Chaos Poems

Chaos is a broad topic that, in poetry, refers to occasions when things don’t go as planned. A situation might be spiraling out of control; someone might be experiencing a cascade of contradictory emotions, and much more.

A chaotic situation is any situation in which it’s hard to keep track of all the troubling and sometimes very stressful elements it is composed of. For example, poets might imbue their depictions of relationships (romantic or familial) with chaos. Two people may struggle to communicate, fight constantly, and do nothing to resolve their issues, only making them worse in the process.

Often, in chaotic poems, the writer mimics the situation their describing in the way they compose their lines and rhymes. Their rhyme scheme might begin and end suddenly, the capitalization may be sporadic, or they might use lines of very different lengths for seemingly no reason.


by Jackie Kay

‘Rubble’ by Jackie Kay is a dramatic monologue that was included in her collection, Darling: New & Selected Poems. It conveys an individual’s cluttered and chaotic mind. 

The narrator's internal monologue is chaotic and uncertain, so much so that it unsettles the reader as they cannot be certain how reliable the voice is or whether they should trust it.

What was the thought that I just had in my head?


the broken heart. The world outside is breaking


by Shankha Ghosh

‘Rehabilitation’ explores the pain of the refugees after the Partition of Bengal. With stark imagery, it delves into the lasting impact of this tragic event.

This poem is a very good example of chaos, reflecting the tumultuous consequences of the partition of India. The line "Memories are like a serpentine crowd" implies a sense of disorder and confusion, where memories intertwine in a chaotic manner. The mention of "broken boxes" beneath the mango trees suggests disarray and scattered fragments of the past. Hence, this verse strongly evokes a powerful sense of chaos, reflecting the turbulent and disorienting nature of the events surrounding the erstwhile times in Bengal.

Whatever I had around me

Grass and pebbles


Broken temples

Corsons Inlet

by Archie Randolph Ammons

‘Corsons Inlet’ is a complex, nuanced poem on the natural world and the character of reality by one of the major American poets of the latter half of the 20th century.

This poem is about the relationship between chaos and order in nature (and in reality as a whole). As the speaker walks down Corsons Inlet, he reflects on how nature cannot fit into any rigid formula. There is no absolute understanding of the world possible. However, at the same time, nature is "not chaos." In this poem, A.R. Ammons raises the possibility that the natural world is mere chaos but subtly explains why that is not how things are.

I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning

to the sea,

then turned right along

the surf

The Storm-Wind

by William Barnes

‘The Storm-Wind’ by William Barnes contrasts peace and danger with images of home and a terrifying storm. The poem emphasizes how much easier it is to appreciate the safety of home when the conditions outside are so inhospitable.

Barnes presents the storm to be the embodiment of chaos and its is clearly intended to be viewed as a frightening force. The narrator is able to protect themselves from that chaos in their home.

When the swift-rolling brook, swollen deep,

Rushes on by the alders, full speed,

And the wild-blowing winds lowly sweep

O'er the quivering leaf and the weed,

And the willow tree writhes in each limb,

Over sedge-reeds that reel by the brim —

Air Raid

by Chinua Achebe

‘Air Raid’ by Chinua Achebe is a poem that provides a glimpse into the Nigerian/Biafran Civil War using symbolism and dark humor.

The chaotic nature of war is demonstrated through the juxtaposition of the mundane act of shaking someone's hand and the extreme violence of war. The conflict has seemingly decimated the normal rules of society, leaving only chaos behind.

It comes so quickly

the bird of death

from evil forests of Soviet technology

A man crossing the road

Week-night Service

by D.H. Lawrence

‘Week-night Service’ creates a vivid scene of a church at night. The sound of bells disturbs the otherwise quiet church yard and the nature that surrounds it.

The dominant sound throughout much of the poem is the bells ringing in the church. There are five bells, and all of them are ringing at once, resulting in a continuous sound with no gaps in between. The chaotic sound disturbs the otherwise peaceful nighttime.

The five old bells

Are hurrying and eagerly calling,

Imploring, protesting

They know, but clamorously falling

After Death: Twenty Years

by Birendra Chattopadhyay

‘After Death: Twenty Years’ reflects on a country’s stormy history and current despair, contrasting it with Tagore’s unwavering dreams of humanity.

This is a good example of a poem about chaos simply due to its skillful depiction of tumultuous and disordered times. The poet effectively captures the chaotic nature of historical events, such as the bloodshed, violence, and societal upheaval during India's independence and post-independence period. Through vivid descriptions and powerful language, the poem offers a thought-provoking exploration of the human experience of chaos and its impact on individuals and societies, making it a compelling and impactful poem.

All the terrible catastrophes

Escaped your eyes

You did not burn in the tortuous fire of '46

The famine and the epidemic


I have never seen “Volcanoes”

by Emily Dickinson

‘I have never seen “Volcanoes”’ by Emily Dickinson is a clever, complex poem that compares humans and their emotions to a volcano’s eruptive power. 

Unpredictable and destructive, volcanoes have long been associated with chaos. Dickinson reminds the reader that humans are not so very different.

I have never seen "Volcanoes"—

But, when Travellers tell

How those old – phlegmatic mountains

Usually so still –

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

by Robert Duncan

‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’ by Robert Duncan is often regarded as the poet’s best work. It analyzes the poet’s dream of a meadow while also exploring the new technique of projective verse.

‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’ takes place in a dream that is isolated from chaos, where all of the universe's order comes from. This metaphysical theme implies that Duncan's visions of the past are semi-prophetic, although the poet is only recalling an event from his past life.

