Disgust Poems

Poems that evoke disgust often explore the unsavory, unpleasant, or morally repugnant aspects of life and human nature. The poet’s use of strong, visceral language and vivid, unsettling imagery, brings to light feelings of intense dislike or aversion.

These poems may spotlight social injustices, unethical behaviors, or aspects of culture that the poet finds deeply troubling. By painting a vivid picture of the grotesque, they provoke a powerful emotional response, forcing the reader to confront uncomfortable truths and sparking deep introspection.

jasper texas 1998

by Lucille Clifton

‘jasper texas 1998’ by Lucille Clifton is a devastating poem that illustrates both the poet’s frustrated fury over and the dehumanizing barbarity of systemic racial violence against Black people in the United States.

Disgust is another emotion adjacent to anger that appears in Lucille Clifton's poem. The speaker expresses such vehement distaste toward the men who have killed the Black man's dead body that they now speak through. But it also offers up a wave of much more general anger that such atrocious acts of violence still occur in America.

i am a man's head hunched in the road.

i was chosen to speak by the members

of my body. the arm as it pulled away

pointed toward me, the hand opened once

Polar Exploration

by Stephen Spender

‘Polar Exploration’ reflects upon peaceful isolation and urban life, particularly how the latter appears to make the former impossible.

The narrator's disgust is tangible and directed in many directions. This speaks to the fact that the narrator themselves is miserable and looking for ways to spread that feeling. Above all, they find urban life to be sickening and disgusting.

Our single purpose was to walk through snow

With faces swung to their prodigious North

Like compass iron. As clerks in whited Banks

With bird-claw pens column virgin paper


The Hand That Signed the Paper

by Dylan Thomas

‘The Hands that Signed the Paper’ is a war protest poem that derides the appalling apathy and ruthlessness of the rulers toward ordinary citizens.

This poem very effectively brings out the emotion of disgust for the ruthless rulers of a country ruined by the war. You detest the apathy of the leaders who have big egos and can dictate the destiny of millions who have either died in war or are dying slowly due to hunger, diseases, or the extra burden of taxes. The leaders smugly sit in their ivory towers and don't even soothe the wounds of soldiers who fought the war.

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;

Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,

Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;

These five kings did a king to death.

The Virgins

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s poem ‘The Virgins’ gives a holistic view of the life, economy, and culture of one of the Virgin Islands of the US, Saint Croix.

In 'The Virgins,' Walcott's lyrical first-person speaker expresses his disgust at the poor condition of the people and the deserted landscape of the historic town of Frederiksted.

Down the dead streets of sun-stoned Frederiksted,

the first free port to die for tourism,

strolling at funeral pace, I am reminded

of life not lost to the American dream;

Eating Fried Chicken

by Linh Dinh

‘Eating Fried Chicken’ employs an unexpected experience as a way to explore privilege and injustice. It examines questions of guilt and morality through the lens of food availability.

There is a pervasive feeling throughout the poem that the speaker feels a level of disgust for himself and for the inequalities of the world. The poem plays with disgust in its description of fried chicken: the food sounds delicious, but its pleasures are lessened as the poem continues. The indulgence starts to feel gluttonous and unfair when compared to what many people in the world are lacking.

I hate to admit this, brother, but there are times

When I’m eating fried chicken

When I think about nothing else but eating fried chicken,

Sweeney among the Nightingales

by T.S. Eliot

‘Sweeney Among the Nightingales’ reflects the modern world’s degraded state through its layered allusions, symbolism, and imagery.

The description of Sweeney through animal imagery and his degraded sexuality can evoke visceral disgust in readers for the anti-hero - Sweeney. The character of Sweeney evokes revulsion for itself due to his dehumanized state.

Apeneck Sweeney spread his knees

Letting his arms hang down to laugh,

The zebra stripes along his jaw

Swelling to maculate giraffe.

The Planster’s Vision

by John Betjeman

‘The Planster’s Vision’ by John Betjeman satirizes the goals of men who indiscriminately demolish buildings of cultural or aesthetic significance.

