Apocalypse Poems

Poetic explorations of the apocalypse are incredibly varied. But, each suggests that the world will at some point end, and usually in a spectacular and catastrophically terrifying way.

Unstoppable destructive winds, raging fires, all-consuming floods, and overwhelming darkness that sweep the world are all ways poets have envisioned the end of the world throughout time.

Depictions of the apocalypse are found in all cultures and all continents. They vary according to religious beliefs and what the contemporary moment suggests. For example, poetic renderings of a nuclear apocalypse in the 1960s during the Cold War and climate disasters (including fires and floods) in the early 2000s due to polar ice melting and uncontrollable forest fires.

Religion is not required to appreciate these evocative portrayals of the end of the world, and it’s hard to avoid feelings of fear, despair, and helplessness while reading about the creative ways poets see the planet, or just humanity, shuddering to a close.


The Powwow at the End of the World

by Sherman Alexie

‘The Powwow at the End of the World’ by Sherman Alexie is a stunning poem that reveals the apocalyptic price of an indigenous person’s forgiveness.

Sherman Alexie's poem gives a powerful vision of an apocalypse initiated by a Native woman, one that's designed to topple symbols of oppression like dams and restore nature. With the poem entwining the end of one world with the renewal of another.

They Feed They Lion

by Philip Levine

‘They Feed They Lion’ by Philip Levine is a powerful poem that visualizes a scene of apocalyptic proportions. It was inspired by the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots.

The poem’s vision of the apocalypse is both inspiring and devastating. Although it doesn’t directly refer to the events that occur as world-ending, it’s clear, via biblical allusions and imagery, that something is coming to an end. If not the entire world, then at least the parts of it that made such oppression possible.


by Amanda Gorman

‘Alarum’ by Amanda Gorman speaks about extinction and the climate crisis, alluding to the fate of humankind if nothing changes. 

The poet alludes to her belief that the future of humanity is at risk unless radical action is taken to fight climate change. She suggests that an apocalyptic changed to the Earth's climate is around the corner.

Waking in Winter

by Sylvia Plath

‘Waking in Winter’ by Sylvia Plath tells the story of hotel residents. They’re living different lives but are unified through their hopelessness.

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