Poems to share

Great message poems for you to enjoy, discover and share as National Poetry Day approaches.

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    Their name liveth for evermore

    by Denise Riley

    from Say Something Back  (Picador) Forward Prizes for Poetry Best Collection shortlist 2016 Death’s tidied up in rows and lists. The scratched are ‘Known to God’. ‘He is not missing: he is here’ – Else in the awkward squad. His name’s got weightier than him. He’s been peeled off from it. It didn’t much suit him in…

    17 Caterpillars

    by Sally Crabtree

    When the 17 caterpillars we had caught Escaped from the jar and went crawling round the kitchen, Mum went mad. I couldn’t understand it We lived in chaos so why would she care? But she did ‘Find them all!’ she screamed, ‘and put them back!’ We found 16 And I’ve been searching Ever since for…

    A Legend of Truth

    by Rudyard Kipling

    ONCE on a time, the ancient legends tell, Truth, rising from the bottom of her well, Looked on the world, but, hearing how it lied, Returned to her seclusion horrified. There she abode, so conscious of her worth, Not even Pilate’s Question called her forth, Nor Galileo, kneeling to deny The Laws that hold our…

    A rucksack and a journey

    by Nicole May

    We are fragile fragments of ash learning to accept change like hearing the news and not despairing, It’s watching lives survive and leave wards, and finding laughter in new eyes surviving in the grey, placing naivety in a box shelving it as unwanted It’s allowing yourself to be guided in tunnels, surrendering to the abundance…

    A Scherzo (A Shy Person’s Wishes)

    by Dora Greenwell

    With the wasp at the innermost heart of a peach, On a sunny wall out of tip-toe reach, With the trout in the darkest summer pool, With the fern-seed clinging behind its cool Smooth frond, in the chink of an aged tree, In the woodbine’s horn with the drunken bee, With the mouse in its…

    A Small Step

    by Michaela Morgan

    From hopeless romantic… to helpless rheumatic… A small step. From hip hop to hip op A small (and creaky) step. From naughty nights to ‘nighty nights’, attitude to gratitude, appealing to appalling, festive to festered, inspired to insipid, A very very, very small step And loving… ..to losing. (just one consonant apart) A small (but…

    Adlestrop

    by Edward Thomas

    Yes. I remember Adlestrop – The name, because one afternoon Of heat the express-train drew up there Unwontedly. It was late June. The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came On the bare platform. What I saw Was Adlestrop – only the name And willows, willow-herb, and grass, And…

    Advice from a Caterpillar

    by Rachel Rooney

    When I was egg, I too, clung onto leaf in shaded safety, hidden underside. And fastened by a pinprick of belief I dared to dream I was a butterfly. A hunger hatched. I ate the home I knew then inched along the disappearing green. In shedding every skin that I outgrew, became a hundred times…

    All Grown Up

    by Sebbie Mudhai

    You wake up one day And it hits you that you are not a child anymore The gaps that were between your teeth Are now called “adult” Adult. Mum and dad don’t tell you what to do The Government does Packed school lunches Have become pretentious brunches And responsibilities are a new thing That have…

    An Ode to a Muckle

    by Rowan McCabe

    Oh who doesn’t love the way Geordies talk? With our vowels so inflated and happy; our souvenir shops are stuffed with bags and mugs boasting slogans like “Whey Aye” and “Canny”. Cos tourists take joy in this strange sound, that’s why call centres thrive in the region. But experts are scared that within 30 years…

    Ariel’s Song

    by William Shakespeare

    Full fathom five thy father lies, Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes, Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange: Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell- Hark! Now I hear them, Ding-dong bell.

    B*TCH

    by Nora Gomringer

      In our 25th year, we are all about poems that speak Truth.  Here the brilliant poet Nora Gomringer shares a love poem… or is it? took me along lifted from the box led by the hand water from the saucer placed a collar of cultured pearls around my neck taught tricks: baking, cooking, sewing on buttons…

    Because we have our roots

    by Alice Gretton

    Garden spade. A marathon of oak trees Run around like a barricade bushes leading streets of dampened grass to patches of Garden shade. Insects buying last week’s shop in the foliage. Money is grass, grass is gold and The vegetables laugh at the unfolding of the day. Learning place. A child finds newton when picking…

    Because You Invited Me (Video Edit)

    by Kimwei McCarthy

    Invite me over to your favourite cafe somewhere on the river Dart where it trickles between our past and our future, or invite me to your house where it rests like a barnacle on a hilltop near a stone circle where we shall take tea together. In ancient times you moved the earth turning woodland…

