Life Struggles Poems

Failing and Flying

by Jack Gilbert

‘Failing and Flying’ by Jack Gilbert explores the idea that although something may ultimately fail, the process of arriving at that point may be a triumph.

The poem suggests that everyone experiences struggles and failures in life, whether in love or other aspects, and that these challenges can lead to growth and self-discovery.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by Emily Dickinson

‘Tell the truth but tell it slant’ by Emily Dickinson is one of Dickinson’s best-loved poems. It explores an unknown “truth” that readers must interpret in their own way.

Dickinson taps in to the ways that truth can create and exacerbate specific life struggles in this poem.

The Heart asks Pleasure – first

by Emily Dickinson

‘The heart asks pleasure first’ by Emily Dickinson depicts the needs of the heart. They are highly changeable and include pleasure and excuse from pain.

The most painful life struggles are the ones that the heart has the most trouble dealing with.

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss

‘The House by the Side of the Road’ by Sam Walter Foss was a once-popular American poem about caring for and helping other people. 

The speaker wants to help those dealing with important life struggles, no matter how difficult they are.

Death in the Arctic

by Robert Service

Robert Service’s ‘Death in the Arctic’ tells a bleak, dark story in such an evocative way that even after the poem finishes, the reader can’t help but wonder for more.

The poem touches on themes of isolation, loneliness, and despair, which are common struggles in the human experience. The narrator describes feeling lost and alone in the world, searching for something to give life meaning and purpose.


by Elizabeth Alexander

‘Equinox’ by Elizabeth Alexander is a heartfelt poem about death and how all living things are forced to contend with it. The speaker uses a creative metaphor comparing bees on the equinox to her grandmother. 

Struggling with one's impending death and the general nature of life (and the fact that all lives have to end) is a key part of this poem. The speaker uses the three stanzas to discuss mortality in a memorable way.

Keep A-Goin’

by Frank Lebby Stanton

‘Keep A-Goin’’ by Frank Lebby Stanton is a simple poem about the path one walks in life and what should happen if one runs into hardship. 

The main focus of this poem is the struggles one faces in life and the best way to make it through them. The speaker ensures readers remember how important it is to persevere.


by Edward Rowland Sill

‘Opportunity’ by Edward Rowland Sill is a narrative poem that describes an imagined or real battle and a unique opportunity that presents itself.

All of those in the battle, and especially those on the losing side, are struggling with their situation.

Cottage Street, 1953

by Richard Wilbur

‘Cottage Street, 1953’ by Richard Wilbur is a powerful poem based on the poet’s own experience. It depicts a simple social meeting between his family and the Plaths.

Throughout her life, Sylvia Plath struggled with suicidal feelings and depression. When the poet met her in 1953, she'd already tried to commit suicide, and when he wrote the poem, she had succeeded, passing away in 1963.

On Joy and Sorrow

by Kahlil Gibran

‘On Joy and Sorrow’ by Kahlil Gibran is a meditative, insightful, poetic essay that makes interesting implications about the inseparable emotions of joy and sorrow.

'On Joy and Sorrow' is about how life struggles produce sorrow, but eventually, sorrow would not be possible unless there was also some amount of joy in a person's life. Loss and despair, then, are simply a lack of joy. However, few people would forgo the feeling of joy, even if that meant that, at some point, they would surely feel loss.

At Pegasus

by Terrance Hayes

‘At Pegasus’ by Terrance Hayes is a powerful poem about identity that uses a youthful memory and a contemporary experience to speak about life.

It's clear from the poem's language the speaker's suggestion of negative changes in his life that he's struggling, to some degree, with his identity and the purpose of life.

The Ballad of Aunt Geneva

by Marilyn Nelson

‘The Ballad of Aunt Geneva’ by Marilyn Nelson is about a Black woman’s life, relationships, and work. It is based on local rumors and assumptions about her character.

The poet alludes to the struggles that Geneva has faced throughout her life in this poem. She didn't go to school and has spent her life running a roadhouse (or at least part of it). She also clearly, deals with the rumors that this poem is based on.

The First Snowfall

by James Russell Lowell

‘The First Snowfall’ by James Russell Lowe is a deeply sad poem about the death of a child and what it’s like to consider that loss as time passes. 

From only a few lines in this poem, it's clear that the speaker is dealing with a very painful loss, making it difficult to contend with life's other issues. His life struggles are extreme and very real.

