Poems about Suffering

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

Who in One Lifetime by Muriel Rukeyser

‘Who in One Lifetime’ by Muriel Rukeyser is a poem about resistance in the face of war and suffering. The speaker asserts that a woman referred to only as “she” is standing strong despite what she’s seen. 

Who in One Lifetime by Muriel Rukeyser Visual Representation

Life’s Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘Life’s Tragedy’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar considers the elements of life that create tragedy and suffering. The speaker asserts that missing out on perfect love and the perfect song leads to an “accursed” life.

Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar Visual Representation

Home by Warsan Shire

The lines “no one leaves home unless/ home is the mouth of a shark” that made us rethink the global refugee crisis, appear in Somali-British poet Warsan Shire’s poem ‘Home.’ This poem vividly depicts the lived experiences of the refugees both inside and outside of their countries.

Home by Warsan Shire Visual Representation

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen

‘Yet Do I Marvel’ by Countee Cullen is a poem about faith. No matter the darkness the speaker sees in the world, he maintains his faith in his own role in God’s plan.

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen Visual Representation

a man who had fallen among thieves by E.E. Cummings

E. E. Cummings’ ‘a man who had fallen among thieves’ is a modern retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped a robbed man lying unconscious on the road. In this poem, the speaker helps one such person who faced a similar accident.

a man who had fallen among thieves by E. E. Cummings Visual Representation

Sorrow by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘Sorrow’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a lyric poem written about a speaker’s depression. The short piece is filled with evocative depictions of what feeling all-encompassing sorrow is like. 

Sorrow by Edna St. Vincent Millay Visual Representation

An Army Corps on the March by Walt Whitman

Whitman’s ‘An Army Corps on the March’ is a moving depiction of soldiers marching forward tirelessly during the Civil War. No matter how exhausted they were, they had a goal to fulfill and a dream to achieve!

An Army Corps on the March by Walt Whitman Visual Representation

Flash Crimson by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg’s ‘Flash Crimson’ is an emotionally charged, devotional poem where a speaker is eager to ask God for more hardships. It deals with the themes of devotion, morality, legacy, and the afterlife.

Flash Crimson by Carl Sandburg Visual Representation

Boots by Rudyard Kipling

‘Boots’ by Rudyard Kipling is a memorable poem. In it, Kipling uses repetition to emphasize the struggle of soldiers on a forced march. 

Boots by Rudyard Kipling

A Prayer For My Son by William Butler Yeats

‘A Prayer for my Son,’ written from the perspective of a father who wants to protect his son against all odds during the brewing war in Ireland. Read the poem with a complete analysis.

A Prayer For My Son by William Butler Yeats Visual Representation

Jesus! thy Crucifix by Emily Dickinson

‘Jesus! thy Crucifix’ by Emily Dickinson is a short poem in the form of a prayer to Jesus. Th speaker wants to make sure he remembers that humanity suffers on earth.

jesus! thy crucifix by emily dickinson

I’m a Fool to Love You by Cornelius Eady

‘I’m a Fool to Love You’ by Cornelius Eady is a moving poem. It details the choices of a young black woman, the speaker’s mother, and why she did what she did.

i am a fool to love you by cornelius eady

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Tradition is the titular poem from Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown’s poetry collection. It brings to light the maltreatment of African Americans in the present US, while relating it to the past.

The Tradition Poem Visual Representation

Everything I touch by Kobayashi Issa

‘Everything I touch’ by Kobayashi Issa is a beautiful Japanese haiku written by one of the four great haiku masters. This piece speaks on what one might receive in return when they reach out with tenderness.

everything i touch by Kobayashi Issa

Parade’s End by Daljit Nagra

‘Parade’s End’ was published in the British poet Daljit Nagra’s debut collection “Look We Have Coming to Dover!” published in 2007. This poem taps on the themes of racism and the suffering of Asian immigrants in the UK in the 20th century.

Parade’s End by Daljit Nagra Visual Representation

Sonnet by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong’s ‘Sonnet’ is not a conventional poem having fourteen lines or a specific structure. This piece is filled with images that collectively tap on the theme of suffering.

Sonnet by Cathy Park Hong Visual Representation

Shooting Stars by Carol Ann Duffy

A Jew waiting to fall apart into pieces, German soldiers waiting to kill more; this theme is featured in many holocaust poems of the 20th century and Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Shooting Stars’ is one of them. This piece tells the story of a Jewish girl who speaks of the sufferings she endured.

Shooting Stars by Carol Ann Duffy Visual Representation

The Slave Auction by Frances Harper

Have you ever imagined what it felt like observing innocent lives being traded at the slave auction? It is vividly portrayed through the eyes of Frances Harper in her poem ‘The Slave Auction’.

The Slave Auction by Frances Harper Visual Representation

Sonnet 139 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 139,’ also known as ‘O, call not me to justify the wrong,’ expresses the speaker’s longing that the Dark Lady stop treating him so cruelly. By the end, he gives in and accepts his fate. 

Sonnet 139 by William Shakespeare

Duplex by Jericho Brown

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

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