    Being Human

    by Chrissie Gittins

    I am letting go of my senses, my brain is about to explode, there are pelicans flying around my limbs, we’re in for a feather episode. All along my intestines a mole is trying to crawl, he has trouble seeing at the best of times, down there he sees nothing at all. In the chambers…

    Binsey Poplars

    by Gerard Manley Hopkins

    felled 1879 My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, ..Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, ..All felled, felled, are all felled; …..Of a fresh and following folded rank …………….Not spared, not one …………….That dandled a sandalled …..Shadow that swam or sank On meadow & river & wind-wandering weed-winding bank. ..O if we but…

    Caterpillar

    by Christina Rossetti

    Brown and furry Caterpillar in a hurry, Take your walk To the shady leaf, or stalk, Or what not, Which may be the chosen spot. No toad spy you, Hovering bird of prey pass by you; Spin and die, To live again a butterfly.  

    Ceasefire

    by Michael Longley

    I Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and Wept with him until their sadness filled the building. II Taking Hector’s corpse into his own hands Achilles Made sure it was…

    Child’s Song in Spring

    by E. Nesbit

    The silver birch is a dainty lady, She wears a satin gown; The elm tree makes the old churchyard shady, She will not live in town. The English oak is a sturdy fellow, He gets his green coat late; The willow is smart in a suit of yellow, While brown the beech trees wait. Such…

    Cloudberries

    by Michael Longley

    You give me cloudberry jam from Lapland, Bog amber, snow-line titbits, scrumptious Cloudberries sweetened slowly by the cold, And costly enough for cloudberry wars (Diplomatic wars, my dear). Imagine us Among the harvesters, keeping our distance In sphagnum fields on the longest day When dawn and dusk like frustrated lovers Can kiss, legend has it,…

    Countrywoman

    by Katrina Naomi

    It’s over, I know that. But the grasses against my legs are my lover’s hands, the wind, his voice, urging me on. Part of me wanted to be found with him, for it all to break open. And there’s my boy, Callum. I’ve always upset things, can’t help myself. I run the dogs along Tredinney…

    Dear March – Come in –

    by Emily Dickinson

    Dear March – Come in – How glad I am – I hoped for you before – Put down your Hat – You must have walked – How out of Breath you are – Dear March, how are you, and the Rest – Did you leave Nature well – Oh March, Come right upstairs with…

    Despite the Noise

    by Theresa Lola

    She tells me her thoughts on London while her eyes roll like a coin shifting in a purse. In this city, time is a circus acrobat balancing our never-ending demands. Anything beyond a 1-minute wait for the tube train tightens our blood pressure. In the summer the Central Line alone will fry the loose hair…

    Eternity

    by William Blake

    He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy He who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sunrise

    Everything Flows

    by Kate Fox

    Heraclitus: You cannot step twice into the same river   You aren’t even the same person who stepped into your last bath. Ouse, Ure, Esk, Wharfe, Derwent, rolling past drinkers to proms, pregnancies, jobs, moves, marriages, retirements. Kisses, letters, certificates and contracts go damp at the edges. Smiles seemed wider in that old place; in…

    Faith

    by Kat François

    from Unwritten: Caribbean Poems After the First World War, (Nine Arches) A National Poetry Day 2018 Recommendation   On the day you left you did look so handsome in your uniform, allyuh boys did, so spick and span and proper. Collars pressed flat, buttons done up to the top of your necks. Hats on just right,…

    Field Postcard: Rondeau-style

    by Vahni Capildeo

    Nothing is to be written on this side except the date and signature of the sender. Sentences not required may be erased. If anything else is added the postcard will be destroyed. So carry marigolds, show sorrow: hide July war in flowers at home; their code is tender. Nothing is to be written on this…

    For Want of a Nail

    by Anon

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    Freedom

    by Olive Runner

    Give me the long, straight road before me, __A clear, cold day with a nipping air, Tall, bare trees to run on beside me, __A heart that is light and free from care. Then let me go! – I care not whither __My feet may lead, for my spirit shall be Free as the brook…

    Freedom Fighter

    by Matt Goodfellow

    (for Jacob, a true warrior)   he doesn’t notice the smell of disinfectant any more or the lights and the feel of hospital sheets the wounds where the hickman line* was inserted hurt but he fights his face limbs body are swollen by steroids he is bald but he fights three birthdays pass a sister…

    Freedom Poem

    by Michaela Morgan

    Breathe in Breathe out Gasp Sigh S c r e a m SHOUT! Spread your arms W   I   D   E And SMILE. Find yourself. Find your style. Make yourself tall as tall can be Do the impossible one time, Two times, Three. And say out loud I am Free.

