Adulthood Poems

Adulthood poems center on the themes of change, understanding, confusion, and nostalgia. The following poems explore the concept from a wide array of perspectives. Some explore the changes one comes across being an adult. While some others look back at the past and the speakers nostalgically comment on bygone days. Readers will find these adulthood poems undoubtedly enriching.

What now?

by Gary Soto

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

The poem addresses the topic of adulthood by depicting the speaker's transition from childhood wonder to the practicalities of grown-up life. The poem explores the shift in perspective and priorities that come with age, highlighting the speaker's focus on the road ahead and the small tragedies behind them.

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

Childhood Ideogram

by Larry Levis

‘Childhood Ideogram’ by Larry Levis immerses readers in a nostalgic journey, where vivid imagery and contemplative reflections unravel the complexities of identity, memory, and the transient nature of time.

This poem addresses the topic of adulthood via the speaker's reflections on their childhood experiences and the lingering impact they have on their present self. 'Childhood Ideogram' explores the disillusionment and confusion that can arise in the transition from childhood to adulthood. The speaker grapples with questions of identity, longing for a sense of belonging, and the realization that the past cannot be fully understood or recaptured in the complexities of adulthood.

I lay my head sideways on the desk,

My fingers interlocked under my cheekbones,

My eyes closed. It was a three-room schoolhouse,

White, with a small bell tower, an oak tree


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

This piece describes how adulthood means growing part, revisiting one's past, and longing for the moments that could no longer be recreated.

Some sunny, empty afternoon

I’ll pool our decade’s worth

and more of cowrie shells

gathered from that gravel patch

Indian Weavers

by Sarojini Naidu

‘Indian Weavers’ explores the inevitability of death while celebrating the cycles of human existence and experience.

Adulthood, like childhood before it, is shown to be fleeting and therefore precious and beautiful.

Weavers, weaving at break of day,

Why do you weave a garment so gay? . . .

Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,

We weave the robes of a new-born child.

You Can Have It

by Philip Levine

‘You Can Have It’ is a poem about a man’s loss of enthusiasm towards life and his desire to regain the things and people that made it more colorful. The poem conveys this message through the persona’s narrative, set in Detroit in the year 1948.

The poem talks about youths who carry the responsibilities of adults. The poet alludes to the long, hard days the brother works and how it changes him as a person. Plus, with some understanding of the poem's context, it's very clear that the brother is far from the only young person suffering this way.

My brother comes home from work

and climbs the stairs to our room.

I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop

one by one. You can have it, he says.

Father and Son

by Stanley Kunitz

‘Father and Son’ is a touching expression of a child’s longing for the presence of his deceased father in his life. The poem honors the author’s father and prompts readers to cherish their relationships with loved ones.

Although the poem makes no direct reference to adulthood, it does allude to its hardships. The speaker's sister marries, making his life lonelier than ever. He realizes that he is now alone in the house "on a hill that had too many rooms." The second stanza characterizes adulthood, as well as its worries and loneliness.

Now in the suburbs and the falling light

I followed him, and now down sandy road

Whiter than bone-dust, through the sweet

Curdle of fields, where the plums

Hiawatha’s Childhood

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘Hiawatha’s Childhood’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes how the protagonist of ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ grew up and learned about his surroundings. It also focuses on the life of his grandmother.

The main character of 'The Song of Hiawatha' is described as a child in this excerpt. He is growing into adulthood and is learning about the world in ways that are going to influence how he handles day to day life.

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,

By yhr shining Big-Sea-Water,

Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,

Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.


by Jennie S. Redling

‘Scent’ by Jennie S. Redling is a reflective poem that tells us about the speaker’s unrealized ambition that is causing her agony.

The poem carries subtle undertones of the traumas associated with growing up, depicting how the speaker had to relinquish her dream of becoming an actor to run her kitchen. It portrays the sacrifices made for practicality, hinting at the struggles and hardships of prioritizing responsibilities over personal aspirations.

My finger

Stroke old artwork,

Programs I designed once to

Align myself with small theatre companies

Claudette Colvin Goes to Work

by Rita Dove

‘Claudette Colvin Goes to Work’ by Rita Dove depicts the life and struggles of Claudette Colvin, who is best known as a civil rights activist.

