Frustration Poems

Poetry exploring frustration often expresses a sense of exasperation and discontent. Such poems echo with the tension of unmet expectations, stalled progress, or recurring obstacles.

The poet uses vivid imagery and raw language to articulate this vexation, creating a palpable atmosphere of irritability and impatience. These verses enable the reader to connect with the universal experience of frustration, validating their own struggles and offering a cathartic release for pent-up emotions.

Hymn to Aphrodite

by Sappho

The ‘Hymn to Aphrodite’ by Sappho is an ancient lyric in which Sappho begs for Aphrodite’s help in managing her turbulent love life.

It is easy to feel frustrated for Sappho in 'Hymn to Aphrodite,' as the poet seems fed up that all of her love affairs go sour eventually. She also seems frustrated that she has to ask for help from the gods in keeping love in her life. However, above all Sappho is infectiously frustrated that no love ever seems to go her way, no matter what she does.

Beautiful-throned, immortal Aphrodite,

Daughter of Zeus, beguiler, I implore thee,

Weigh me not down with weariness and anguish

O thou most holy!

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

‘My Mother Would Be a Falconress’ by Robert Duncan explores a son and mother’s relationship through the lens of a falcon breaking free from his handler.

The speaker's frustration with his mother and with himself is at the crux of this poem, adding emotional complexity to every word. While the speaker seems ultimately most frustrated with his domineering mother, even after her death, he battles thoughts of how he angrily lashed out at her and left her.

My mother would be a falconress,

And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,

would fly to bring back

from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,

The Tables Turned

by William Wordsworth

In ‘The Tables Turned,’ Wordsworth invites us to break free from the constraints of modern society and rediscover the natural world’s beauty and wisdom.

This poem is persuasive, convincing you to change your mindset regarding knowledge and education. However, this implies the speaker's mindset is entirely different from the reader the speaker is trying to convince. Therefore in this comparison poem, you can feel the frustration as the speaker tells you the benefits he finds obvious. Yet, the open-ended response at the end of the poem, allowing the reader to choose their path, implies the speaker felt their argument was sufficient enough to change the reader's mind.

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you'll grow double:

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?

an afternoon nap

by Arthur Yap

‘an afternoon nap’ by Arthur Yap explores the lacunae in the modern education system and how it results in anxiety and stress in students.

Explore 'an afternoon nap' by Arthur Yap in order to find a mother-son duo completely frustrated with the actions of one another.

the ambitious mother across the road

is at it again. proclaming her goodness

she beats the boy. shouting out his wrongs, with raps

she begins with his mediocre report-book grades.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T.S. Eliot

Breaking away from Victorian diction, T.S. Eliot presents the distinct realities of his time in the stream of consciousness by experimenting with poetic form.

The poem teases the reader from the beginning as Prufrock introduces his intention of asking the "overwhelming question." The readers anticipating the moment of the question experience frustration as Prufrock keeps on procrastinating the climactic action while constantly digressing into fragmented thoughts which are difficult to understand.

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

In this poem, the speaker's frustration with their own proclivity for loving other people is apparent. Love, to the speaker, is like a bird that nests and mates in one's heart, never allowing the space to become empty. While the speaker seems content to have one love, the bird keeps multiplying and reproducing, crowding the speaker's heart with incessant chatter.

Thou indeed, little Swallow,

A sweet yearly comer.

Art building a hollow

New nest every summer.

The Blackstone Rangers

by Gwendolyn Brooks

‘The Blackstone Rangers’ by Gwendolyn Brooks is a stunning poem that plunges earnestly into the daily life of the group in order to uncover some truth about its purpose and necessity.

Frustration is also an emotion expressed within the poem. It comes in varying degrees from all three points of view explored within it. The cops at the beginning are boiling over in frustration over the persistent existence of the Blackstone Rangers; the Rangers' efforts are frustrated by their own controversial reputation even as they successfully win some semblance of autonomy; and Mary Ann expresses frustration over being trapped in a life with such limited choices.

There they are.

Thirty at the corner.

Black, raw, ready.

Sores in the city

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.

Right from the very beginning of the poem, Walcott pours his frustration out about the free-market economy of the Virgin Islands.

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;

The Wreck of the Hesperus

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a narrative poem about a shipwreck and the dangers of pride in an emergency.

The skipper is a very frustrating man, as he doesn't respect anyone. He may care for his daughter, but he doesn't make wise decisions. He is too caught up in being powerful and exemplary to listen to both nature and his crew.

It was the schooner Hesperus,

That sailed the wintry sea;

And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,

To bear him company.


by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich’s ‘Orion’ explores the emotional depths of relationships and the search for self-identity amidst societal pressures.

This poem elicits the emotion of frustration through the speaker's contemplation of her own struggles and limitations. The references to the addressee's youth and energy, juxtaposed with the speaker's aging and feeling weighed down, suggest a sense of dissatisfaction and longing for a different state. The speaker's recognition of her bruising, blundering, and broken faith conveys a sense of frustration with herself and the challenges she face in navigating her identity and relationships.