    From the Irish

    by Ian Duhig

    According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish for moon means the white circle in a slice of half-boiled potato or turnip. A star is the mark on the forehead of the beast and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well. Well, if I say to you your face…

    Front Door

    by Imtiaz Dharker

    Wherever I have lived, walking out of the front door every morning means crossing over to a foreign country. One language inside the house, another out. The food and clothes and customs change. The fingers on my hand turn into forks. I call it adaptation when my tongue switches from one grammar to another, but…

    Go Explore the Countryside

    by Paul Cookson

    A summer’s day, a bunch of friends Bows and arrows, building dens Make believe and let’s pretend All of this and much more when Finding tallest trees to climb Leave reality behind Hide and seek and lots to find Losing track of space and time A place to chase and seek and hide Go explore…

    Greta Thunberg

    by Liz Brownlee

    When the whole world is deaf by greed and by choice, how do you change things with only your voice? It’s hard to be noticed, harder to be heard but she stood up and spoke, could not be deterred. What made them listen? What cut through their lies? Not the pollution or the fast melting…

    Here Be Elephants

    by Jean Atkin

    circus the first Down Rantipol Lane on her Raleigh, his grandma, young, spun between hedges and thrushes – meets an elephant coming up the other way. “Her jumped off her bike, her jumped over the wall!” circus the second Well, it was the war, so there wasn’t one. But they left their elephant stabled here…

    Here dead lie we because we did not choose

    by A. E. Housman

    Here dead lie we because we did not choose To live and shame the land from which we sprung. Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose; But young men think it is, and we were young.

    High Flight

    by John Gillespie Magee

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting…

    How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

    by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love…

    Howling of the Hullhounds

    by Jodie Langford

    Ey- Y’know We’ve got that drink you under the table culture In a local pub full of well-known strangers   Viewed as a second-hand society But we’re not hand-me-down Hull faces   There’s an oddity in the ‘Old Town’ Where sea shanties ease you into the early mornin’ Unless you’re out dancin’ till dawn- then…

    I Cannot Remember My Mother

    by Rabindranath Tagore

    I cannot remember my mother only sometimes in the midst of my play a tune seems to hover over my playthings, the tune of some song that she used to hum while rocking my cradle. I cannot remember my mother but when in the early autumn morning the smell of the shiuli flowers floats in…

    I Did Not See What He Said He Saw

    by Laura Mucha

    No witness stands, confirms his claim. No doctor certifies he’s sane. Optician – none, his eyesight – poor, perhaps he might believe he saw precisely what he says he saw… But that’s just it – a mere belief: the mind’s a trickster, joker, thief. And so, as I have said before, I did not see…

    I Had a Boat

    by Mary Coleridge

    I had a boat, and the boat had wings; __And I did dream that we went a flying Over the heads of queens and kings, __Over the souls of dead and dying, Up among the stars and the great white rings, __And where the Moon on her back is lying.

    I Know My Soul

    by Claude McKay

    I plucked my soul out of its secret place, And held it to the mirror of my eye, To see it like a star against the sky, A twitching body quivering in space, A spark of passion shining on my face. And I explored it to determine why This awful key to my infinity Conspires…

    I Want A Poem

    by Shukria Rezaei

    I want a poem with the texture of a colander on the pastry. A verse of pastry so rich it leaves gleam on your fingertips. A poem that stings like the splash of boiling oil as you drop the pastry in. A poem that sits on a silver plate with nuts and chocolates, served up…

    I want to see you

    by Rumi (attributed)

    I want to see you. Know your voice. Recognize you when you first come round the corner. Sense your scent when I come into a room you’ve just left. Know the lift of your heel, the glide of your foot. Become familiar with the way you purse your lips then let them part, just the…

    I’ll Tell You How the Sun Rose

    by Emily Dickinson

    I’ll tell you how the Sun rose – A Ribbon at a time – e Steeples swam in Amethyst – The news, like Squirrels, ran – The Hills untied their Bonnets – The Bobolinks – begun – Then I said softly to myself – ‘That must have been the Sun’! But how he set –…

    If it were dry, the thread would snap

    by Jane Routh

    Of course it rains: it siles. It buckets down, chucks down cats and dogs and stair-rods to fill our becks and brooks, dykes, sykes, and cloughs with waters soft enough for washing cotton and fast enough to power the mills that wove it. Our rivers are the engine that drives the past into the present…

