Poems to Read During Isolation

Poetry can’t quite solve all of the problems in the world right now, but what it can do is remind you that you are not alone and give you hope that things will get better. It is okay if you are not productive, it is okay if you don’t feel strong right now and it is okay if you are finding this time really difficult. I hope poetry can help, even if it helps only a little.

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”  (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

 

Alisa Anton U_Z0X

 

Apple Blossom – LOUIS MACNEICE

 

The first blossom was the best blossom

For the child who never had seen an orchard;

For the youth whom whiskey had led astray

The morning after was the first day.

 

The first apple was the best apple

For Adam before he heard the sentence;

When the flaming sword endorsed the Fall

The trees were his to plant for all.

 

The first ocean was the best ocean

For the child from streets of doubt and litter;

For the youth for whom the skies unfurled

His first love was his first world.

 

But the first verdict seemed the worst verdict

When Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden,

Yet when the bitter gates clanged to

The sky beyond was just as blue.

 

For the next ocean is the first ocean

And the last ocean is the first ocean

And, however often the sun may rise,

A new thing dawns upon our eyes.

 

For the last blossom is the first blossom

And the first blossom is the last blossom

And when from Eden we take our way

The morning after is the first day.

 

 

 

 

The Orange – WENDY COPE

 

 

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange

The size of it made us all laugh.

I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—

They got quarters and I had a half.

 

And that orange it made me so happy,

As ordinary things often do

Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park

This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

 

The rest of the day was quite easy.

I did all my jobs on my list

And enjoyed them and had some time over.

I love you. I’m glad I exist.

 

 

 

Common Dust - GEORGIA DOUGLAS JOHNSON

 

And who shall separate the dust

What later we shall be:

Whose keen discerning eye will scan

And solve the mystery?

 

The high, the low, the rich, the poor,

The black, the white, the red,

And all the chromatique between,

Of whom shall it be said:

 

Here lies the dust of Africa;

Here are the sons of Rome;

Here lies the one unlabelled,

The world at large his home!

 

Can one then separate the dust?

Will mankind lie apart,

When life has settled back again

The same as from the start?

 

 

 

 

Leisure - W. H. DAVIES

 

WHAT is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?—

 

No time to stand beneath the boughs,

And stare as long as sheep and cows:

 

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

 

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

 

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance:

 

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began?

 

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

 

 

 

Going Places – LEMN SISSAY

 

Another

cigarette ash

television serial filled

advert analysing

cupboard starving

front starving

front room filling

tea slurping

mind chewing

brain burping

carpet picking

pots watching

room gleaming

toilet flushing

night,

with nothing to do

 

I think I'll paint roads

on my front room walls

to convince myself

that I'm going places.

 

 

 

 

Still I Rise - MAYA ANGELOU

 

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

 

 

 

Stars in the night sky

 

 

Poems (above)

Apple Blossom, Louis MacNeice (http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3546

The Orange, Wendy Cope (https://gladdestthing.com/poets/wendy-cope)

Common Dust, Georgia Douglas Johnson (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53017/common-dust)

Leisure, W.H. Davies (https://englishverse.com/poems/leisure)

Going Places, Lemn Sissay (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/may/06/poetry.features)

Still I Rise, Maya Angelou (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise)

 

This article is part of our themed week on ways to cope with social distancing and isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. We send our HC love to all of our readers and contributors!