The poet depicts Claudette Colvin's adulthood in dark and drear details. She's best known for something she did as a fifteen-year-old girl, and this image of her life as an adult is an interesting, albeit quite sad, one.

Menial twilight sweeps the storefronts along Lexington 

as the shadows arrive to take their places

among the scourge of the earth. Here and there

a fickle brilliance lightbulbs coming on

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. 

The speaker's expreince of adulthood becomes even more intense when she's forced to contend with the fact that she now has a child to change her life for. There is far more to worry about and plan for than there was before.

The pure amnesia of her face,

newborn. I looked so far

into her that, for a while,


by Edgar Guest

‘Home’ by Edgar Guest is a moving and highly relatable poem in which the poet describes the necessity of turning a house into a home and how that process plays out. 

Throughout one's adulthood, the speaker implies, one will experience a great deal, all of which will force one to bond with the house in which these experiences happen. This will forge one's connection to their home.

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,

A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam

Afore ye really ’preciate the things ye lef’ behind,

An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.

A little Dog that wags his tail

by Emily Dickinson

In ‘A little Dog that wags his tail’ Emily Dickinson explores themes of human nature, the purpose of life, and freedom. She compares animals, cats and dogs, to adults and children.

A little Dog that wags his tail

And knows no other joy

Of such a little Dog am I

Reminded by a Boy

An Easy Passage

by Julia Copus

‘An Easy Passage’ by Julia Copus is a thirty-eight line poem that is contained within one block of text. The

Auguries of Innocence

by William Blake

‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake is a poem from his notebook, known as the Pickering Manuscript. This poem by presenting a series of paradoxical ideas revolves around the theme of innocence vs experience.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour


by Alice Fulton

‘Babies’ by Alice Fulton describes the different ways that children and adults understand the world. The latter’s perspective is informed by years of conflict, lies that can’t be apologized for, and the realization that some parts of one’s life are so important that you only get one shot at them.

Boat Stealing: The Prelude (Extract)

by William Wordsworth

In the extract of ‘The Prelude’, Wordsworth presents two contrasting ideas about nature to allow the reader to decide what nature means on a personal level.

One summer evening (led by her) I found

A little boat tied to a willow tree

Within a rocky cove, its usual home.

Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in

Border Country

by Owen Sheers

Border Country follows the story, from past to present, of a disused car quarry, where Sheers and his friend played


by Jackie Kay

‘Divorce’ by Jackie Kay is about parent-child relationships and how children are impacted by adults’ issues. The speaker is a teenager who is struggling to contend with her parent’s relationship with one another. 


by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s poem ‘Ebb’ is about a car journey by the shore and comments on aging, industrialization, and the past.

Going for Water

by Robert Frost

‘Going for Water’ by Robert Frost depicts a simple errand in joyful, uplifting language. The poem suggests that any task, no matter how annoying, can be enjoyed if one is outside. 

The well was dry beside the door,

  And so we went with pail and can

Across the fields behind the house

  To seek the brook if still it ran;

Going to See King Lear

by Jackie Kay

‘Going to See King Lear’ by Jackie Kay describes what happens when a young girl is taken to see a traumatizing play by her mother.

Half-Past Two

by U.A. Fanthorpe

In her poem, ‘Half-Past Two,’ U. A. Fanthorpe utilizes childish vernacular and mismatched capitalization to reflect the stress of a young child who in the past was punished for “Something.”

High Windows

by Philip Larkin

‘High Windows’ by Philip Larkin discusses the way that relationships, sex, and societal standards change from one generation to the next. 

I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed

by Emily Dickinson

‘I tasted a liquor never brewed’ by Emily Dickinson celebrates life. The poet uses natural imagery, such as that of berries, and pearls, to depict it.

I taste a liquor never brewed –

From Tankards scooped in Pearl –

Not all the Frankfort Berries

Yield such an Alcohol! 

I’m “wife” – I’ve finished that

by Emily Dickinson

‘I’m “wife” – I’ve finished that’ by Emily Dickinson explores independence and womanhood. The poet depicts an unmarried woman and contrasts her with a wife.

I’m “wife”—I’ve finished that—

That other state—

I’m Czar—I’m “Woman” now—

It’s safer so—

Into My Own

by Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s ‘Into My Own’ explores the concepts of maturity and growing up. The poet delves into the exploration of childhood and self.

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

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