    Instructions for Not Becoming a Werewolf

    by Abigail Parry

    You feel it first as an itch in the teeth, a gnarl of nerves coiled too tight. Some taut aperture sliding open between the heart and gut. Precautions must be taken. Do not enjoy too much the quick grey jolt of hare, the split-crate thrill of punctured appleskin. High lonely places, wind, the supple creak…

    Interim

    by Lola Ridge

    The earth is motionless And poised in space … A great bird resting in its flight Between the alleys of the stars. It is the wind’s hour off … The wind has nestled down among the corn … The two speak privately together, Awaiting the whirr of wings.

    Invictus

    by William Ernest Henley

    Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and…

    It is a beauteous evening, calm and free

    by William Wordsworth

    It is a beauteous evening, calm and free, The holy time is quiet as a Nun Breathless with adoration; the broad sun Is sinking down in its tranquility; The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea; Listen! the mighty Being is awake, And doth with his eternal motion make A sound like thunder—everlastingly. Dear child!…

    It Is Everywhere

    by Remi Graves

    Green leaves. Wind kissed. Closed palms. Fresh hope. Deep river. Free flow. No signs. Open road. Wide sky. Grow wings. Feel light. Dream big. No frame. New eyes. From dark. Find light. Hug air. Laugh loud. Breathe deep. Dance wild. Smile wide. Shut eyes. Hold chest. Close mind. Ask cloud. Ask wind. Ask earth. Ask…

    It’s easy for clouds

    by Juris Kronbergs

    Not one but three cloud poems by Juris Kronbergs, reproduced by kind permission of the author and Emma Press, and translated by Mara Rozitis & Richard O’Brien. It’s easy for clouds It’s easy for clouds to play pretend! But they don’t ever do it to offend. It’s just such heavenly fun, or so I’m told:…

    January

    by Joseph Coelho

    There is a legend of two murmurations of Starlings warring above the City of Cork in Ireland in the 1600s –Starlings have never been known to war in flocks but they certainly do flight. They were the Rorschach of the winter months, the folding of sky-shadows, of air-shoals pirouetting into the January nip, swarms riding…

    Late Love

    by Jackie Kay

    How they strut about, people in love, how tall they grow, pleased with themselves, their hair, glossy, their skin shining. They don’t remember who they have been. How filmic they are just for this time. How important they’ve become – secret, above the order of things, the dreary mundane. Every church bell ringing, a fresh…

    Liar

    by Rachel Rooney

    I told a whopper, a fib, a lie. Slipped out of my mouth. It was slimy, sly. Save me, it hissed. A secret must hide. So I opened my bag and it slithered inside. It fed in the dark, grew fat on my shame as I carried it with me. It whispered my name. My friend,…

    Liberty

    by Edward Thomas

    The last light has gone out of the world, except This moonlight lying on the grass like frost Beyond the brink of the tall elm’s shadow. It is as if everything else had slept Many an age, unforgotten and lost The men that were, the things done, long ago, All I have thought; and but…

    Lies

    by Joshua Seigal

    Whenever I start crying I say that I feel sick, and no one knows I’m lying – It always does the trick. It’s what I tell my teachers, my friends, my mum and dad – I tell them that I feel sick when really I feel sad. © Joshua Seigal (from I Don’t Like Poetry, Bloomsbury…

    Love and Friendship

    by Emily Brontë

    Love is like the wild rose-briar, Friendship like the holly-tree— The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms But which will bloom most constantly? The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring, Its summer blossoms scent the air; Yet wait till winter comes again And who will call the wild-briar fair? Then scorn the silly rose-wreath…

    MAGIC

    by Joshua Seigal

    A newborn baby in a cot that’s magic. A baked potato, piping hot that’s magic. A cartoon on a Saturday a muffin on a baker’s tray a tabby cat that wants to play that’s magic. A rainbow peeking through the rain that’s magic. A multicoloured candy cane that’s magic. A puppy learning how to bark…

    Making Robert Learn Like Susan

    by Tara Bergin

    Everybody wants Robert to learn like Susan, but there are always more Roberts than Susans, aren’t there? Blaming Robert isn’t helpful. Susan is by nature a deep learner: it’s easy for her. She’s not like Robert, trying to show off with big words like opaque or transubstantiation. Silly Robert! He has memorized them from a…

    My Heart Leaps Up

    by William Wordsworth

    My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound…

    My Mother Country

    by Rukiya Khatun (17)