Far back when I went zig-zagging

through tamarack pastures

you were my genius, you

my cast-iron Viking, my helmed

Explore more poems about Frustration

The Lesson

by Roger McGough

‘The Lesson’ by Roger McGough is an interesting and unique satirical poem that depicts the violent result of a teacher’s built-up rage.

Chaos ruled OK in the classroom

as bravely the teacher walked in

the nooligans ignored him

his voice was lost in the din

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.

An emotion that defines Thomas Hardy's poem is the speaker's intense frustration with life. On the surface, this annoyance stems from their ragged and sad appearance, which the speaker cannot bear to see. But viewed through the poem's extended metaphor, the poem becomes an agonizing expression of one's existential frustrations with life.

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!

Ave Maria

by Frank O’Hara

In ‘Ave Maria,’ Frank O’Hara urges mothers to let their children enjoy the guilty pleasures of adolescence. Otherwise, he contends, their kids will become resentful, stunted adults.

O'Hara expresses frustration through his subversive sermon in 'Ave Maria." He repeatedly urges mothers to forgo puritanical thinking and allow their children to experience independence and freedom.

Mothers of America

let your kids go to the movies!

get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to

Dear heart, why will you use me so

by James Joyce

‘Dear heart, why will you use me so’ by James Joyce both revels and despairs the rapturous reign and inevitable sundering that love delivers.

The speaker of James Joyce's poem also expresses a certain amount of frustration throughout the poem. This emotion is most concentrated in the first and third stanzas, where they desperately question their heart, asking why this love that possesses them also brings them such pain. All of which develops the poem's lucid understanding of love's sublime but terrible power.

Dear heart, why will you use me so?

Dear eyes that gently me upbraid,

Still are you beautiful—but O,

How is your beauty raimented!

I saw a man pursuing the horizon

by Stephen Crane

‘I saw a man pursuing the horizon’ by Stephen Crane is a short but incredibly moving poem about chasing impossibilities with multiple interpretations.

An emotion that the poem can inspire is frustration, which stems from the speaker's own biased perspective. To them, the man's seemingly futile goal bothers them on a personal level. This indicates that their motivations are somewhat selfish, though it does tap into this indignation toward the ignorant. The man also expresses his own frustration at being told what he's doing is pointless.

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;

Round and round they sped.

I was disturbed at this;

I accosted the man.

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' throughout remains highly ambiguous while presenting dark imagery, multiple voices, and complex allusions, creating confusion. The poem gives no respite to the readers as the allusions become increasingly complex, and the main character Sweeney is also not a hero but a morally debased man existing amidst the war-ravaged degraded world.

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!

I can wade Grief-

by Emily Dickinson

‘I can wade Grief-‘ by Emily Dickinson is a fairly simple poem about strength in the face of sorrow. The speaker describes the detrimental effect of happiness during a period of struggle.

The frustration that arises from setbacks is presented to be acute and painful. The moment the speaker feels joy again for the first time they are suddenly overcome by sadness, presumably because they cannot share that joy with their loved one.

I can wade Grief—

Whole Pools of it—

I'm used to that—

Behind Grandma’s House

by Gary Soto

‘Behind Grandma’s House’ by Gary Soto is a short humorous poem about a problematic child who craves attention and their grandma who gives them this attention in the most unexpected way.

The frustration of the speaker as a child is obvious throughout the poem. The gradual escalation of their actions indicates this. They are desperate to receive attention and are continually frustrated when they do not get it in the way they crave it.

At ten I wanted fame. I had a comb

And two coke bottles, a tube of Bryl-creem.

I borrowed a dog, one with

Mismatched eyes and a happy tongue,

Questions About Angels

by Billy Collins

In ‘Questions About Angels,’ the speaker wonders why people are not more imaginative or curious in their questions about metaphysical beings. He interrogates religious tradition by envisioning angels in a variety of forms, the last being a single dancer in a jazz bar, whose beautiful form inspires spirituality in the speaker.

In this poem, the speaker expresses irritation with the lack of imagination in religious thought experiments. He asks increasingly fanciful and provoking questions about angels as a way to interrogate religious tradition.

Of all the questions you might want to ask

about angels, the only one you ever hear

is how many can dance on the head of a pin.


Whispers of Immortality

by T.S. Eliot

‘Whispers of Immortality’ contemplates yearning for immortality and the power of art amidst the permanence of death.

The poem's critique of worldly pursuits and pleasures with emphasis on the permanence of mortality and reflection on the true nature of immortality deny the human desire for immortality, making the poem dark and gloomy while evoking readers' frustration; the poem gives no respite to readers with any optimism rather further frustrates them with dark imagery such as of "carnal stench."

Webster was much possessed by death

And saw the skull beneath the skin;

And breastless creatures under ground

Leaned backward with a lipless grin.


by Maxine Kumin

‘Woodchucks’ by Maxine Kumin is a metaphorical poem which uses the conceit of a farmer hunting woodchucks to uncover the murderous tendencies only a position of power can reveal in humans.

