April is National Poetry Month and this week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is open, so I thought I would share lines from some of my favorite poets. And since they are a bit lengthy, I’m going to share just seven.
*Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
It’s impossible for me to choose just one poem of his massive catalog of work. Blake, living in London 1757-1827, wrote incredibly energized and unrestrained essays and poetry on the nature of Man, and his relationship to nature, God, imagination, and one another. He was also a very talented artist and engraver. His plates and paintings reflect his wild visions. Visit Blake Archive for a wonderful collection and contextualization of his work.
“What is now proved was once only imagined.”
“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
“Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.”
from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Proverbs of Hell)
“When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
from The Tyger
“And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.”
from Introduction to the Songs of Innocence
Percy Bysshe Shelley
A troubled and unsettled man, Shelley was also a gifted poet and (seemingly) generous with his encouragement of others. Before he married the woman who wrote Frankenstein, he had made a name for himself among the Romantics. In Ozymandias, Shelley captures the exoticism of archaeology and reminds us that all things are fleeting.
“And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Her story is a complicated one. Wheatley was seized from West Africa when she was about seven years old and transported to the Boston docks. There she was purchased by Susanna Wheatley, wife of a tailor. The Wheatleys taught her to read and write and included her in general education. Her poetry became a siren call to abolitionists and philanthropists who used her work to prove the equality of mind. Learn more about Wheatley at Poetry Foundation.
“The glowing stars and silver queen of light
At last must perish in the gloom of night:
Resign thy friends to that Almighty hand,
Which gave them life, and bow to his command;”
from To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady’s Brother and Sister, and a Child of the Name Avis, Aged One Year
Primarily an illustrator and artist (best known for his opening animation for Masterpiece Mystery!), Gorey also wrote short, amusing rhymes. Generally assumed to be British and of the Victorian era, he was in fact American and died only in 2000. Learn more about Gorey, and visit his Massachusetts home.
“Each night Father fills me with dread
When he sits on the foot of my bed;
I’d not mind that he speaks
In gibbers and squeaks,
But for seventeen years he’s been dead.”
Of all the things Queen Elizabeth I is remembered for, her poetry is not usually one of them. In between being the unfavored child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, defeating the Spanish Armada and defending her crown from all manner of usurpers, she found time to write some lovely poetry.
“I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.”
from On Monsieur’s Departure
Langston Hughes is an important literary figure from the vibrant Harlem Renaissance. His work often deals with racial struggle and is presented in an everyday manner that reflected daily life.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
from The Weary Blues
Edgar Allan Poe
I can’t close a list of favorite poets without including Poe. Remembered today for his macabre stories and creepy characters, Poe was also a fierce literary critic, science fiction author, hoaxer, and poet. Read more about Poe’s life and his lesser known poems.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year: