Not sure where to begin in selecting your Poetry Out Loud poem? Let us help. Assembled here is a list of poems that your teachers in the BHS English Department have selected as their favorites from the Poetry Out Loud webpage. These are simply our favorites – we hope you like them too. In italics after the poem is a brief description of the poem to help you choose.
From Mrs. Bernard
Dream Song 14 by John Berryman (18 lines)- a personal sequence of emotion with heavy psychological influences
London by William Blake (16 lines)- a depressed look at one of my favorite cities
The moon now rises to her absolute rule by Henry David Thoreau (17 lines)- a beautiful poem about the natural world- heavy transcendental influences
From Ms. Bularzik
Snow Day by Billy Collins (40 lines) – snow as revolution
Caged Bird by Maya Angelou (38 lines) – a bird’s triumph over adversity
I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died by Emily Dickinson (16 lines) – classic Emily Dickinson; a depressing but unique view of a death
The Tyger by William Blake (24 lines) – questioning the meaning and purpose of creation
From Ms. Coppola
The Last Laugh by Wilfred Owen (15 lines) – a description of men’s last cries upon facing death in war. Contrasting their desires with reality.
Father by Edgar Albert Guest (40 lines) – a rhyming commentary about those who think versus those who act.
Saturday’s Child by Countee Cullen (20 lines) – poem emphasizing the hardships of being born into a poor family by comparing it to the comforts of wealthy children.
From Mrs. Crossman
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye (15 lines) – A look back and then forward to things not yet done.
Golden Retrievals by Mark Doty (14 lines) – A dog calls his owner back into the present.
To David, About His Education by Howard Nemerov (19 lines) – Do you think about your education?
Traveling through the Dark by William Stafford (18 lines) – A collision between man and nature leads to a difficult decision.
From Mrs. Ford
Backdrop addresses cowboy by Margaret Atwood (37 lines)— On the surface, the poem excoriates the way that the powerful demolish and desecrate anything they perceive as “lesser.” Go deeper, and it is about the tension in a poisonous romantic relationship.
Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold (37 lines)— This is an rumination on the power of faith and the melancholy the speaker faces when his religious notions are challenged — all wrapped up in a dramatic monologue to his true love.
And Soul by Eavan Boland (39 lines)— This poem explores the purity of the grief felt at the death of a loved one, and the way the mind actively works to block that grief.
To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell (46 lines)— Although this poem is not listed on the Poetry Out Loud website, it is still eligible, because it is in the printed anthology. The poem is a brilliant wooing of a maiden by a male who desires her. It just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun.
From Ms. Graham
The War Horse by Eavan Boland (30 lines)—provides thoughtful commentary on the nature of violence and the ways in which individuals perceive war from a distance
The Death of Allegory by Billy Collins (32 lines)—playfully contrasts the grandiose extended metaphors of old with today’s everyday objects
For the young who want to by Marge Piercy (36 Lines)—tackles the notion of what it means to be an artist and a writer in today’s society
From Mr. Hill
Windigo by Louise Erdrich (24 lines + epigraph) — a nightmarish, free verse poem from the perspective of a monster. It wants to be read aloud.
Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay (16 lines) —a straightforward poem about a speaker who is “not resigned” to giving up after the death of loved ones.
Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview by Gary Soto (28 lines) — a free verse poem with a snarky speaker and sparse imagery.
Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden — a ruminative fourteen-line poem about a father’s love that doesn’t seem to know what a sonnet is (much like the speaker didn’t know what love was).
From Mrs. Janovitz
Enough by Suzanne Buffman (19 lines) – The first line of this poem is one of my favorites, but there are many great lines to love in this piece. Buffman expresses raw emotion, and the imagery is powerful.
Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins (14 lines) – The aural properties in this poem are amazing. It is wonderful to hear aloud. My fingers are crossed that someone chooses this one for Poetry Out Loud. I ADORE hearing it.
The Truly Great by Stephen Spender (23 lines) – I revisit this poem often, especially when I’m in need of inspiration. I love its focus on self-sacrificing idealism, passion, and vitality. The idea that some are born with purpose, to greatness, is one I like to ponder. Also, I find the shifting imagery in this poem very powerful.
