Power Poems

These dynamic and introspective poems explore the nature of power, its allure, and its consequences. They may examine the dynamics of power in interpersonal relationships, institutions, or society at large.

These verses may reflect on the abuse of power, the thirst for dominance, or the responsibility of wielding influence. Poets use language to examine power dynamics critically, raising questions about ethics and morality.

These poems become mirrors of our understanding of power, urging readers to reflect on their relationship with power and how it shapes their lives and interactions.


by Carl Sandburg

‘Cahoots’ by Carl Sandburg delves into the dark underbelly of a corrupt city, exposing the collusion and exploitation that thrive within its power structures.

This poem explores the topic of power through the depiction of individuals and groups engaging in corrupt activities and manipulative behavior. The poem highlights how those in positions of power use their influence to exploit and control others. It exposes the collusion and conniving nature of individuals who seek to gain power and maintain their dominance.

Play it across the table.

What if we steal this city blind?

If they want any thing let 'em nail it down.

Harness bulls, dicks, front office men,

The Hand That Signed the Paper

by Dylan Thomas

‘The Hands that Signed the Paper’ is a war protest poem that derides the appalling apathy and ruthlessness of the rulers toward ordinary citizens.

This poem is definitely a very potent commentary on the power-hungry leaders of the world who don't care at all about their people. The often-used metaphor in the poem, which is the main subject, is a ruler's hand. It is shown to have a mind of its own that epitomizes the overpowering personality of a selfish and arrogant leader of a state that is entirely apathetic to his fellow citizens, even during a war.

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;

Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,

Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;

These five kings did a king to death.

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. 

Despite being dwarfed by the immense power of the ocean, humanity is drawn to it and attempts to map and traverse it.

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 -

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. 

The huge power of volcanoes might seem incomparable to the emotions of human beings, but humanity's explosive capacity for outbursts of both love and hate can rival any volcano.

I have never seen "Volcanoes"—

But, when Travellers tell

How those old – phlegmatic mountains

Usually so still –


by Maxine Kumin

‘Woodchucks’ by Maxine Kumin is a metaphorical poem which uses the conceit of a farmer hunting woodchucks to uncover the murderous tendencies only a position of power can reveal in humans.

Throughout the poem, readers see a play on the power balance and the eventual abuse of power between the farmer and the pests (by extension, between rulers and the ruled). Through the persona, Kumin reveals that power, at the end of the day, easily corrupts a person.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling

to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.

I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace

puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

‘Ode to the West Wind’ was written in Cascine Woods, outside of Florence, Italy, and published in 1820. It focuses on death’s necessary destruction and the possibilities of rebirth.

The West Wind is depicted as an almost omnipotent force, wielding the power to affect landscapes, oceans, and even human emotions. The poem delves into the essence of power, questioning whether it's inherently destructive or also capable of ushering in positive change.

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

La Migra

by Pat Mora

‘La Migra’ by Pat Mora is a unique poem about the plight of migrants and how, when you shift your perspective, the position of power changes substantially. 

Power dynamics are central to the poem, embodied in the Border Patrol's control and authority, contrasted with the power of knowledge, resilience, and community within the Mexican woman and her fellow immigrants.

Let’s play La Migra

I’ll be the Border Patrol.

You be the Mexican maid.

I get the badge and sunglasses.

Marching Through A Novel

by John Updike

‘Marching Through a Novel’ by John Updike is an allegorical narrative about the dynamic between a writer and their characters and the effect of rigid characterization on a novel. The poem uses strong military imagery to urge readers to view characters in a novel as real human beings.

In many ways, 'Marching Through a Novel' shows us how much power a writer has over their work. It also shows how much power is not a good thing in the hands of a writer. Throughout the poem, Updike's speaker abuses his power over his novel and ruthlessly controls his characters for no gain.

They extend skeletal arms

for the handcuffs of contrivance,

slog through docilely

maneuvers of coincidence,

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun

by Emily Dickinson

‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun’ by Emily Dickinson is a complex, metaphorical poem. The poet depicts a woman who is under a man’s control and sleeps like a load gun.

The speaker has a power within her that she has trouble controlling sometimes.

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -

In Corners - till a Day

The Owner passed - identified -

And carried Me away -


by Imtiaz Dharker

‘Tissue’ by Imtiaz Dharker is a beautifully thoughtful poem about the power paper has in human lives and how, by understanding it, one can also understand humanity.

The theme of power is subtly addressed in this poem through the contrast between solid structures and the transparency of paper. The poem challenges traditional notions of power associated with permanence and solidity, suggesting that strength can be found in the intangible and delicate aspects of life.

Paper that lets the light

shine through, this

is what could alter things.

Explore more poems about Power

Love Cycle

by Chinua Achebe

‘Love Cycle’ by Chinua Achebe describes sunrise, sunset, and their effects on Earth using the metaphor of a barely happy couple.

Power in this poem is portrayed as dynamic and shifting, illustrating the balance of power in relationships. The sun and Earth both exert influence over each other, reflecting the constant negotiation and shifting dynamics that are inherent in human relationships.

At dawn slowly

the sun withdraws his

long misty arms of

embrace. Happy lovers


by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich’s ‘Orion’ explores the emotional depths of relationships and the search for self-identity amidst societal pressures.

This poem deals with the topic of power through the imagery and language used to describe the addressee. The references to the cast-iron Viking, the helmed lion-heart king, and the imagery of a sword symbolize strength and authority. The poem explores power dynamics within relationships, suggesting the burden and constraints that power can impose. It prompts reflection on the complexities and implications of power, highlighting its influence on individuals and their interactions.