    I don’t remember her In the summer, Lagoon water sizzling, The kingfisher leaping, Or even the sweet honey mangoes They tell me I used to love. I don’t remember Her comforting garment, Or her saps of date trees, Providing the meagre earnings For those farmers Out there In the gulf Under the calidity of the…

    Newcomers

    by Michael Rosen

    My father came to England from another country My father’s mother came to England from another country but my father’s father stayed behind. So my dad had no dad here and I never saw him at all. One day in spring some things arrived: a few old papers, a few old photos and – oh…

    No Rack can torture me

    by Emily Dickinson

    No Rack can torture me— My Soul—at Liberty— Behind this mortal Bone There knits a bolder One— You cannot prick with saw— Nor pierce with Scimitar— Two Bodies—therefore be— Bind One—The Other fly— The Eagle of his Nest No easier divest— And gain the Sky Than mayest Thou— Except Thyself may be Thine Enemy— Captivity…

    NOWT BUT PRIDE

    by Jamie Thrasivoulou

    I thought you were just fields and sheep? the geezer says, before asking for directions, I told him to head down the jitty, hit the next street, and go straight over at the Island, he didn’t know what a jitty was, said the street looked more like a main road and Couldn’t locate an Island…

    Ode on a Grecian Urn

    by John Keats

    Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape Of deities or mortals, or of both, In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? What men or gods are these? What…

    Of course I am Maid Marian, Who else is there to be?

    by Sophie Herxheimer

    Filmed in my filmy white dress kissed hard by Robin Hood against the gnarly tree the TV shines Lincoln green. Friar Tuck and my cat get gooseberried with the homework (page 62, questions 1–10). Me and Robin Hood curl on the corduroy settee licking the sugary cement out of Bourbon biscuits. Me and Robin Hood…

    One year in Norwich

    by Molly Naylor

    I arrived here in ribbons. I wanted to rest but not stay, one year to recover, then back to London; to pretending in big buildings; to worrying myself into the middle of things. You could see through my skin to the pumping ambition. Then that year was up and I found there were still pubs…

    Our Father, Who art in Hendon

    by Momtaza Mehri

    In the car park, there are old men crying. They are holding onto one another like poplars. You tumble like them, like freshwater, from the coach station. Leave the greens of Golders behind you. You are back where it begins. Temple Fortune. Gospel Oak. The names are holy but the streets are far from that….

    Out Beyond Ideas

    by Rumi

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.

    Outgrown

    by Penelope Shuttle

    It is both sad and a relief to fold so carefully her outgrown clothes and line up the little worn shoes of childhood, so prudent, scuffed and particular. It is both happy and horrible to send them galloping back tappity-tap along the misty chill path into the past. It is both a freedom and a…

    Paper News

    by Sophie McKeand

    I am panic I am the tearing I am nightmarish scenes greeting police I am sickened I am reviled I am dismay I am flood warning I am winter warning I am stay indoors warning I am severe weather warning I am hurricane force winds warning I am droughts to hit the south of England…

    Paradise Lost, Book I, Lines 254-263

    by John Milton

    The mind is its own place, and in it self Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n. What matter where, if I be still the same, And what I should be, all but less then hee Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not…

    Please Can I Have a Man

    by Selima Hill

    Please can I have a man who wears corduroy. Please can I have a man who knows the names of 100 different roses; who doesn’t mind my absent-minded rabbits wandering in and out as if they own the place, who makes me creamy curries from fresh lemon-grass, who walks like Belmondo in A Bout de…

    Plowman

    by Sidney Keyes

    Time was I was a plowman driving Hard furrows, never resting, under the moon Or in the frostbound bright-eyes morning Labouring still; my team sleek-hided As mulberry leaves, my team my best delight After the sidelong blade my hero, My iron-shod horses, my heroic walkers, Now all that’s finished.   Rain’s fallen now Smudging my furrows,…

    Promises like Pie-crust

    by Christina Rossetti

    Promise me no promises So will I not promise you: Keep we both our liberties, Never false and never true: Let us hold the die uncast, Free to come as free to go: For I cannot know your past, And of mine what can you know? You, so warm, may once have been Warmer towards…

    Prouder Than Proud

    by Nairobi Thompson

    Some looking on might only see A wet and windy County Where the Council is broke And rundown buildings only add to the choke But there are those who find room In the midst of partisan gloom To appreciate and with unscaled eyes see Family football Whiskey They rise to the challenge To find that…

