The Past

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

Here by R.S. Thomas

‘Here’ by R.S. Thomas is delivered from the perspective of a man who, while looking back on his life, finds himself self regretting acts of violence he committed.

Here by R.S. Thomas 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

Traveling Light by Alice Fulton

‘Traveling Light’ by Alice Fulton is a powerful poem that weaves together images of the present and the past. Throughout, readers can explore Fulton’s understanding of her relationship with her father and her current relationship with the landscape around her.

Traveling Light by Alice Fulton Visual Representation

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo

‘An American Sunrise’ by Joy Harjo is a powerful poem about Native American culture written by the current Poet Laureate of the United States. The poem explores the struggles of the poet’s community as well as the successes and celebrations. 

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo 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

To a Stranger by Walt Whitman

‘To a Stranger’ by Walt Whitman describes a connection the speaker feels to a stranger they pass on the street. 

To a Stranger by Walt Whitman 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 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

Under Stars by Tess Gallagher

‘Under Stars’ by Tess Gallagher is a thoughtful poem that traces a speaker’s walk outside at night. It includes her reminiscence about her past and childhood. 

Under Stars by Tess Gallagher Visual Representation

Weather Eye by Isobel Dixon

‘Weather Eye’ by Isobel Dixon is a beautiful poem about childhood. It describes the routines that controlled a speaker’s life during their youth and how they miss the order and family time.

Weather Eye by Isobel Dixon 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 Meeting by Katherine Mansfield

‘The Meeting’ by Katherine Mansfield is a short and image-rich poem that depicts a speaker’s reaction to a permanent separation from her lover. 

The Meeting by Katherine Mansfield Visual Representation

Black Silk by Tess Gallagher

‘Black Silk’ by Tess Gallagher is a sorrowful poem. In it, the speaker uses a silk vest to convey the emotion surrounding a loss.

Black Silk by Tess Gallagher 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

to my last period by Lucille Clifton

‘to my last period’ by Lucille Clifton is a thoughtful poem. In it, the speaker mourns for her lost youth and acknowledges further changes to come. 

to my last period by Lucille Clifton 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

It Is Here by Harold Pinter

‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter is a thoughtful poem. It uses sense imagery in order to explore a relationship between two people. 

It is Here by Harold Pinter

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.

Belle Isle, 1949 by Philip Levine

‘Belle Isle, 1949’ by Philip Levine is a poem about a series of moments from a speaker’s youth. He swims in the Detroit River and then returns to his life. 

Belle Isle, 1949 by Philip Levine Visual Representation

Men at Forty by Donald Justice

‘Men at Forty’ by Donald Justice is a moving poem about aging and fatherhood. The speaker is describing what it’s like for all men when they reach forty and consider their pasts and presents.

Men at Forty by Donald Justice

Alcohol by Franz Wright

‘Alcohol’ by Franz Wright is a moving poem that explores the complexities of addiction. It’s told from the perspective of alcohol, addressing someone who is addicted to the substance.

Alcohol by Franz Wright Visual Representation

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