The Suicide’s Soliloquy

by Abraham Lincoln

‘The Suicide’s Soliloquy’ is a dark poem about sorrow and suicide which some believe was written by the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

The poem highlights the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life, especially when faced with overwhelming difficulties. The poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and support for those struggling with mental health issues.

Facing West From California’s Shores

by Walt Whitman

‘Facing West From California’s Shores’ by Walt Whitman is a unique poem that alludes to the state of California and the potential expansion of the United States.

The speaker's journey suggests that the struggles of life are worth enduring in order to experience the joys of exploration and discovery.


by Gregory Corso

‘Marriage’ by Gregory Corso is a humorous and interesting poem about the pros and cons of getting married and everything that comes with it, like having children. 

The speaker faces a few different life struggles, including loneliness and indecisiveness. He doesn't know what he wants from life or how to get it.


by Alice Cary

‘Nobility’ by Alice Cary is a straightforward, inspirational poem about where honor and nobility truly come from. 

While it might be hard to always stay on the straight and narrow, as the poet describes, it's important to work as hard as possible. This is a constant struggle that one must face in their life.

Apostrophe to the Ocean

by Lord Byron

‘Apostrophe to the Ocean’ by Lord Byron is an excerpt from Byron’s long, epic poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.’ The excerpt includes seven stanzas from the poem, starting with stanza CLXXVIII, or 178, and ending with stanza 184. 

The poet alludes to a long history of ocean-related adventures, voyages, and attempts to use the ocean's power. These end in failure and death due to the ocean's immensity and the impossibility of controlling it. It's a lesson about the ocean that humanity never learns.

Chorus of the Captains

by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s ‘Chorus of the Captains’ is an occasional poem written for and performed at the 52nd Super Bowl. It describes the work of three American heroes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Life struggles are a topic found in much of Amanda Gorman's verse. She alludes to the many diverse struggles that people face in their everyday life and how these struggles are overcome.

Each In His Own Tongue

by William Herbert Carruth

‘Each In His Own Tongue’ by William Herbert Carruth depicts the world and all its beauty and suffering, attributing the elements to evolution, longing, consecration, or God. 

The life struggles one endures, such as described in the final stanza, are of high importance in daily life. People starve to death and are forced to sacrifice themselves for their children in God's world.

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

by Amiri Baraka

‘Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note’ (1961) is the titular poem of Amiri Baraka’s first collection of poems. This piece introduces a depressed narrator engrossed with the thoughts of dying.

Overall, the poem portrays the struggles of life, the adversity of mental illness, and the feelings of sadness and loneliness that can accompany it. There are many struggles one comes up against in their life, and this poem tries to tap into that fact.

New Day’s Lyric

by Amanda Gorman

‘New Day’s Lyric’ by Amanda Gorman is poem written at the end of 2021 in order to usher in a more hopeful new year in 2022. The piece explores themes of hope and change. 

Life struggles are something that the poet alludes to within this poem and something that readers are likely to relate to very easily. The poet explores the many positive changes that these struggles can turn into.

The Beach

by Robert Graves

‘The Beach’ by Robert Graves is a poem about the contrast between childhood innocence and an adult mindset. The poem depicts this dichotomy by demonstrating the difference between how a boatman and a group of children interact with the ocean.

Life struggles are subtly implied in the poem as the children are shown struggling against the waves but also finding joy and amusement in the experience.

We Rise

by Amanda Gorman

‘We Rise’ by Amanda Gorman is a beautiful and inspirational poem that explores women’s power. The poet emphasizes how important it is for women to raise each other and ensure everyone has a voice. 

The poet alludes to the many life struggles that everyday people, especially women, face and how much more successful women would be if they could unite and support one another.

Wolsey’s Farewell to His Greatness

by William Shakespeare

‘Wolsey’s Farewell to His Greatness’ by William Shakespeare is a set of lines found in Act III Scene 2 of Henry VIII, a famous history play. The lines are spoken by Cardinal Wolsey, one of the King’s closest advisors. 

Wolsey is dealing with an enormous setback in his life. He knows that nothing will be the same after the play's events. His life is taking a sharp downward turn.

A Dream of Death

by William Butler Yeats

‘A Dream of Death’ is a poem about one such dream that uses strong imagery to build an image that is touching both with and without its historic context.

A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

‘A Far Cry from Africa’ is a poem based around the struggles in Africa. One would presume it is at least partially autobiographical.

A Line-storm Song

by Robert Frost

‘A Line-storm Song’ by Robert Frost is an image-rich poem that depicts love. The speaker engages with its ups and downs while encouraging his lover to do the same.

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.

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