Confusion Poems

“Why did you come” (#1 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

‘Why did you come’ by Hilda Doolittle is a free-verse poem about love, self-criticism, aging, and the human inability to control judgments and desires.

In "Why did you come," Hilda Doolittle does not know how to feel. She is confused by her amorous feelings and seems torn between her emotional appeal to her unnamed visitor and the critical thoughts that run through her head. She seems to want to control her desire, but simply cannot, despite her fears of judgment.

The Victor Dog

by James Merrill

‘The Victor Dog’ by James Merrill is a humorous, yet deep poem that puts the listener in the position of a dog listening to music, hearing but not understanding the complexity of its art.

It's hard to say, but in 'The Victor Dog,' Merrill intentionally attempts to confuse his listeners, throwing in allusions and puns to distract the listener from the real meaning of the poem. He does so to reflect the way people perceive art differently. While some can only see the surface value, others feel emotions, some sense colors and smells, while others look at all art analytically.


by Jackie Kay

‘Rubble’ by Jackie Kay is a dramatic monologue that was included in her collection, Darling: New & Selected Poems. It conveys an individual’s cluttered and chaotic mind. 

Part of what makes the poem so unsettling is that the reader is forced to experience the narrator's sense of uncertainty, as the poem is narrated inside their head.

Love Poem

by Gregory Orr

‘Love Poem’ by Gregory Orr is a short poem about a speaker’s imaginative telling of asking for someone’s phone number.

The beginning of the poem is rife with confusion as the reader is thrust into the imaginations of the speaker. Their description of the bizarre scenario unfolding before them is what drives the poem forward and also what makes the ironic twist at its end all the more potent.


by Hilda Doolittle

‘Circe’ by Hilda Doolittle is a poem that gives voice to Circe, a goddess and master of magical enchantments. Despite her power, she laments that she cannot control love.

Circe is a defensive, powerful character who seems combative due to her language and tone. However, she ultimately appeals to empathy and compassion as she reveals that her power is meaningless without another person to love. This inference opens a window for the listener to understand that Circe is only feared because she is vulnerable and, in the case of love, powerless.

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

by Emily Dickinson

‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’ by Emily Dickinson is a popular poem. In it, she depicts a very unusual idea of life after death.

Dickinson conveys a speaker's failing mindset and confusion in this poem.

Each and All

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Each and All’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson depicts nature as interconnected and dependent on all other living and non-living things. The poet uses a few clever examples to demonstrate why he sees the world this way. 

The speaker is at times confused by why things, like the bird's song, the woman, and the shells loose their beauty.

Go to Ahmedabad

by Sujata Bhatt

‘Go to Ahmedabad’ shows the psychological struggle of an immigrant dealing with disturbing past events and contemporary issues with newly developed views.

The speaker seems confused while dealing with her overpowering emotions as she walks the streets of Ahmedabad after years. Confusion for readers emerges with the speaker's sudden articulation of her contradictory feelings.

Ruins of a Great House

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s ‘Ruins of a Great House’ combines themes of historical and cultural abuse with factual reasoning and literary references to bring together a massive emotional conflict in the Speaker’s perception.

This poem has a lot of confusion stemming from the narrator as they debate their feelings and emotions. They cannot fathom how the British have done such horrid things but also have given such outstanding literature, especially literature that seems to relate to the Speaker at this moment.

The Forest

by Susan Stewart

‘The Forest’ by Susan Stewart is a complex, cyclical poem about how memories can give new life to things that no longer exist.

This poem is mysterious and cryptic, which may induce some confusion in the listener. However, if one takes the time and patience to work out the complexities of this poem, it becomes clear that it expresses a deep, profound idea about memory and change that might otherwise be challenging to articulate.

Bloody Men

by Wendy Cope

‘Bloody Men’ by Wendy Cope is a short, contemporary poem by a British award-winning author. It uses a metaphor to compare men to buses.

The speaker is confused regarding which bus she should get on or which man she should choose.


by Elizabeth Alexander

‘Equinox’ by Elizabeth Alexander is a heartfelt poem about death and how all living things are forced to contend with it. The speaker uses a creative metaphor comparing bees on the equinox to her grandmother. 

Both the grandmother and the bees act out of confusion and fear in this poem. The grandmother wakes up from the stroke and hits the nurse at her bedside, frustrated in their confused state about what's going on.


by Derek Walcott

‘Lampfall’ by Derek Walcott dives deep into an investigation of thought, dreaming, community and connection while also implying that nature and thought are more meaningful than development.