    Redemption

    by Timileyin Amusan

    My heart knocks carefully waiting to see my new home This air doesn’t taste like the metallic smoke from guns It doesn’t smell like warm innocent blood Walking down Oxford city centre is like strolling into centuries Where history explains itself through buildings and gardens Where people with different cultures feed their eyes And flash…

    Refugees

    by Brian Bilston

    They have no need of our help So do not tell me These haggard faces could belong to you or me Should life have dealt a different hand We need to see them for who they really are Chancers and scroungers Layabouts and loungers With bombs up their sleeves Cut-throats and thieves They are not…

    Rooftops

    by Brian Moses

    I’d love to be able to move through a city on rooftops, to take leaps of faith as I jump from one building to the next, to feel like a superhero with zero to frighten me. How good it would be to race across acres of roof tiles, to slink over skylights, to leap wide…

    Rosa Parks – 1st December 1955

    by Joseph Coehlo

    Lillie Mae Bradford – 11th May 1955 Claudette Colvin – 2nd March 1955 Not the first to sit. Not the first to get arrested. Not old (she was 42). Not tired (‘just tired of giving in’). One of many, unable to sit with the injustice of years. A rider on an old road walked by…

    Safe

    by Christina Rossetti

    SAFE where I cannot die yet, Safe where I hope to lie too, Safe from the fume and the fret; You, and you, Whom I never forget. Safe from the frost and the snow, Safe from the storm and the sun, Safe where the seeds wait to grow One by one, And to come back…

    Scylla

    by Abigail Parry

    What is it though?  That sound – like moving shale, the dull, ceramic clink of oyster shells or sharpened chitin, ticking on the hull.  I think you know the shape of it – nine fathoms down, and stirring in the silt.  And I’ve heard all about her – I’ve heard that pliant waist gives way…

    Second Wind

    by Angela France

    There are secrets, well kept, about what may bloom in barren lands: Buddleia always finds a place to root in concrete, rubble, abandoned spaces and the sculptor’s favourite chisel is the one worn to the shape of his hand through years of coaxing art from stone. There are consolations in stiffening joints slowing my walks…

    Sheffield

    by Warda Yassin

    My city is a dark murmur outside the window tonight, but I see everything – how we came, where we settled, where we belong. I see the fresh stamp on my mother’s passport, how she lit the Broomspring Centre crowned in flowers, held the hand of a village boy in Weston Park. I see the…

    Snow Fox

    by Liz Brownlee

    In the Arctic summer the cloud-grey fox listens for prey in the low shrubs and rocks grizzled and still as the permafrost ground his senses vivid with scent and sound when lemmings are hidden under the snow the wild geese are flown and biting winds blow a horizon-less white shrouds the Arctic fox in clouds…

    Somerset

    by Liv Torc

    From the road in Somerset a wilting willow man, chased off the fields by warehouses, pollarded by council funding cuts The bedraggled cousin of the Angel of the North staring down the M5 holding out its guts.   Somerset   People drive through fast We are a patchwork blur a consonant slur a place on…

    Something Told the Wild Geese

    by Rachel Field

    Something told the wild geese It was time to go. Though the fields lay golden Something whispered,—‘Snow.’ Leaves were green and stirring, Berries, luster-glossed, But beneath warm feathers Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’ All the sagging orchards Steamed with amber spice, But each wild breast stiffened At remembered ice. Something told the wild geese It was time to…

    Song of Myself

    by Walt Whitman

    The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and…

    Song of Old Time

    by Eliza Cook

    I wear not the purple of earth-born kings, Nor the stately ermine of lordly things; But monarch and courtier, though great they be, Must fall from their glory and bend to me. My sceptre is gemless; yet who can say They will not come under its mighty sway? Ye may learn who I am,- there’s…

    Sonnet 130

    by William Shakespeare

    My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And…

    Sonnet 138

    by William Shakespeare

    When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies, That she might think me some untutored youth, Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties. Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, Although she knows my days are past the best, Simply I credit her false-speaking…

    Sympathy

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas! When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass; When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, And the faint perfume from its chalice steals— I know…

    Talking to Myself

    by Matt Goodfellow

    if I say that I don’t need you the clothes you wear aren’t cool laugh when I should hold you make you feel a fool if I’m angry and irrational and nothing seems to help I don’t expect you to forgive me but I’m talking to myself if I say that you don’t ‘get’ me…

