Poems about History

The Lyric in a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy

‘The Lyric in a Time of War’ by Eloise Klein Healy is a poem about war, writing, and artistic cconnection throughout time. The poem is dedicated to how writing can create a connection between two people over time and space. 

The Lyric in a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy Visual Representation

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg

‘Old Timers’ by Carl Sandburg speaks on the nature of war. Sandburg alludes to the ways in which history repeats itself no matter which country or time period one is in. 

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg Visual Representation

Once More Unto The Breach (Henry V) by William Shakespeare

From Henry V, ‘Once More Unto The Breach,’ without doubt, one of Shakespeare’s most rousing and iconic speeches. It has inspired motivational speeches from everywhere from Independence Day and Star Trek and remains a masterclass in rhetoric language to this day.

Once More Unto The Breach by William Shakespeare Visual Representation

To Ireland in the Coming Times by William Butler Yeats

‘To Ireland in the Coming Times’ by William Butler Yeats is dedicated to the poet’s impact on Ireland’s political, social, and cultural landscape. It contains the poet’s beliefs about the nature of his verse.

To Ireland in the Coming Times by William Butler Yeats Visual Representation

The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng

‘The Planners’ by Boey Kim Cheng is a powerful poem about the way that development and the creation of new infrastructure makes the world a less interesting place to live in. 

The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng Visual Representation

July in Washington by Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell’s poem ‘July in Washington’ shows both sides of a coin, the coin being America. Lowell inserts different expressions and comparisons to make his stand clear to readers.

July in Washington by Robert Lowell Visual Representation

Teacher by Carol Ann Duffy

Duffy’s ‘Teacher’ is about a teacher whose teaching has the power to infuse life into the mundane and dry figures of the book. This piece is written in admiration and love for her teaching.

Teacher by Carol Ann Duffy Visual Representation

Song of the Powers by David Mason

Published in 1996, in David Mason’s award-winning collection, The Country I Remember, ‘Song of the Powers’ uses a children’s game, “stone, paper, scissors,” in order to comment on the futility of power.

Song of the Powers by David Mason Visual Representation

Hands by Robinson Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers’s poem ‘Hands’ is about the distance between modern civilization and past civilizations. It voices Jeffers’s philosophy of “inhumanism.”

Hands by Robinson Jeffers Visual Representation

Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni

‘Rosa Parks’ by Nikki Giovanni is a poem about activism and the importance of remembering important moments in African American history. The poem pays tribute to the heroic actions of the Pullman Porters who spearheaded the civil rights movement and forever changed history for the African American community.

Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni Visual Representation

Allegory of the Cave by Stephen Dunn

In this poem, Stephen Dunn alludes to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave or Plato’s Cave by the same title. This piece raises a number of philosophical questions with respect to the political history of the 20th century.

Allegory of the Cave Stephen Dunn Visual Representation

Sea Grapes by Derek Walcott

‘Sea Grapes’ by Derek Walcott is a deep and interesting poem. In it, Walcott uses numerous allusions to convey a message about choosing between lust and responsibility. 

Sea Grapes by Derek Walcott Visual Representation

Meeting the British by Paul Muldoon

‘Meeting the British’ is written in the context of Pontiac’s War of 1763 that took place in the aftermath of the French and Indian war during 1754-1763. This piece appears in the 1987 poetry collection by Paul Muldoon by the same name.

Meeting the British by Paul Muldoon Visual Representation

Arabic by Naomi Shihab Nye

‘Arabic’, a thoughtful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye appears in Red Suitcase: Poems (1994). This poem features a speaker’s forgetfulness concerning her mother tongue (Arabic) and culture.

Arabic by Naomi Shihab Nye Visual Representation

Black Nikes by Harryette Mullen

‘Black Nikes,’ a poem by the American poet Harryette Mullen, was first published in Santa Monica Review (1997). This poem records a metaphorical journey of black people to stars.

Black Nikes by Harryette Mullen Visual Representation

Language Lesson 1976 by Heather McHugh

‘Language Lesson 1976’ by Heather McHugh is a thoughtful poem. In it, the speaker uses language cleverly to make statements about America and love. 

Language Lesson 1976 by Heather McHugh Visual Representation

Inexpensive Progress by John Betjeman

‘Inexpensive Progress’ by John Betjeman is an incredibly effective poem. In it, the speaker acknowledges and speaks out against the way industrialism is removing humanity’s access to history and nature. 

Inexpensive Progress by John Betjeman Visual Representation

Light Refraction by Matt Melone

‘Light Refraction’ by Matt Melone outlines humanity’s unending quest to understand the world. Using memorable images of light and science, the poet describes the future and the past.

Light Refraction by Matt Melone Visual Representation

The Firebombers by Anne Sexton

‘The Firebombers’ by Anne Sexton is an unforgettable poem. In it, the speaker addresses America and the murders the country commits. This includes the deaths of women and children.

The Firebombers by Anne Sexton Visual Representation

Catch the Fire by Sonia Sanchez

‘Catch the Fire’ by Sonia Sanchez is a thoughtful and inspiring poem. In it, the poet encourages readers to catch their fire and use their passion to fuel their lives.

Catch the Fire by Sonia Sanchez Visual Representation

Nani by Alberto Ríos

‘Nani’ by Alberto Ríos is a multi-layered poem. In it, the poet addresses themes like family, heritage, and the past. 

Nani by Alberto Ríos Visual Representation

The Throwback by Paul Muldoon

‘The Throwback’ by Paul Muldoon is a thoughtful poem. In it, the speaker celebrates his partner’s heritage and relates it back to Ancient Greece.

As I Was Going by Charing Cross

‘As I Was Going by Charing Cross’ was first recorded in the 1840s. But, it likely dates to an early decade. It’s thought that this nursery rhyme was likely shared through street cries or chants.

As i was going by charing cross

Remember Remember the 5th of November

‘Remember Remember the 5th of November’ is a commemorative poem that celebrates the capture and execution of Guy Fawkes. It is recited on Guy Fawkes day, celebrated on November the 5th.

Cargoes by John Masefield

‘Cargoes’ by John Masefield is a well-loved, short poem that explores cargo ships. The poet empathizes the way the ships have changed throughout history.

The Black Walnut Tree by Mary Oliver

‘The Black Walnut Tree’ by Mary Oliver is a thoughtful poem about familial history. The poet depicts a discussion between herself and her mother. 

Delilah by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Delilah’ by Carol Ann Duffy focuses on the story of Delilah. It illuminates her individuality and how she felt about Samson. 

Sonnet 124 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 124,’ also known as ‘If my dear love were but the child of state,’ is a poem about the speaker’s superior love. It has withstood a great deal and will last the test of time. 

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