Betjeman clearly wrote this poem with the intention of expressing and inspiring further disgust with the "planster's" vision of the future. His use of satire finds little humor in their purposes and instead tries to emphasize the absurd profanity of their goals. Using their vision against them by revealing in stark terms what it is exactly they are creating out of the rubble of the world they're destroying.

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,

Pouring their music through the branches bare,

From moon-white church-towers down the windy air

Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.


by Thomas Hardy

‘Heredity’ by Thomas Hardy is a persona poem personalizing the titular speaker who brags about its ability to outlive individual human lives.

Heredity's scorn for humanity's short existence is evident throughout the poem. The poet persona, though it does not have to, takes every available opportunity to express its disgust for man's predetermined fate to die.

I am the family face;

Flesh perishes, I live on,

Projecting trait and trace

Through time to times anon,

Sweeney Erect

by T.S. Eliot

‘Sweeney Erect’ presents the complex and ambiguous state of Sweeney, in turn questioning civilization’s state in the modern world.

'Sweeney Erect' carries immensely desolate imagery and portrayal of dehumanized, emotionless, and morally debased Sweeney while engaging with themes of sexuality and violence, thus, evoking readers' discomfort and disgust with the degraded world and the man presented in the poem.

And the trees about me,

Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks

Groan with continual surges; and behind me

Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!

To Life

by Thomas Hardy

‘To Life’ by Thomas Hardy is a deeply poignant poem that personifies life as a dreary individual whom the speaker accosts out of sadness.

The speaker of Thomas Hardy's poem expresses a number of different emotions toward the personification of life that approaches them. While their feelings shift near the end of the poem, at first, they greet the individual with something akin to disgust. The poet's diction and imagery emphasize just how "weary of seeing" life's "sad seared face" the speaker is.

O Life with the sad seared face,

I weary of seeing thee,

And thy draggled cloak, and thy hobbling pace,

And thy too-forced pleasantry!

Explore more poems about Disgust

Sonnet 142

by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 142, ‘Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,’ explores the dynamics of desire and morality in the speaker’s relationship.

The speaker establishes a difference between him and his beloved in the beginning, stating, 'O, but with mine compare thou thine own state/ And thou shalt find it merits not reproving' evoking a sense of disgust for his lady's behavior. The speaker is disgusted as he reproves his sin or lust toward her, while his beloved is probably proud of her immoral sexual transgressions.

Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,

Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:

O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,

And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

A Rhyme for Halloween

by Maurice Kilwein Guevara

‘A Rhyme for Halloween’ by Maurice Kilwein Guevara captures the ethereal macabre essence of the holiday in a poem that is as captivating as it is haunting.

An emotion found within the poem comes in the form of disgust, which might be inspired by certain readers who find its images particularly gruesome. The poem's final few stanzas especially rely on a litany of visceral imagery that hones in on the macabre side of Halloween. One great example of this is the description of the martyred woman's head rising out of the water.

Tonight I light the candles of my eyes in the lee

And swing down this branch full of red leaves.

Yellow moon, skull and spine of the hare,

Arrow me to town on the neck of the air.


by Gwendolyn Brooks

‘Riot’ by Gwendolyn Brooks is a poem that illustrates the dissonance that exists between the privileged and those who are driven to desperation to riot.

Disgust is another potent emotion expressed by John Cabot. His racist remarks themselves inspire their own disgust from the reader as well. Part of the poem's power is how acutely Brooks recreates the words of a man so consumed by such prejudiced perceptions and the vitriol that spills from their mouth when they come face to face with the people they are so disgusted by.

John Cabot, out of Wilma, once a Wycliffe,

all whitebluerose below his golden hair,

wrapped richly in right linen and right wool,

almost forgot his Jaguar and Lake Bluff;

The Hag

by Robert Herrick

‘The Hag’ by Robert Herrick is short poem that imagines with haunting detail a witch’s emergence into the night.

One emotion that the poem tries to inspire in its readers is disgust. This feeling is directed mainly at the hag, but it is also expressed in the descriptions of everything adjacent to her and extends to the natural world as well. This feeling is fueled by Herrick's theology and the belief that witches made sinister pacts with the devil.