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

    by Emily Dickinson

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind —

    Telling Tales

    by Brian Moses

    “We’ve got a pylon at the end of our garden.” “Oh that’s nothing, we’ve got a gasometer.” “Well we’ve got a weather research station that’s manned by the Russians.” “You haven’t!” He hadn’t. Graham was always wanting to get one better. We all knew they were tall stories, the kind you read in some Sunday…

    The Alice Case

    by Joanne Limburg

    ‘The problem with Alice’, the Caterpillar says, ‘is her rigidity of thought’. ‘Yes’, says Humpty Dumpty ‘and her lack of empathy.’ ‘Indeed’, says the Caterpillar, ‘Her mind-blindness.’ ‘Yes’, says Humpty Dumpty, ‘Her inability to read faces.’ ‘Indeed’, says the Caterpillar, ‘Or tone of voice.’ ‘And then’, says Humpty Dumpty, ‘there’s the flatness of her affect.’…

    The Art of Deception

    by Rachel Rooney

    Deception is an art I’ve come to learn. Like webs that garden spiders carefully weave it takes a little effort, and in turn an unsuspecting fly that might believe.   The yarn you spin must always be secure. The words rehearsed. If using alibis it helps to fix them first. And do ensure misleading truths…

    The Built Environment

    by Emily Hasler

         a waste and ownerless place Botolph There is in this place as little as can be imagined, so things stand in for each other: metal turns to wood, wood to bone, ruins to wrack— in this already regretting wind, both scourge and the salt to heal it. The air is most of the…

    The Call

    by Charlotte Mew

    From our low seat beside the fire Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow Or raked the ashes, stopping so We scarcely saw the sun or rain Above, or looked much higher Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire. To-night we heard a call, A rattle on the window-pane, A voice…

    The Collar

    by George Herbert

    I struck the board, and cried, “No more; I will abroad! What? shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free, free as the road, Loose as the wind, as large as store. Shall I be still in suit? Have I no harvest but a thorn To let me blood, and not…

    The Confirmation

    by Edward Muir

    Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face. I in my mind had waited for this long, Seeing the false and searching for the true, Then found you as a traveller finds a place Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. But you, What shall I call you? A…

    The Lake Isle of Innisfree

    by W. B. Yeats

    I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils…

    The Law of Copyright (after Kipling)

    by Wendy Cope

    Now this is the Law of Copyright – good subject for Poetry Day. If you keep it some poets may prosper, in a modest and limited way.   And some of the people who break it have little idea of the wrong They do to the indigent author who dreamed up the poem or song…

    The Lincoln Imp’s Birthday

    by Kirsten Irving

    In November the cathedral angel says, “Fine. A day then,” and transforms me to clamber stiffly from my arch. Ahhh! Wagging my dragon-ears, as the last grains of limestone gloop to muscle, I slide to the flagstones, head for the bus. The seals haul ashore at Donna Nook, doggish, speckled, expecting, rowing their bodies up…

    The Magic that only Teesside Brings

    by Harry Gallagher

    We are very particular about a certain funicular that glistens like a diamond on the North East coast. And if you lend me a minute I’ll bet I can fill it with a sackful of jewels. Here’s a few we love the most… There’s Captain Cook’s monument and Roseberry Topping, open wide on Redcar seafront,…

    The Mask of Anarchy [Excerpt]

    by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester ‘And if then the tyrants dare Let them ride among you there, Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, – What they like, that let them do. ‘With folded arms and steady eyes, And little fear, and less surprise, Look upon them as they slay Till…

    The Misinformation Age

    by Karl Nova

    We’re in a time when everyone thinks their opinion is truth They think every thought they spew is absolute everyone seems to be an expert and a critic that seeks to speak for everyone I don’t get it Conspiracy theories are making souls grow weary The fear of the unknown has got people feeling eerie…

    The New Colossus

    by Emma Lazarus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor…

    The Old Stoic

    by Emily Brontë

    Riches I hold in light esteem, And Love I laugh to scorn; And lust of fame was but a dream, That vanished with the morn: And if I pray, the only prayer That moves my lips for me Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear, And give me liberty!” Yes, as my swift days…

    The ReallyReallyReally TrulyTrueTruth About… Teddy Bears

    by James Carter

    Everybody has a teddy. Even if they say they don’t, they do, they’re fibbing. Even kings, queens, famous footballers, hairy rock stars and busy teachers. Yours included. And all those people on the telly. Them too. And I’m sure even aliens have their own equally cute, equally cuddly, equally dog-eared, squished and dribbled-over version of…

