Guilt Poems

Carpet-weavers, Morocco

by Carol Rumens

‘Carpet-weavers, Morocco’ is a challenging poem which explores issues such as child labour as well as examining the myriad origins of beauty.

The poet clearly evokes a sense of guilt in the reader, for more reasons than might be immediately obvious.

From The Complaints of Poverty

by Nicholas James

‘The Complaints of Poverty’ by Nicholas James uses rhetorical devices and rhyme to give the rich a good look at how unpleasant it is to be poor. James indirectly challenges the stigmas associated with both wealth and poverty, inviting the rich to treat poor people with compassion, sympathy, and generosity.

Writing this poem expressly for a well-educated audience, James wanted his listeners to feel guilty for turning down or scorning poor beggars and hardworking laborers. He really milks that guilt out, taking the listener through the boring and brief, yet completely unbearable and emotionally charged life of a poor man.

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.

In this poem, the mother tries to make her son feel guilty about his poor academic performance and his carelessness.

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 feels subjectively guilty after learning of her mother's sacrifices behind her happy childhood. The poet invites the collective guilt of readers as she questions their ignorance and presents the deplorable state of the deprived people.

Winter Stars

by Larry Levis

‘Winter Stars’ by Larry Levis tries to reconcile the estranged relationship between a son and their dying father.

The reader might discern some guilt in the speaker's tone, at least in their expression of regret at not voicing these words earlier to their father.

Confessions

by Robert Browning

Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘Confessions,’ as the title says, is written in the confessional mode and is about a speaker’s secretive meetings with a girl.

Holy Sonnet II

by John Donne

‘Holy Sonnet II’ by John Donne is the second in a series of religious sonnets that Donne is well-known for. This poem is directed to God and explores a speaker’s concerns about their fate. 

Holy Sonnet IX

by John Donne

‘Holy Sonnet IX’ by John Donne, also known by its first line ‘If poisonous minerals, and if that tree’ is one of several “Holy Sonnets” the poet composed during his lifetime. This particular poem focuses on a dispute between the speaker and God.

Jack Johnson Does The Eagle Rock

by Cornelius Eady

‘Jack Johnson Does The Eagle Rock’ appears in Cornelius Eady’s poetry collection Victims of the Latest Dance Craze. This poem is an allusion to the great American boxer Jack Johnson and how he was denied a ticket on the Titanic.

My Grandmother

by Elizabeth Jennings

‘My Grandmother’ by Elizabeth Jennings is a thoughtful poem about one person’s relationship with her grandmother and her grandmother’s passion—collecting antiques. 

The One Who Goes Away

by Sujata Bhatt

‘The One Who Goes Away’ by Sujata Bhatt shares her emotional journey of leaving India and traveling to America. She entails the internal struggle to define what ‘home’ is during that period.

The Underground Baby Case

by Jackie Kay

‘The Underground Baby Case’ by Jackie Kay conveys the feelings and choices of a woman who lost her own child and stole someone else’s.

White Lies

by Natasha Trethewey

‘White Lies’ by Natasha Trethewey is a poetic exploration of racial identity in the American South through three lies a girl tells about being white.

Witness

by Eavan Boland

‘Witness’ is a thoughtful contemplation on the nature of memory, identity and guilt in the context of Boland’s Dublin.

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