To Elsie by William Carlos Williams (66 REALLY SHORT lines) – I am an enormous fan of William Carlos Williams’ work. I like this poem in particular for its effective expression of modernist themes: a disintegrating/desolate America, and the alienation of man. I think this one is a great choice for Poetry Out Loud because it is a dramatic monologue, and the pacing mimics man’s process of shifting thought.
The Powwow at the End of the World by Sherman Alexie (approx. 30 lines) – This poem, which highlights the concepts of betrayal, redress, and forgiveness, beautifully captures the strong emotions associated with some difficult subjects Native Americans face. In terms of the style, I think this poem just begs for recitation. The anaphora and parallelism are really powerful rhetorical tools, and Alexie makes great use of them here. I also really like the natural imagery and original symbolism in the poem.
I’m a Fool to Love You by Cornelius Eady (44 lines) – This poem is another honest expression of emotion and situation. I love the connection Eady makes between the blues and love, life, and communication. Heartfelt and straight up, “I’m a Fool to Love You” portrays some very real struggles with authenticity.
From Mr. Lally
Another Feeling by Ruth Stone (18 lines) – A poem reflecting on grief and responsibility, and how those emotions never really leave you.
Ice by Gail Mazur (24 lines) – A pleasant poem about winter fun which ends with one of the most touching father/daughter moments I’ve found in any poem.
The Maldive Shark by Herman Melville (16 lines) – Pilot fish are so named because they were once believed to be assistants in guiding sharks to their prey. In this poem, Melville looks at the contrast between the dreadful shark and its “friendly” companions, and seems horrified that nature could create such a relationship.
The Farmer by W.D. Ehrhart (24 lines) – If you have ever been in a situation when you’ve been working hard and are seeing no results, you’ll feel it in the lines, “nothing / is growing. Everything needs to be done.” But this poem reminds us that it is not the results, but the drive to achieve them that matters most. Each day I go into the fields.
A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur (12 lines) – There’s something simultaneously sweet and hopeless about this parent who tries to protect his daughter from a hard reality.
From Mrs. McKee
Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon (18 lines) – Gentle acceptance of mortality, life cycle, nature. Kenyon’s early death from leukemia makes this all more poignant and meaningful.
The Sun Rising by John Donne (30 lines) – Two lovers chide the sun which dares disturb their morning slumber. Donne’s sharp wit is on full display here, but it is also a surprisingly romantic poem containing one of my favorite lines: “Nothing else is.”
The World is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth (14 lines) — I have a soft spot for fellow Brit William Wordsworth and his love of the simplicity and purity of nature. Now, as then, nature has an immense capacity to heal. Wordsworth knew this better than most.
From Ms. Netishen
in Just by e.e. cummings (24 short lines) – Interesting imagery and imaginative conceptions of the balloon-man
Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser (24 lines) – A haunting family portrait
May You Always Be the Darling of Fortune by Jane Miller (13 lines) – The lack of punctuation supports the ideas about the fluidity of time
From Ms. Roberts
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in) by E.E. Cummings (15 lines) – New England author, easy to read and comprehend. Poem about love – recited by Cameron Diaz several times in the movie “In Her Shoes” in the context of her relationship with her sister.
Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye (21 lines) – Language is straightforward, up to date. Good imagery, repetition.
Hope by Emily Dickinson (12 lines) – American author. Use of metaphor to discuss the idea of hope.
From Mrs. Rose
The animals in that country by Margaret Atwood (29 lines) – This poem explores the conflict between man and nature
The Properly Scholarly Attitude by Adelaide Crapsey (28 lines) – A poet’s comical look at the pursuit of education and a very fun poem to read
More Lies by Karin Gottshall (18 lines) – A simple but beautiful poem about loneliness
From Mrs. Valbuena
Serenade by Mary Weston Fordham (18 lines). This is almost like a lullaby to help put someone to sleep. It also rhymes.
Snowflake by William Baer (14 lines). This poem depicts how a snowflake travels and lands on young lovers skating in the snow and compares the snowflake’s journey to love.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (16 lines). This is simple to memorize as it rhymes. Imagery, serenity, peacefulness of the woods.