This poem isn't the easiest poem to decode. Walcott packs meaning into every image within the poem, leading the listener into a dream-like world where the lines between dark and light, alive and dead, and natural and artificial are blurry. This worldview is the point of the poem, as Walcott sees the disassociation and direct influence of nature in his poem.

Latin & Soul

by Victor Hernández Cruz

‘Latin & Soul’ by Victor Hernández Cruz conveys the sublimely affecting power of music on a group of dancers.

A feeling of confusion is developed in the final two stanzas as the an unknown commotion interrupts the music and dancing. This moment of chaos is aided by Cruz's sharp imagisms and ambiguous writing.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

by Robert Duncan

‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’ by Robert Duncan is often regarded as the poet’s best work. It analyzes the poet’s dream of a meadow while also exploring the new technique of projective verse.

With many contradictions and paradoxical statements, this poem is not the easiest to understand. However, that is wholly intentional on the poet's part. As he attempts to articulate his dream, it becomes clear that there is a power beyond the poet and the dream that creates all things. However, this power is not within the grasp of human understanding.

Parades, Parades

by Derek Walcott

‘Parades, Parades’ by Derek Walcott is an interesting, allusion-filled poem that discusses Saint Lucia after the end of British colonial rule. 

Walcott doesn't undesrtand how the country got to where they are and how they aren't doing better than they are.

August, Los Angeles, Lullaby

by Carol Muske-Dukes

‘August, Los Angeles, Lullaby’ by Carol Muske-Dukes is a contemporary poem about bringing life into the world and the worries that plague a mother after giving birth. 

There is a definitely a degree of confusion in this poem as the speaker tries to understand what happens next, and how to be optimistic, after the birth of her daughter.

From My Life: A name trimmed with colored ribbons

by Lyn Hejinian

‘A name trimmed with colored ribbons’ by Lyn Hejinian is a Language Poem that requires the listener to use their imagination and creativity to reconstruct and interpret the poet’s childhood fantasies.

'A name trimmed with colored ribbons' is an intentionally challenging and confusing poem. Using its shifting point of view and semi-incoherent perspective, it forces the listener to create an imaginary world, fusing the speaker's childhood with the present-day reader's perspective.


by Gregory Corso

‘Marriage’ by Gregory Corso is a humorous and interesting poem about the pros and cons of getting married and everything that comes with it, like having children. 

Confusion is certainly the most prominent emotion felt in this poem. The speaker is entirely consumed by the pros and cons of getting married or staying single. He goes back and forth between options several times.

Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

‘Sunlight on the Garden’ by Louis MacNeice is a poem about change, death, and accepting that life eventually ends.

There is an element of confusion as the poet struggles with what his life is like now.

Please Mrs. Butler

by Allan Ahlberg

‘Please Mrs. Butler’ by Allan Ahlberg is a children’s poem that conveys a frustrating and purposeless conversation between a student and their teacher. 

The student no doubt feels confused by their teacher's response to their issues.

A Jet Ring Sent

by John Donne

‘A Jet Ring Sent’ by John Donne describes how a speaker’s beloved returned his promise ring. The speaker meditates on the nature of their relationship and how it is symbolized by the black ring. 

A Long Journey

by Musaemura Zimunya

‘A Long Journey’ by Musaemura Zimunya is based on the changes that came to Rhodesia, a small country in southern Africa, after British colonial rule. The speaker explores the positive changes and the negative.

A Picture of Otto

by Ted Hughes

‘A Picture of Otto’ by Ted Hughes is addressed to Sylvia Plath’s father, Otto. It contains Hughes’ disagreements about how he and Otto were depicted in Plath’s work.

Abuelito Who

by Sandra Cisneros

‘Abuelito Who’ by Sandra Cisneros is a powerful poem about the importance of family. The poem conveys the ways that illness and change within the family dynamic can have on a child.


by Adelaide Crapsey

‘Amaze’ by Adelaide Crapsey explores the poet’s hands and the emotions she experiences when she looks at them she sees her mother’s.

Amethyst Beads

by Eavan Boland

‘Amethyst Beads’ by Eavan Boland alludes to Greek mythology and the suffering of a child, Persephone, after she was separated from her mother, Demeter.


by Eavan Boland

‘Anorexic’ by Eavan Boland conveys the mindset of a woman determined to destroy her physical body through starvation and filled with hatred for her sinful past, as according to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.


by Andrew Hudgins

‘Begotten’ appears in the American poet Andrew Hudgins’ poetry collection The Glass Hammer: A Southern Childhood (1994). This poem is about a child finding his resemblance to the other members of his family.

Belfast Confetti

by Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson’s poem ‘Belfast Confetti’ describes how external conflicts influence a speaker’s mind. It speaks on the aftermath of the Troubles in Belfast.

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