anna Seward’s sonnets are captivating and make the soul ache. Her hauntingly beautiful descriptions of the natural world pair perfectly with warm tea and the chilly caresses of autumn’s exhales.
Check Out: Sonnet 92: “Behold that tree, in Autumn’s Dim Decay,” Sonnet 84: “While one sere lead, that parting Autumn yields,” and Sonnet 91: “On the fleet streams, the Sun, that late arose.”
Excerpt from: “Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s Dim Decay"
“Behold that tree, in Autumn’s dim decay,
Stripped by the frequent, chill, and eddying wind;
Where yet some yellow, lonely leaves we find
Lingering and trembling on the naked spray,
Twenty, perchance, for millions whirled away!”
Russian Poet: Joesph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Persecuted under the Soviet Union for his writing and his religion (Judaism), Brodsky’s work is lauded internationally for its candor and idealism. Although most of his poetry is pretty heavy and rife with political allusions, some of his later work is more focused around the natural world and mortality. Best paired with a cozy coffee shop, his work is easy to get lost in.
Check out: “Star of the Nativity,” “The Hawk’s Cry in Autumn,” “Song of Welcome.”
Excerpt from: “Star of the Nativity:”
“In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than
to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain,
a child was born in a cave in order to save the world;
it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.”
Modern Poet: Richard Moore (1920-2015)
Moore’s poetry will leave you with heavy unanswered philosophical questions. His writing focuses on age and the passage of time. His prose style poems are dense but chock full of intricate details that will remind you of the vibrancy of the world around you. Moore passed away this year, which makes reading his poetry feel like an eerie sort of intellectual resurrection.
Check Out: “A Reminiscence,” “Holding On,” and “f r o m delete, Part 12.”
Excerpt from: “f r o m delete, Part 12:”
“Welcome to your day of sanity! Come in and close the door it will likely lock behind you and you will be home alone waste disposal will take care of your needs : at long last undisturbed phenomena without the heavy metal background of the street will be yours for observation and response : do you have visions?”
Modern Poet: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
William Carlos Williams was a physician, and you can truly feel his passion for helping others through his writing. His poems are extremely short and best read in bed with a feline or canine companion.
Check out: “Autumn,” “Flowers by the Sea,” “Love Song,” “Winter Trees.”
Excerpt from: “Winter Trees”
“A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.”
Modern: Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
Imagist Amy Lowell has published over 650 poems, several literary criticisms and even a biography of John Keats. Sharp imagery, wit and delicacy run throughout each of her poems. Much of her poetry has Chinese influences and Lowell specifically enjoyed replicating a haiku-like structure.
Check out: “Autumn,” “A Fixed Idea,” “In a Garden,” “Ephemera,” “Lilacs.”
Excerpt from: “Lilacs:”
“Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.”
Modern: Annie Finch (1956-Present)
Annie Finch is an American poet and playwright. Much of her writing has a melancholy tinge to it. Best read with hot tea and lemon.
Check Out: “Samhain,” “A Crown of Autumn Leaves,” “Another Reluctance,” “Changing Woman.”
Excerpt from: “Samhain”
“In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.”
Modern: Edith Södergran (1892-1923)
Södergran is a Russian poet who wrote primarily in Swedish. Both really cold places, so you know she's a good read for the season.
Check out: “Now it is fall,” “A Life,” “Strange Sea.”
Excerpt from: “Now It Is Fall”
“when all the golden birds
fly home across the blue deep water;
On shore I sit rapt in its scattering glitter;
departure rustles through the trees.
This farewell is vast and separation draws close,
but reunion, that also is certain.”