What are some examples of poems that highlight what you enjoy about literature?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some examples of poems, which highlight what I enjoy about Literature, are:

 

1. The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

 

2. Monument City by Jared Carter

 

3. Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

 

4. Helen by Christopher Marlowe

 

5. Borderlands by Suji Kwock Kim

 

These five poems exemplify to me how literature, through creatively using words, causes us to take a look at the world around us and the cultures and societies we inhabit. These poems consider family, history, life and death and love. They are windows into the minds of these poets and how they see the world – past, present, and future. These poems are aural/word paintings.

 

The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

 

This is my favourite poem of all time because of its economy of words and its study of human despair in a fallen world. T.S. Eliot presents a stark picture of Man and what becomes of the world when moral decay becomes the norm in society with no spiritual guiding principles. The words of the poems final stanza – in the tone and musicality of a child’s nursery rhyme – are an extremely harsh counterpoint to the playful lilt of the stanza:

 

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends 

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

 

Monument City by Jared Carter 

 

This poem describes an elderly woman wanting photos taken of her house and property before a dam is put in place and the flood waters take over the countryside and bury this part of the surrounding community. This poem conveys how people see the old order passing away to make way for the new. I love this stanza;

 

To take photographs of the house, and the gardens,

     and the parlor – with us in it – one last time

Before the waters began to rise, and scavengers came

     to pick over the buildings too big to be moved –

 

Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

 

This poem is an exquisite example of Blank Verse – unrhymed iambic pentameter. The regular metrical lines propel the poem forward to its beautiful end. The poem is a study on one’s belief in a hereafter – whether one believes that or not. It is a contemplation of Paradise – whether one finds Paradise on earth or has faith in a Paradise beyond this life. I love this beautiful excerpt from this poem:

 

Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail

Whistle about us their spontaneous cries:

Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;

 

Helen by Christopher Marlowe

 

This poem is another example of iambic pentameter and it is, in essence, a love poem. The power of the opening line is an immediate example of the beauty of this formal poem:

 

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,

 

The regular beat of the five metrical feet give the poem and this line its power…ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum. Listen to this as you say this line.

 

Was this/ the face/ that launched/ a thou/sand ships,/

 

The poem is from “The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus”

 

Appreciation of Helen’s beauty is exemplified in the line:

 

Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter

 

Borderlands by Suji Kwock Kim

 

This is a powerful poem about conflict and war. Suji Kwock Kim puts into words what her ancestors went through to survive this turmoil. With sparse language and in only 21 lines, she conveys how people died trying to cross the Yalu to get to other cities and towns. She talks of the Japanese soldiers shooting and how the narrator of the poem says that:

 

I saw men and women from our village blown to hieroglyphs of viscera,

engraving nothing.

 

This poem shows the horror and wastefulness of war. This is highlighted in this line;

 

I wondered at each body with its separate skin, its separate suffering.

 

In conclusion, all these poems, with precise words, in the right order, speak volumes about the world - and the people who have lived, are living, and will, in the future, live in it.

user626472 | Student

There are many poems that highlight what I most love about literature--playfulness, be it with words, themes, characters, or form.

One of my all time favorite poems is Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", primarily because of how inventive he is with words.  When coupled with his skilled storytelling and adroit use of punctuation to add meaning, what first appears as nonsense is a chilling warning of this Jabberwocky.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Another favorite is Sylvia Plath's "Daddy."  Although serious in tone and subject matter, this poem still strikes me as playful, perhaps because it shows the writer's artful placement of words, as in:

"You do not do, you do not do   
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot   
For thirty years, poor and white,   
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo."
 
And finally, there is Lucille Clifton's "Homage to My Hips."  What is not to love about a poem that celebrates the woman's form, no matter how "imperfect" (according to society's standards.)  Her words zing in this poem, lending it a playful rhythm as well.
 
"these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips."
 
 

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