Memory Poems

As Marie Howe Said best, “Memory is a poet, not a historian.” Poetry about memory and nostalgia comes in many forms, from longing lyrics on past lovers, to odes on familiar places, to dirges honoring those who came before us.

Memory is one of the trickiest things about being human, as we can only sometimes control what we remember and what we forget. As such, it has long been a favorite topic and theme of poetry, as each line attempts to glean some insight into what it means to remember something and what it means to lose one’s memories.

The following poems offer a unique perspective on memory as they look back at the past from various perspectives, recalling sensations, events, people, places, and things that the speaker feels connected to, creating a web of time that lasts far beyond the poet.

Alzheimer’s: The Wife

by C. K. Williams

‘Alzheimer’s: The Wife’ by C. K. Williams is a powerful and moving poem. In it, the poet depicts a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s and a few simple moments from her day.

Another Reluctance

by Annie Finch

‘Another Reluctance’ by Annie Finch is a beautiful short poem about a childhood experience. The speaker describes waiting for and watching chestnuts fall.

Anything Can Happen

by Seamus Heaney

‘Anything Can Happen’ depicts a contemporary anxiety while referring to a mythological past. The poem has four quatrains with no fixed rhyme-scheme.

Artist’s Life

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

‘Artist’s Life’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox describes the personal and emotional connection a speaker has to Strauss’ composition, Artist’s Life. 

At Castle Boterel

by Thomas Hardy

‘At Castle Boterel’ was written in 1913. The poem remembers a certain moment in life that is associated with a deeply significant memory.

Autumn Valentine

by Dorothy Parker

‘Autumn Valentine’ by Dorothy Parker reveals two moments in the scope of the narrator’s pain — one when the pain was new and one when it had endured for a time in the shadows.

Barbed Wire

by Henry Taylor

‘Barbed Wire’ is a poem about the tragic death of a horse on a summer afternoon. This piece explores the quick, sudden death of the horse.


by Seamus Heaney

In ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the speaker is recalling a recurring scene from his youth: each August, he would pick blackberries and relish in their sweet taste.

Brendon Gallacher

by Jackie Kay

The best stories, it is often said, contain within them elements of truth. A story that is entirely fictional is

Cold Knap Lake

by Gillian Clarke

Human memory is a strange, difficult, and wonderful thing, if rather unreliable at times. Even life-defining moments tend to become

Coming Home

by Owen Sheers

‘Coming Home’ by Owen Sheers is a thoughtful poem that describes the transitory nature of life. The poet explores aging, family, and the impact of change.


by Robert Browning

Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘Confessions,’ as the title says, is written in the confessional mode and is about a speaker’s secretive meetings with a girl.


by Alfred Kreymborg

‘Crocus’ by Alfred Kreymborg is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines or quatrains. These

Crossing the Loch

by Kathleen Jamie

In this poem, ‘Crossing the Loch’, Kathleen Jamie uses a young female speaker to tell a story through a conversation


by Seamus Heaney

Here is an analysis of the poem ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney. Heaney was an Irish playwright, poet, and academic; he

District and Circle

by Seamus Heaney

‘District and Circle’, written by Seamus Heaney, depicts parts of a journey, or of several journeys, on the London Underground.

Early One Morning

by W.S. Merwin

‘Early One Morning’ by W.S. Merwin is a short poem that showcases what seems to be an older man who is stuck in reminiscing about his younger days.

Easter, 1916

by William Butler Yeats

‘Easter, 1916’ is a reflection on the events surrounding the Easter Rising, an armed insurrection that began in Dublin on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916.


by Christina Rossetti

An echo is a concept that initially might feel ill-suited for poetic purposes. Of course, most are familiar with the

Eden Rock

by Charles Causley

In the poem, Eden Rock, by Charles Causley the speaker, who is a poet himself, is shown imagining about his

Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love

by John Donne

‘Elegy VII’ by John Donne, also known as ‘Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,’ is a typical piece about unrequited love.

Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,

And in that sophistry, oh, thou dost prove

Too subtle: Fool, thou didst not understand

The mystic language of the eye nor hand:

Facing It

by Yusef Komunyakaa

‘Facing It’ by Yusef Komunyakaa speaks of one man’s reaction to seeing the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Fairer through Fading — as the Day

by Emily Dickinson

‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ by Emily Dickinson describes the sun and the value of all things. She uses the day as a symbol for what’s lost and will come again.

Fairer through Fading — as the Day

Into the Darkness dips away —

Half Her Complexion of the Sun —

Hindering — Haunting — Perishing —

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