Four Poems to Read When the World is Terrible

In light of recent world events, it can sometime seem as though there isn’t a scrap of good news left. When this thought pops up, it’s often hard to get rid of. In these moments, I always turn to poetry. Here are four poems that have been helpful to me in the past. (All poems from www.poetryfoundation.org)

 

1) “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson

“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.

 

This poem is a good one to read aloud. (Or, because it’s in common meter, you can sing it to the tune of Amazing Grace!) It reminds me that hope is present in the interior of every human person and yet it is also something that can tie people together in the midst of the worst storms.

 

2) “who are you,little i” by E.E. Cummings

who are you,little i

 

(five or six years old)

peering from some high

 

window;at the gold

 

of november sunset

 

(and feeling:that if day

has to become night

 

this is a beautiful way)

 

This poem gives me the chills every time I read it. It’s poignant simplicity astounds me. Conceptually, I love the idea that even as things are changing and even when I may be the most afraid, there is always the possibility that the precise change of which I am afraid, is in fact a change for the better.

 

3) “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

 

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

 

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know

The place where the sidewalk ends.

 

Honestly, this poem is comforting because, when I read it in my head, I hear my Mom’s voice. Shel Silverstein was a staple of my childhood. This being said, I do believe that Silverstein’s poems are meaningful for adults as well. For me, this poem reminds me that the future is hopeful if we make it so. We have the power to create our own sidewalks from the places the generation before us left off.

 

4) Excerpt  “Still I Rise” by 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.

 

Maya Angelou is the queen of writing empowering poems. This poem makes me feel like I can take on the world. Take that, world!

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