Poems about the Past

Horace to Leuconoe by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson’s sonnet ‘Horace to Leuconoe’ is a passionate address of a lover to a girl, brooding over what God might have in store for her. He advises her to seize the moment and forget about the past and the future.

Horace to Leuconoe by Edwin Arlington Robinson 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

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

Milton by Firelight by Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder’s ‘Milton by Firelight’ is based on Satan’s comment in Paradise Lost and how it is relevant in the present time given the condition of the environment and humankind.

Milton by Firelight by Gary Snyder Visual Representation

Air by W.S. Merwin

‘Air’ appears in W.S. Merwin’s 1963 collection of poetry, The Moving Target. This piece is about the personified air, introspecting on its role in nature.

Air by W.S. Merwin Visual Representation

Suburban Sonnet by Gwen Harwood

‘Suburban Sonnet’ by Gwen Harwood is a powerful poem about a woman’s struggles with motherhood. It explores the mundane elements of her life and her lost dreams.

In The Park by Gwen Harwood

‘In The Park’ by Gwen Harwood is a moving poem about how difficult motherhood can truly be. It describes a mother’s distress over her lost life.

In the park by gwen harwood

Wine Tasting by Kim Addonizio

‘Wine Tasting’ by Kim Addonizio skillfully delves into a speaker’s memories. The poet depicts the experience of drinking wine and all the connected thoughts and emotions it can evoke. 

The Good Life by Tracy K. Smith

‘The Good Life’ by Tracy K. Smith is an incredibly relatable poem. In it, the poet asks the reader to consider their relationship with money and what the ‘good life’ really is.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ is a moving depiction of the United States as it was on the cusp of President Biden’s inauguration in 2021. 

Duplex by Jericho Brown

‘Duplex’ by Jericho Brown explores physical and mental abuse, looking at how memory can impact a person.

Peeling Onions by Adrienne Rich

‘Peeling Onions’ by Adrienne Rich is an introspective poem. In it, the poet uses the metaphor of peeling onions to define her complex thoughts.

Warning by Jenny Joseph

‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph describes what the future has in store as one ages and throws off societal restraints and expectations. 

Rain by Don Paterson

‘Rain’ by Don Paterson describes the way that rain acts as an equalizing force capable of washing away one’s concern for the past. 

The Darling Letters by Carol Ann Duffy

‘The Darling Letters’ by Carol Ann Duffy describes the way love letters transition from being full of devotion, to containing nothing by recriminations. 

Secrets by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

‘Secrets’ describes the natural human affinity for the sorrows of the world and how one may be changed by their own interior “misery.” 

To Sappho I by Sara Teasdale

‘To Sappho I’ by Sara Teasdale speaks on the beauty of the past as seen from a tainted future that has lost it’s joy and magic. 

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