Far back when I went zig-zagging

through tamarack pastures

you were my genius, you

my cast-iron Viking, my helmed

Eat Me

by Patience Agbabi

‘Eat Me’ by Patience Agbabi tells the story of an incredibly unhealthy relationship based around control, one-sided lust, and food. 

The poem portrays the speaker's partner as a controlling figure who uses food and the speaker's weight as a means of manipulating and subjugating her. The power dynamics within the relationship are such that the speaker's partner holds all the power and uses it to control and manipulate her.

When I hit thirty, he brought me a cake,

three layers of icing, home-made,

a candle for each stone in weight.

The Eagle

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘The Eagle’ is a powerful poem that captures the majesty and strength of the majestic bird, inspiring readers to reach for the heights of their own potential.

The eagle's "clasping" and "gripping" of the mountain peaks highlights its power and strength. This theme of power is a common one in Romantic poetry, which often celebrates individuals who are able to overcome obstacles and assert their will over the natural world.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 

Close to the sun in lonely lands, 

Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

Lady Lazarus

by Sylvia Plath

‘Lady Lazarus’ is one of the best poems of Sylvia Plath and an ideal example of Plath’s diction. This poem contains Plath’s poetic expression of her suicidal thoughts.

Power is a key topic in the poem. Plath explores the dynamics of power in relationships, both between individuals and between groups.

I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it——


by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Beautiful’ by Carol Ann Duffy explores the physical and mental damage that can come from beauty by tracing the lives of four women.

The poem depicts how beauty can be a source of power used to manipulate others. The poem's protagonist has the power to make men fall in love with her and control them. The poem also shows how men use violence and war to assert their control and power over women.

She was born from an egg,

a daughter of the gods,

divinely fair, a pearl, drop-dead

gorgeous, beautiful, a peach,

Archaic Torso of Apollo

by Rainer Maria Rilke

‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’ by Rainer Maria Rilke details the remaining beauty and power of a damage sculpture missing its head and legs.

The sculpture in the poem is described as having a "burst of strength" that is both beautiful and intimidating. Rilke often writes about the power and majesty of the natural world and the human spirit, and he frequently uses images of strength and vitality to explore these themes.

We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

To Speak of Woe That Is In Marriage

by Robert Lowell

‘To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage’ by Robert Lowell is a memorable, confessional poem. In it, lol taps into the life experiences of a wife who is fearful of her lustful husband.

Like many poems that deal with toxic relationships, there is an important focus on power in this piece. The poet explores the push and pull in the relationship and how control/the balance of power is always influential.

“The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.

Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.

My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,

and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,

To Beachey, 1912

by Carl Sandburg

‘To Beachey, 1912‘ by Carl Sandburg is a poem that expresses the author’s appreciation for aviation. The main character of the poem is flying in an airplane, and from high up, he is able to really appreciate the beauty of the blue sky.

Power is a recurring theme in Carl Sandburg's poetry, which often explores the dynamics of power and oppression in society while celebrating the strength and resilience of those who resist it. Here, the poet implies that power is found in freedom and the beauty of something as brave and inherently dangerous as flying.

Riding against the east,

A veering, steady shadow

Purrs the motor-call

Of the man-bird

The Lights at Carney’s Point

by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

‘The Lights at Carney’s Point’ explores the transformative nature of light, shifting from serenity to darkness, and ultimately finding peace and acceptance.

The topic of power is subtly addressed through the symbolism of the lights. The lights' shifting colors from white to red to gold symbolize different forms of power and influence. They hold the power to evoke emotions and transform the atmosphere, representing the dynamic and multifaceted nature of power and its impact on the surroundings.

O white little lights at Carney’s Point,

You shine so clear o’er the Delaware;

When the moon rides high in the silver sky,

Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.

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. 

Power is an important part of this poem. The poet mentions that to gain and maintain power, women need to work together and support one another.

Today, everyone’s eyes

Are on us as we rise.

Today is the day women

Are paving the way,

A Crowned Poet

by Anne Reeve Aldrich

‘A Crowned Poet’ by Anne Reeve Aldrich describes the various types of happiness that exist in the world and how different they can be from one another.

A Mark of Resistance

by Adrienne Rich

‘A Mark of Resistance’ by Adrienne Rich is a poem about individual resistance. The poet voices her solidarity with those who face discrimination from society.

Stone by stone I pile

this cairn of my intention

with the noon's weight on my back,

exposed and vulnerable

A still— Volcano —Life

by Emily Dickinson

‘A still— Volcano —Life’ by Emily Dickinson is an unforgettable poem that uses an extended metaphor to describe the life of the poet. She compares herself to a volcano that erupts under the cover of darkness.

A still — Volcano — Life —

That flickered in the night —

When it was dark enough to do

Without erasing sight —

A Stone is Nobody’s

by Russell Edson

‘A Stone is Nobody’s’ by Russell Edson is a memorable poem. It uses a stone, and a man’s capture of it, to describe a troubling mother/son relationship.

Amethyst Beads

by Eavan Boland

‘Amethyst Beads’ by Eavan Boland alludes to Greek mythology and the suffering of a child, Persephone, after she was separated from her mother, Demeter.

An American Sunrise

by Joy Harjo

‘An American Sunrise’ by Joy Harjo is a powerful poem about Native American culture written by the current Poet Laureate of the United States. The poem explores the struggles of the poet’s community as well as the successes and celebrations. 

An Introduction

by Kamala Das

You hear it all the time now, “Down with the patriarchy!” But, what does it really mean and who does it apply to? Well, in Kamala Das’ poem, you may be able to find some answers.


by Gillian Clarke

‘Buzzard’ by Gillian Clarke is a poem about lost hopes, dreams, and opportunities revisited, using the metaphor of a buzzard and its skeleton.

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