Poems about Memory

Old Man by Edward Thomas

‘Old Man’ by Edward Thomas is a thoughtful piece about the loss of memory and a disconnect to one’s past. 

Old Man by Edward Thomas Visual Representation

Mementos, 1 by W. D. Snodgrass

William DeWitt (W. D.) Snodgrass’s personal piece ‘Mementos, 1’ is about the discovery of an old photograph of the speaker’s divorced wife and the stream of memories that came with it.

Mementos, 1 by W. D. Snodgrass Visual Representation

The Gift by Li-Young Lee

‘The Gift’ by Li-Young Lee is an effective contemporary poem about the way a father’s voice and attitude influenced his son. 

The Gift by Li-Young Lee Visual Representation

Sally’s Hair by John Koethe

‘Sally’s Hair’ by John Koethe is a short and effective poem in which the speaker looks back on someone he met thirty-seven years ago and wonders where she is now.

Sally's Hair by John Koethe Visual Representation

The Heart by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Jill Alexander Essbaum’s ‘The Heart’ is a short poem that dictates the intricacies of dealing with heartfelt emotions. It describes the human heart as a room with four chambers and thousands of doors.

The Heart by Jill Alexander Essbaum Visual Representation

Gold by Donald Hall

A golden poem out of Hall’s heart, ‘Gold’ is about the precious past and conjugal memories of a speaker. It appears in the collection Old and New Poems published in 1990.

Gold by Donald Hall Visual Representation

Memorial by Amanda Gorman

‘Memorial’ by Amanda Gorman is a poem about the past and how poets are able to use their writing to help readers relive it.

Memorial by Amanda Gorman Visual Representation

The Lost Pilot by James Tate

‘The Lost Pilot’ is dedicated to James Tate’s father, who died on a bombing mission in World War II in 1944. He was a co-pilot of a B-17.

The Lost Pilot by James Tate Visual Representation

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.

Barbed Wire by Henry Taylor Visual Representation

The Spanish Needle by Claude McKay

‘The Spanish Needle’ by Claude McKay is thoughtful and image-filled. The poet looks back on his speaker’s past and directs his words to a plant.

The Spanish Needle by Claude McKay Visual Representation

Spooning by David Mason

David Mason’s ‘Spooning’ appears in the 1991 winter issue of The Hudson Review. This poem is about a speaker recapturing his dead grandfather’s life.

Spooning by David Mason Visual Representation

Origin of the Marble Forest by Gregory Orr

‘Origin of the Marble Forest’ by Gregory Orr is an interesting and moving poem about someone’s past relationships. The speaker declares them “stone,” solidifying them in their life forever. 

Origin of the Marble Forest by Gregory Orr Visual Representation

Taking Off My Clothes by Carolyn Forché

‘Taking Off My Clothes’ by Carolyn Forché is a short, effective poem about a relationship. The speaker spends the lines uses imagery to define the various aspects of her partner and herself. 

Taking Off My Clothes by Carolyn Forché Visual Representation

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.

Alzheimer's: The Wife by C. K. Williams Visual Representation

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.

another reluctance by annie finch

In the moonlight by Yosa Buson

‘In pale moonlight’ by Yosa Buson is a Japanese haiku that depicts a night scene filled with the scent of wisteria.

In the moonlight by Yosa Buson Visual Representation

XIV by Derek Walcott

‘XIV’ appears in Derek Walcott’s collection of poems “Midsummer”. This poem features the glorious days of Walcott’s childhood, especially how they gathered around his mother to hear stories at the stroke of eve.

XIV by Derek Walcott Visual Representation

Sonnet 121 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 121,’ also known as ‘‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,’ is a poem about corruption and honesty. The speaker declares his intolerance of hypocrites who try to judge him. 

Sonnet 119 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 119,’ also known as ‘What potions have I drunk of siren tears,’ is a complicated poem in which the speaker describes a relationship he had with a woman. He admits it was a mistake.

Sonnet 122 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 122,’ also known as ‘Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain,’ explores the speaker’s rejection of a simple gift he received from the Youth. He explains it away through a return to his regular devoted attitude. 

Sonnet 122 by William Shakespeare Visual Representation

September by Ted Hughes

‘September’ by Ted Hughes is a moving poem that touches on a troubled and important relationship.

The Day Lady Died by Frank O’Hara

Frank O’Hara wrote ‘The Day Lady Died’ in memory of the jazz singer Billie Holiday. She passed away from complications due to liver diseases in July 1959.

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox