13 of the Best Poems About Women 

On this list, readers will find thirteen thought-provoking and image-filled poems in which women’s lives are described and explored. Some are beautifully optimistic and filled with determined power, while others are much darker and allude to troubling themes like suicide and imprisonment. 

Best Poems About Women 

 

I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay 

One of Millay’s best-known poems, ‘I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed,’ describes how women need to resist the frenzy that relationships can provide and instead walk away “unpossessed.” The poet’s speaker celebrates her own power to walk away from a relationship and from any man she chooses. She isn’t addicted to the mental and emotional connection that some people are. Here are a few lines from the start of the poem: 

I, being born a woman and distressed

By all the needs and notions of my kind,

Am urged by your propinquity to find

Your person fair, and feel a certain zest

 

Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath 

A lesser-known Plath poem, but one of her best. It is a wonderful example of figurative language and how an extended metaphor can be used. The mushrooms in this poem are used as a symbol for women and their struggle for equal rights. Here are a few lines: 

We shall by morning

Inherit the earth

Our foot’s in the door

 

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou’s most famous poem, and one that’s inspired countless readers to persevere through even the most difficult hardship. The refrain of “still I rise” is a powerful reminder to continue standing up no matter what happens. Here are the first four lines: 

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

A Woman Speaks by Audre Lorde 

‘A Woman Speaks’ is another inspiring poem about women and their place in the world. In this case, the poet emphasizes the cross-cultural conversations that should occur between women and open a dialogue about the treatment of women of color. 

I do not dwell

within my birth nor my divinities

who am ageless and half-grown

and still seeking

my sisters

 

Her Kind by Anne Sexton 

‘Her Kind’ appeared in ‘To Bedlam and Part Way Back’, published in 1960. It is a powerful poem in which the speaker describes the nature of a woman’s misunderstood life and the images that define her. She declares in the end that she’s not ashamed to die and be burnt at the stake by those who don’t understand her. 

I have gone out, a possessed witch,

haunting the black air, braver at night;

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch

over the plain houses, light by light:

 

I’m “wife” – I’ve finished that by Emily Dickinson 

This poem explores the themes of independence and womanhood. It takes the reader through the life of someone considered a “spinster” as Dickinson was and someone who is a wife. 

I’m “wife” – I’ve finished that –

That other state –

I’m Czar – I’m “Woman” now –

It’s safer so –

 

On Being a Woman by Dorothy Parker

In the short lines of ‘On Being a Woman,’ the poet depicts a metaphorical woman’s changing state of mind. She wants to be where she isn’t, love who leaves her, and grows bored when she loved herself. 

Why is it, when I am in Rome,

I’d give an eye to be at home,

But when on native earth I be,

My soul is sick for Italy?

 

The Woman Who Shopped by Carol Ann Duffy 

‘The Woman Who Shopped’ explores the stereotypical woman spending time at stores but expands that image and allows the shop to take on its own character. Through the text, Duffy argues that women are made into commodities. 

saved up a pound, a fiver, a tenner, haggled the price

of a dancing dress down to a snip, spent the remainder

on shoes, danced from the house down the street, taped to the

centre of town where the sales had commenced,

 

Woman Work by Maya Angelou 

‘Woman Work’ describes the multifaceted life of a woman working hard to care for her children and her home. The poem concludes with a wistful description of a storm she’d like to wish her away so she could “float across the sky.” 

Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.

 

Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath 

The second Plath poem on this list and one of her best-known. ‘Lady Lazarus’ is a complicated and controversial poem in which the poet references suicide, suffering, Nazis, and more. The poem is usually interpreted as an expression of Plath’s suicidal ideation. 

I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it-

 

Flying Inside Your Own Body by Margaret Atwood 

This piece depicts the freedom a woman can achieve in their dream world and the different restriction they face when they wake back up to reality. Atwood compares the dreaming body to that of a bird, one that rises and floats into the sky. There, the world is much more beautiful than it is while one is awake. 

Your lungs fill & spread themselves,

wings of pink blood, and your bones

empty themselves and become hollow.

 

The Map-Woman by Carol Ann Duffy 

This wonderful poem by Carol Ann Duffy, the first female Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, explores female identity through a depiction of the body. She uses the fictional story of a woman with a map etched on her body to depict how someone’s past experiences shape who they are. 

A woman’s skin was a map of the town

where she’d grown from a child.

When she went out, she covered it up

with a dress, with a shawl, with a hat,

 

The Heart of a Woman by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

This poem depicts the freedom for which women yearn and the lives in which they are inevitably imprisoned. The speaker uses images, such as that of a woman’s heart flying from her like a “lone bird” to describe a woman’s life. The woman temporarily experiences freedom and is then forced back into her everyday world. 

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,

As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,

Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam

In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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