Poems about Poverty

The Yachts by William Carlos Williams

‘The Yachts’ by William Carlos Williams depicts the winners, or yacht-owners, in the capitalist system and the losers, or the poor, who are drowning in the waters around the boats. 

The Yachts Poem Visual Representation

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay depicts the lengths mothers will go to in order to protect their children. The speaker recalls watching his mother sacrifice herself for him when he was a young boy, weaving an enormous pile of clothing with a harp. 

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay Visual Representation

Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

In ‘Nikki-Rosa,’ Nikki Giovanni explores her experiences while growing up in a closely-knit black community in 1950s America.

Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni Visual Representation

Baudelaire by Delmore Schwartz

Delmore Schwartz’s ‘Baudelaire’ is an emotional depiction of a poet’s desperation caused by poverty and the vicious cycle of hopelessness.

Baudelaire by Delmore Schwartz Visual Representation

Fragment by Angelina Weld Grimké

‘Fragment’ by Angelina Weld Grimké is a short and powerful poem in which a woman discusses, in simple terms, who she is and how she toils on a day-to-day basis.

Fragment by Angelina Weld Grimké Visual Representation

Sadie and Maud by Gwendolyn Brooks

‘Sadie and Maud’ by Gwendolyn Brooks is a poem about finding happiness, dealing with sexism, and society’s expectations. It features the stories of two sisters-Maud and Sadie who take different paths in life. 

Sadie and Maud by Gwendolyn Brooks Visual Representation

Teaching English from an Old Composition Book by Gary Soto

Gary Soto’s ‘Teaching English from an Old Composition Book’ is about a teacher instructing some Mexican-American immigrant students in a night school. Soto portrays their harsh living conditions and the struggle to cope in a new culture.

Teaching English from an Old Composition Book by Gary Soto Visual Representation

The Great Society by Robert Bly

Published in Robert Bly’s award-winning collection, The Light Around the Body (1967), ‘The Great Society’ satirizes the set of domestic programs launched by Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964-65 by presenting contrasting imagery from contemporary American society.

The Great Society by Robert Bly Visual Representation

New Day’s Lyric by Amanda Gorman

‘New Day’s Lyric’ by Amanda Gorman is poem written at the end of 2021 in order to usher in a more hopeful new year in 2022. The piece explores themes of hope and change. 

New Day’s Lyric by Amanda Gorman Visual Representation

Money, O! by W.H. Davies

‘Money, O!’ by W.H Davies is a poem that argues that having a lot of money is not all that it’s cracked up to be. While being well off financially comes with its benefits, it comes at the expense of genuine relationships.

Money, Oh! By W.H. Davies Visual Representation

Cross by Langston Hughes

‘Cross’ by Langston Hughes uses a stereotypical image of a biracial man to explore identity and the inequalites one might encounter.

Cross by Langston Hughes Visual Representation

Cuba, 1962 by Ai

Ai’s poem ‘Cuba, 1962’ appears in her poetry collection Vice: New and Selected Poems (1999), winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. This piece is written in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Cuba, 1962 by Ai Visual Representation

The Birth of the Building Society – Nationwide Poem

The poem used in the Nationwide advert, ‘The Birth of the Building Society’ by Stephen Morrison-Burke, was written to tell the origin story of building societies. It also seeks to differentiate them from banks in customer’s eyes.

Harlem Hopscotch by Maya Angelou

‘Harlem Hopscotch’ by Maya Angelou is a thoughtful poem. It explores what it’s like to grow up Black in Harlem, New York.

Decomposition by Zulfikar Ghose

‘Decomposition’ is written by the Pakistani-American poet Zulfikar Ghose. This poem centers on a photograph of an old beggar sleeping on the pavement and contrasts artistic composition with physical decomposition.

Decomposition by Zulfikar Ghose Visual Representation

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.

America by Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg’s ‘America’ deals with the turbulent times in America. It was written during and focused on the period after the Second World War.

Winter by Anne Hunter

‘Winter’ by Anne Hunter cleverly personifies winter as a “tyrant” who has complete control over those most in need.

London by William Blake

Imagine waking up in London in the 1800s. You might find yourself surrounded by prostitutes, the homeless, and many more suffering in dilapidated housing. These are only a few of the haunting sights William Blake documents in ‘London.’

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