The Hag is astride,

This night for to ride;

The Devill and shee together:

Through thick, and through thin,


I Ate Too Much Turkey

by Jack Prelutsky

In ‘I Ate Too Much Turkey’ by Jack Prelutsky, humor shines as the narrator hilariously laments their overindulgence during a Thanksgiving feast.

This poem elicits the emotion of disgust through the vivid descriptions of the narrator's physical discomfort and the consequences of their overindulgence. The mention of being "stuffed up with muffins" and the idea of buttons popping due to excessive eating evoke a sense of unease and revulsion, portraying the discomfort and displeasure associated with gluttony and its consequences.

I ate too much turkey,

I ate too much corn,

I ate too much pudding and pie,

I'm stuffed up with muffins

After the Battle

by Victor Hugo

In ‘After the Battle,’ Victor Hugo explores compassion amid war, highlighting the moral strength of kindness despite betrayal.

This poem elicits the emotion of disgust through the sudden and shocking act of betrayal committed by the wounded Spaniard. The reader may feel disgust at the soldier's treacherous behavior, particularly after the poet's father had offered him kindness. This emotional response stems from the stark contrast between compassion and betrayal, evoking a sense of revulsion toward the latter.

MY father, hero of benignant mien,

On horseback visited the gory scene,

After the battle as the evening fell,

And took with him a trooper loved right well,

To the Memory of Mr. Oldham

by John Dryden

John Dryden mourns the premature death of Mr. Oldham, celebrating his talent and reflecting on the fleeting nature of life.

The poem brings forth the emotion of disgust through the speaker's shared abhorrence of "knaves and fools." The phrase "And knaves and fools we both abhorr'd alike" conveys a strong sense of disdain towards deceitful individuals and foolishness. This expression of contempt generates a feeling of disgust, highlighting the speaker's revulsion towards such unsavory characters and behaviors.

Farewell, too little and too lately known,

Whom I began to think and call my own;

For sure our souls were near ally'd; and thine

Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.

Last Lesson of the Afternoon

by D.H. Lawrence

‘Last Lesson of the Afternoon’ portrays a disillusioned teacher’s weariness with unengaged students and the futility of teaching.

This poem elicits the emotion of disgust through the speaker's repulsion towards the students' indifference, sloppy work, and lack of effort. The descriptions of "blotted pages" and "slovenly work" invoke a sense of revulsion and distaste. The poem's portrayal of the students' apathy and the speaker's disillusionment with the educational system evokes a feeling of disgust toward the perceived waste and disrespect exhibited by the students.

When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?

How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart,

My pack of unruly hounds! I cannot start

Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,

The City Planners

by Margaret Atwood

‘The City Planners’ by Margaret Atwood is an image-rich poem in which the poet depicts the fundamentally flawed nature of the suburbs. 

The speaker's tone reflects a sense of disgust toward the planned orderliness, seeing it as a facade that hides life's natural complexities and challenges. This ordered environment, where even "driveways neatly sidestep hysteria," attempts to scrub away the unpredictability that makes human experience rich and varied.

Cruising these residential Sunday

streets in dry August sunlight:

what offends us is

the sanities:

The Hyacinth Garden in Brooklyn

by Hayden Carruth

Carruth’s ‘The Hyacinth Garden in Brooklyn’ juxtaposes fragrant beauty with Hyacinthus’s tragic fate, evoking mortality’s intertwining with nature, myth, and memory.

The poem elicits a sense of disgust through its vivid imagery of Hyacinthus's body "rotting" and "melting" among the flowers. The decay and decomposition depicted in these lines evoke a visceral reaction, creating a feeling of repulsion. This revulsion towards the deterioration of beauty and life adds to the poem's exploration of mortality and the darker aspects of existence.

A year ago friends

took me walking

on the esplanade

in Brooklyn. I've


by Maxine Kumin

Amid opulent bills and undersea dreams, Kumin’s ‘Spree’ unveils family conflicts and materialistic illusions with evocative language.