    The Seedling

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    As a quiet little seedling Lay within its darksome bed, To itself it fell a–talking, And this is what it said: “I am not so very robust, But I ‘ll do the best I can;” And the seedling from that moment Its work of life began. So it pushed a little leaflet Up into the…

    The Sun Box

    by John Clegg

    There is a field somewhere outside Bassingbourn across the A505 which in forty years will be the corner of a carpark: yours will be the bay marked ‘Visitor’, since you are in the book, and may proceed directly to reception, one of several not too unattractive low white buildings. You are slightly early. Check in…

    The Way Through the Woods

    by Rudyard Kipling

    THEY shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ring-dove…

    The Windhover

    by Gerard Manley Hopkins

    To Christ Our Lord I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel…

    The Zigzag Path

    by John McCullough

    The day connives and you think you cannot live here, in your body, alone and rushing forward all the time like a silty river. All you wanted was to find a home beside the souls of white roses and hurt no one but the light keeps shifting. An invisible broom keeps flicking you out from…

    There Will Come Soft Rains

    by Sara Teasdale

    There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows calling with their shimmering sound; And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild-plum trees in tremulous white; Robins will wear their feathery fire Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire; And not one will know of the war, not one…

    This and That

    by Andrew Graves

    It’s always been this, it’s always been that From this sandstone cave that was dug with the bones, carved in the stories of hooded thieves and rogues To this bridal boutique flogging Nottingham lace forming patterns of rebellion wedding attitude to place From that turgid river that will course through the veins this beer that…

    This is just to say

    by William Carlos Williams

    I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold   © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in…

    This Poem Is Not About Parakeets

    by Victoria Adukwei Bulley

    On the bus back, two men make noise and all else falls silent, or leans away. One woman gets off altogether. I pull my headphones out. The air thickens. The men are angry. Words leave their mouths and hit the windows like flies. They’re everywhere, everywhere you look. I’ve got seven stops left. What we…

    Three Lies and One Truth about the Moon

    by Henry Normal

    1. The moon only exists at night, and occasionally during the day, in summer 2. No-one has ever landed on the moon, and the Russian President knows this but promised his mum he wouldn’t say anything 3. The moon is a hollow spaceship inhabited by nazi rabbits that turn men into werewolves 4. If my…

    Transformations

    by Thomas Hardy

    Portion of this yew Is a man my grandsire knew, Bosomed here at its foot: This branch may be his wife, A ruddy human life Now turned to a green shoot. These grasses must be made Of her who often prayed, Last century, for repose; And the fair girl long ago Whom I often tried…

    Trees

    by Joyce Kilmer

    I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;…

    Truth or Dare

    by Rachel Rooney

    Have you peed in a swimming pool? Count to fifty without blinking. What do you secretly wish for most? Say exactly what you’re thinking. Do you privately pick your nose? Reveal the name of your crush. Have you ever cheated a test? Sing Jingle Bells into a brush. When were you your happiest? Kiss the…

    War Poetry

    by Kate Clanchy

    from Samarkand (Picador) Forward Prizes for Poetry Best Collection shortlist 1999 The class has dropped its books. The janitor’s disturbed some wasps, broomed the nest straight off the roof. It lies outside, exotic as a fallen planet, a burst city of the poor; its newsprint halls, its ashen, tiny rooms all open to the air. The insects’…

    We Wear the Mask

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties. Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while…

    What On Earth Are You Talking About?

    by Chrissie Gittins

    My mum said I was in the doghouse – but our golden retriever already lives there. My sister said she was blowing her own trumpet – she has never owned a single wind instrument in her life. Dad said his mistake was swept under the carpet – I pulled up the carpets in every single…

    When I First Came from Nepal

    by Mukahang Limbu

    As I clutched my suitcase … thick hot sweat built in the slits of my palms, which shook holding its cool metal brace. We walked into day-winds, thick as dried out paint on unwashed canvas. The sky was painted daffodil yellow. The ground was a dirty grey. There was a metal bird: an array of…

    Who Cares

    by James Carter

    Who cares If  we  poison  the  land, the seas? We fell all the forests, we topple the trees? There’s plenty more galaxies, planets like these – with water, with air, with warmth, with light: homes like ours just right for life. Who cares if we lose those buzzy old bees? Who cares if there’s plastic…

    Who Knew

    by Chrissie Gittins

    Who knew when two pigeons flew down the nave of St Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata while a Bengali Choir sang Auld Lang Syne that flying could become an art in which __we can all partake. That an egret with his wooden feet can curve down a shivering river, that parents, married for 51 years can…