Gary Soto Poems

Gary Soto is an American poet who has authored thirteen poetry collections. His most famous poem, ‘Oranges,’ is read by students around the world. His New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Award and the National Book Award. His work has been translated into many different languages. 

How Things Work

by Gary Soto

‘How Things Work’ by Gary Soto is a moving poem that envisions an optimistic perception of the way people support one another through financial altruism.

This poem by Gary Soto is indicative of the exceptional intimacy that often fills his verse. Here, the poet takes on the voice of a parent attempting to articulate a lofty understanding of the way the world essentially works. Through the use of precise and emotionally hefty imagery, he makes a poignant observation about the invisible bonds that bind us all together.

Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars

To live. Five for a softball. Four for a book,

A handful of ones for coffee and two sweet rolls,

Bus fare, rosin for your mother’s violin.

Teaching English from an Old Composition Book

by Gary Soto

Gary Soto’s ‘Teaching English from an Old Composition Book’ is about a teacher instructing some Mexican-American immigrant students in a night school. Soto portrays their harsh living conditions and their struggle to cope in a new culture.

My chalk is no longer than a chip of fingernail,

Chip by which I must explain this Monday

Night the verbs “to get;” “to wear,” “to cut.”

What now?

by Gary Soto

‘What Now?’ by Gary Soto is a contemporary poem that speaks to the universal experience of aging and learning.

This poem is a good representation of Gary Soto's poetry. It showcases his ability to evoke nostalgia, reflect on personal experiences, and explore themes of growth, change, and the passage of time. The poem captures Soto's signature style of combining vivid imagery with introspective reflection, making it a fitting example of his body of work.

Where did the shooting stars go?

They flit across my childhood sky

vAnd by my teens I no longer looked upward—

My face instead peered through the windshield

Black Hair

by Gary Soto

‘Black Hair’ by Gary Soto is a contemporary poem that offers an introspective look at a child watching a baseball game.

'Black Hair' is one of Gary Soto's most popular works, opening the anthology of the same name. It serves as a great example of Soto's style, using introspective language to analyze the impact daily experiences can have on an individual.

At eight I was brilliant with my body.

In July, that ring of heat

We all jumped through, I sat in the bleachers

Of Romain Playground, in the lengthening

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.

'Behind Grandma's House' is a poem inspired by Gary Soto's experience growing up in a ghetto-like neighborhood. While this poem is a fairly known one of Soto's, these days, Soto is more known for his children and young adult fiction than his poetry.

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,


by Gary Soto

‘Oranges’ by Gary Soto is a charming narrative poem. It tells a story about a young boy on his first date.

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