The persona's frustration is evident in the second and third stanzas of the poem. One can compare the farmer to a leader who grows frustrated when governance does not go their way. Evidence of this frustration appears when the farmer starts killing off these pests violently.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling

to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.

I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace

puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,

Cuddle Doon

by Alexander Anderson

‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson is a poem about a mother trying to persuade her children to go to sleep. It uses Scots dialect to convey the culture of the speaker and her family.

The mother certainly feels frustrated and exasperated by her sons' behavior throughout the poem. She wishes they would just settle down and go to sleep. However, she never lets her frustration turn into anger. She always treats her children lovingly, even if it means that they cause a great deal of trouble.

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht

Wi muckle faught and din.

“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,

Your faither’s comin’ in.”

I Do Not

by Michael Palmer

‘I Do Not’ by Michael Palmer is a poignant exploration of the limitations imposed by a lack of English proficiency, highlighting the speaker’s isolation, frustration, and longing to communicate and connect with others.

Michael Palmer's poem 'I Do Not' expresses the emotion of frustration through the speaker's repeated assertion of not knowing English and his subsequent inability to fully express himself. The poem captures the mounting frustration that arises from the language barrier, as the speaker is unable to participate in conversations, convey his past and hopes, or even comprehend responses. The repetition and emphasis on limitations create a sense of exasperation, highlighting the underlying frustration experienced by the speaker.

I do not know English.

I do not know English, and therefore I can have nothing to

say about this latest war, flowering through a night-

scope in the evening sky.

Invisible Fish

by Joy Harjo

‘Invisible Fish’ by Joy Harjo is a beautiful poem that illustrates time’s oppressive persistence on both the natural world and humankind.

Another emotion Joy Harjo's poem can inspire is a certain frustration. One that is rooted in the speaker's implied sadness toward this long-gone ocean and what has replaced it in its absence. This might depend on a much more cynical interpretation of the poem. But there is enough to support such a feeling being expressed.

Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now described by waves of sand, by water-worn rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk.

I Remember, I Remember

by Thomas Hood

‘I Remember, I Remember’ by Thomas Hood is a poem dedicated to the nostalgic embrace of childhood memory. Hood idolizes his ‘childish ignorance’, painting his memories with beautiful colors and images.

Frustration arises from the speaker's realization that he can never go back to the simplicity and bliss of childhood. This feeling becomes most apparent when he expresses a wish that he could go back to the way things were. This shows that his frustration reaches a point where he questions the value of having grown up at all.

I remember, I remember,

The house where I was born,

The little window where the sun

Came peeping in at morn;

Yellow Stars and Ice

by Susan Stewart

‘Yellow Stars and Ice’ captures the unattainable nature of memory, even when it feels tantalizingly close at hand.

The narrator is frustrated in their attempts to reach the person or place that feels close at hand. Ultimately, it seems that they will never reach it as the thing or person they want to reach exists only in their memory.

I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds

and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,

and I am as far as a train at evening,

as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember.  

He loved three things, alive:

by Anna Akhmatova

‘He loved three things, alive:’ by Anna Akhmatova is a short poem in which the speaker describes her husbands likes and dislikes. 

Frustration emerges as a theme in the poem through the husband's dislikes and the speaker's acknowledgement of their marital struggles. The juxtaposition of love and frustration within the context of the husband's preferences underscores the tensions that can arise within relationships. The poem hints at the husband's dissatisfaction with certain aspects of life, which may indirectly affect the speaker and their marriage.

He loved three things, alive:

White peacocks, songs at eve,

And antique maps of America.

Hated when children cried,

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. 

Frustration emanates from the speaker's observations, primarily directed at the superficiality and artifice of the meticulously organized environment. The speaker finds this kind of orchestrated order to be restrictive and confining.

Cruising these residential Sunday

streets in dry August sunlight:

what offends us is

the sanities:

In a Wood

by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy’s ‘In a Wood’ explores disillusionment in nature as conflicts and rivalries undermine the speaker’s search for solace.

The poem elicits a sense of frustration through its depiction of conflicts and rivalries within nature. The speaker's initial longing for peace and harmony is met with disappointment as they witness the struggles and limitations present among the trees. The vivid imagery and the tone of disillusionment convey a feeling of frustration, highlighting the inability to find the desired unity and serenity, thus evoking a sense of frustration in the face of unfulfilled expectations.

Pale beech and pine-tree blue,

Set in one clay,

Bough to bough cannot you

Bide out your day?

Arrivals, Departures

by Philip Larkin

‘Arrivals, Departures’ by Philip Larkin depicts a narrator who is unable to resist the desire to travel. Whenever he’s faced with the choice to leave or stay, he always chooses the former.

Frustration is a prominent emotion in 'Poetry Of Departures,' stemming from the conflict between the speaker's actual life and their longing for something else. This frustration encapsulates the struggle with societal expectations and self-imposed constraints.

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,

As epitaph:

He chucked up everything

And just cleared off,