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,

that is not mine, but is a made place,

Explore more poems about Chaos

Personal Helicon

by Seamus Heaney

Heaney’s ‘Personal Helicon’ draws inspiration from his rural carefree childhood and intimate connection with nature.

The chaotic nature of youth and nature contrast to the banality and repetitive nature of adult life.

As a child, they could not keep me from wells

And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.

I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells

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 chaos of paradoxical emotions of the speaker presents her disturbed psyche and invites readers' attention.

Go walk the streets of Baroda,

go to Ahmedabad

and step around the cow dung

but don’t forget to look at the sky.

Rhapsody on a Windy Night

by T.S. Eliot

‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night,’ with its spooky mood and setting, captures the tortured and fragmented human psyche amidst a destructed modern world.

The poem presents the chaos of the uncertain and decadent modern world through the fragmented psyche of the speaker. The speaker's thoughts are disjointed, creating a chaotic, unsettling, strange, and horrifying landscape. The poem's preoccupation with non-linear time complimenting complex imagery adds to modern society's chaos.

Twelve o'clock.

Along the reaches of the street

Held in a lunar synthesis,

Whispering lunar incantations

The Sea and the Hills

by Rudyard Kipling

‘The Sea and the Hills’ by Rudyard Kipling depicts the ocean, its heaving waves, incredible winds, and ever-present danger. It has evoked longing in men throughout time and will continue to do so, just as one longs to return home. 

The unpredictable power and chaotic nature of the ocean is, according to Kipling, part of what makes it so attractive. The fact that it can be calm one minute and violent the next seems to be alluring.

Who hath desired the Sea? - the sight of salt water unbounded -

The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?

The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing

Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing -

My Grandmother’s Houses

by Jackie Kay

‘My Grandmother’s Houses’ by Jackie Kay is a thoughtful recollection of youth and a young speaker’s relationship with her eccentric grandmother, who is forced to move homes.

To the narrator, the grandmother's life seems chaotic and spread out, demonstrating the complexities of adult life that children cannot comprehend. The child accepts this chaos, having no alternative.

She is on the second floor of a tenement.

From her front room window you see the cemetery.


by Gillian Clarke

 ‘Sunday’ by Gillian Clarke was inspired by the poet’s personal experience of attempting to enjoy a Sunday morning but then being reminded of all the suffering that’s going on in the world. 

The sharp insertion of details pertaining to suffering abroad reminds the reader how life in the west, which seems serene and peaceful, is incredibly fragile and built on little more than good fortune. There is a very thin border between that life and chaos.

Getting up early on a Sunday morning

leaving them sleep for the sake of peace,

the lunch pungent, windows open


by John Dryden

‘Dreams’ by John Henry Dryden presents a vivid illustration of the ways in which dreams are steeped in paradox and irrationality.

Dryden presents dreams as chaotic and nonsensical things unfolding in our minds. Sometimes their roots can be traced, and other times they cannot. But Dryden illustrates their chaotic nature with rapt descriptions through imagery and figurative language, especially in the use of personification to make the different forces that metaphorically rule over our conscious and unconscious minds more concrete.

Dreams are but interludes which Fancy makes;

When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wakes:

Compounds a medley of disjointed things,

A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings:

Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost

‘Gathering Leaves’ is a profound poem that delves into the themes of man versus nature, productivity, and change.

The act of gathering leaves is arbitrary and, ultimately, futile as they will fall again next year. The act represents our innate human desire to impart order on the world's perceived chaotic tendencies.

Spades take up leaves

No better than spoons,

And bags full of leaves

Are light as balloons.

Latin & Soul

by Victor Hernández Cruz

‘Latin & Soul’ by Victor Hernández Cruz conveys the sublimely affecting power of music on a group of dancers.

The poem offers two examples of chaos: one is the melodic and passionate one of the music, the other is the moment of disarray that unfolds at the end of the poem.

some waves

                     a wave of now

                                               a trombone speaking to you

a piano is trying to break a molecule


by C. K. Williams

‘Blades’ uncovers the impact of a racially charged childhood experience, delving into a child’s fears, and guilt bewilderment.  

The chaos in this poem pervades the whole narrative. It begins with an unexpected act of violence against a child that leads to chaos and confusion in the environment. This environmental chaos then births the emotional chaos of the participants involved in the violence. The shock and fear of the narrator and the girl as well as the crying, screaming, and snarling of the people around, adds to this chaos. Lastly, this chaos manifests in the confusing state of mind of the narrator, who can’t differentiate between reality and perception.

When I was about eight, I once stabbed somebody, another kid, a little girl.

I’d been hanging around in front of the supermarket near our house

and when she walked by, I let her have it, right in the gap between her shirt

Close Shave

by Charles Mungoshi

‘Close Shave’ explores the fragility of life by highlighting the myriad dangers that surround us every moment of our lives.

The poem clearly implies that the veil which separates our seemingly ordered lives from chaos is incredibly thin. Mungoshi suggests that we are never far away from catastrophe and that threats surround us all the time.

A plane roars above

rattling the loose sheets of the roof.

Clearly he hears the click-click

of the barber’s cold shears

Domestic Peace

by Anne Brontë

‘Domestic Peace’ laments a transformed household, contrasting external calm with internal desolation, emphasizing the profound impact of emotional connections.

This poem looks into the topic of chaos through the emotional turmoil within the household. The unexplained change disrupts the once-harmonious atmosphere, creating an internal disarray. The contrast between past unity and present desolation contributes to a sense of disorder and confusion, reflecting the theme of emotional chaos resulting from the loss of equilibrium.

Why should such gloomy silence reign;

And why is all the house so drear,

When neither danger, sickness, pain,

Nor death, nor want have entered here?

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