This poem triggers disgust through its portrayal of excessive materialism and its ethical ramifications. The father's pursuit of luxury at the cost of animal lives, juxtaposed with opulent bills, evokes a sense of moral repugnance. This discomfort arises from the stark contrast between material indulgence and its consequences, prompting a visceral reaction.

My father paces the upstairs hall

a large confined animal

neither wild nor yet domesticated.

About him hangs the smell of righteous wrath.


The Lovers of the Poor

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks’ scathing critique exposes Ladies’ insincere charity, highlighting social inequality and privilege.

This poem triggers the emotion of disgust through its vivid portrayal of the Ladies' Betterment League's patronizing and superficial charity efforts. The poem exposes their detachment and condescension, evoking a sense of repulsion for their lack of genuine understanding and empathy towards the impoverished. The stark contrast between privilege and poverty evokes a feeling of disdain for their performative philanthropy.

arrive. The Ladies from the Ladies’ Betterment League

Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting

In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag


by Edgar Allan Poe

‘Ulalume’ explores the depths of sorrow and the haunting impact of loss, as the speaker navigates a dark and mysterious landscape.

The poem evokes the emotion of disgust through its macabre and gothic imagery, particularly in the portrayal of ghouls, dim lakes, and misty regions. The description of a "sinfully scintillant" planet from the Hell of planetary souls adds to the eerie and unsettling atmosphere. The poem's dark and haunting elements provoke a feeling of revulsion and discomfort, enhancing the overall sense of disgust.

The skies they were ashen and sober;

The leaves they were crispéd and sere—

The leaves they were withering and sere;

It was night in the lonesome October

Domestic Peace

by Anne Brontë

‘Domestic Peace’ laments a transformed household, contrasting external calm with internal desolation, emphasizing the profound impact of emotional connections.

This poem triggers a sense of disgust through the portrayal of emotional desolation within the once-happy household. The contrast between past contentment and present emptiness may evoke a feeling of distaste for the loss of a harmonious atmosphere. The yearning for the return of positivity accentuates this emotional aversion to the current state.

Why should such gloomy silence reign;

And why is all the house so drear,

When neither danger, sickness, pain,

Nor death, nor want have entered here?

The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven

by Jack Prelutsky

In ‘The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven,’ a culinary catastrophe turns comical as a turkey’s unconventional escape leads to hilarious mayhem.

The poem evokes a subtle sense of disgust through its vivid descriptions of the messy aftermath. Phrases like "splattered all over the kitchen" and "smearing saucers and bowls" create images of a messy and unappetizing scene, evoking a mild sense of disgust at the chaos and disarray caused by the turkey's unconventional behavior. However, this disgust is balanced by the poem's overall humorous and lighthearted tone.

Take a turkey, stuff it fat,

Some of this and some of that.

Get some turnips, peel them well.

Cook a big squash in its shell.


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.

Crow Sickened

by Ted Hughes

‘Crow Sickened’ is a brilliant example of Hughes’ playful style, in which Crow attempts to work out the cause of his misery.

Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love

by John Donne

‘Elegy VII’ by John Donne, also known as ‘Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,’ is a typical piece about unrequited love.

Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,

And in that sophistry, oh, thou dost prove

Too subtle: Fool, thou didst not understand

The mystic language of the eye nor hand:

First News from Villafranca

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘First News from Villafranca’ is a protest poem written in reaction to the Villafranca Armistice (11 July 1859) between Emperors Napoleon III of France and Francis Joseph I of Austria.

Peace, peace, peace, do you say?

  What! — with the enemy's guns in our ears?

  With the country's wrong not rendered back?

What! — while Austria stands at bay

Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)

by William Blake

‘Holy Thursday’ by William Blake depicts the poor children of London attending church on Holy Thursday. Specifically, Blake describes their songs, appearance, and how their existence challenges the message the church is trying to convey.

Is this a holy thing to see, 

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reducd to misery,

Fed with cold and usurous hand?

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