‘I keep, and pass, and turn again’ — poems of my life

I date my love for poetry to 1987 when in seventh grade I read Robert Frost’s “The Pasture” and “Stopping By Woods in a Snowy Evening.” At the start of eighth grade I read Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” and Emily Dickinson’s “I”m Nobody! Who are You?” My parents bought me two paperback editions of Frost and Dickinson’s work, the former a Bantam Classics edition of Louis Untermeyer’s famous annotated and illustrated version. I memorized “The Cowl in Apple Time,” “A Minor Bird,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “To the Thawing Wind.” But not until senior year of high school when an excellent AP English read Hardy and Housman aloud in a cool, dry tones did I realize poetry mattered to me as much as the novel, although it was hard to find anyone who agreed, even when I kept hearing at the time how thanks to Billy Collins and Jewel interest in poetry was at its apex, which, considering what the post-Internet publishing landscape would look like may have been correct. Proposing a graduate thesis on James Merrill, I got more bites from possible committee members than I would ten years later, let me say (I dumped the idea).

Thirty poems by English-speaking poets I can’t live without:

John Keats – Ode to a Nightingale
Elizabeth Bishop – At the Fishhouses
Thomas Hardy – The Voice
John Donne – The Flea
Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Nuptial Sleep
Byron – Don Juan
Andrew Marvell – The Garden
Hart Crane – Voyages
Derek Walcott – The Hotel Normandie Pool
John Ashbery – Wakefulness
Jorie Graham – I Watched a Snake
Wilfred Owen – Anthem for Doomed Youth
D.H. Lawrence – The Ship of Death
May Swenson – Sleeping with Boa
Emily Dickinson – Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant
W.H. Auden – September 1, 1939
James Merrill – Nights and Days
Philip Larkin – Aubade
Jay Wright – The Cradle Logic of Autumn
Geoffrey Hill – Genesis
Alfred, Lord Tennyson – Demeter and Persephone
Elinor Wylie – Wild Peaches
Emily Bronte – No Coward Soul is Mine
Wallace Stevens – The Plain Sense of Things
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Mont Blanc
Robert Frost – Two Tramps in Mud Time
T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land
Seamus Heaney – The Otter
Adrienne Rich – Snapshots of a Daughter in Law
William Wordsworth – Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey
Galway Kinnell – Wait
William Butler Yeats – Adam’s Curse
Donald Justice – Nostalgia of the Lakefronts

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