Death

Death is one of the only themes that is truly universal. Poets have been writing about death from the beginning of recorded history, fearing it, fighting it, and embracing it. Depending on the content of the poem, readers might find themselves thrust into a world where death is everpresent or one in which the main character is peacefully carried to their fate.

Elegy V: His Picture by John Donne

‘Elegy V’ by John Donne is addressed to the poet’s lover. He asks her to accept him when he returns, despite the fact that he’s going to look and act differently.

Elegy V: His Picture by John Donne

3 November 1984 by Sujata Bhatt

In ‘3 November 1984,’ Indian-English poet Sujata Bhatt shows how history plays a vital role in the process of writing poetry, and their interconnectedness.

3 November 1984 by Sujata Bhatt

A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map by Stephen Spender

‘A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map’ by Stephen Spender explores the Spanish Civil War through the lyrical depiction of one man’s death. It is marked by a stopwatch, the olive trees, and the continued conflict around him. 

A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map by Stephen Spender

I did not reach Thee by Emily Dickinson

‘I did not reach Thee’ by Emily Dickinson is a complex poem about a speaker’s journey through life. She expresses both optimism and hesitation in the face of her death and attempts to reach God. 

I did not reach Thee by Emily Dickinson

Cityscape by Eavan Boland

‘Cityscape’ by Eavan Boland is a complex, allusion-filled poem that describes Dublin and the Blackrock Baths, and presents contrasting images of past and present. 

Cityscape by Eavan Boland

Crow Sickened by Ted Hughes

‘Crow Sickened’ is a brilliant example of Hughes’ playful style, in which Crow attempts to work out the cause of his misery.

Crow Sickened by Ted Hughes

And Soul by Eavan Boland

‘And Soul’ by Eavan Boland is a poem about death and a body’s dissolution into the elements that it is made up of. The poet emphasizes the connection between a human being made nearly entirely of water and a city that’s drenched by a particularly rainy summer season. 

And Soul by Eavan Boland

Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath

‘Blackberrying’ by Sylvia Plath explores decaying and flourishing life and human mortality. It was published in 1971 in Crossing the Water, after the poet’s death.

Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath

Epilogue by Robert Browning

‘Epilogue’ is a perfect bid-adieu poem to leave behind amidst a great body of poetic works if one is as great a poet as Victorian-era maestro Robert Browning.

Epilogue by Robert Browning

Among the Rocks by Robert Browning

‘Among the Rocks’ is a beautiful lyric poem written from the perspective of James Lee’s wife, a character of Robert Browning’s collection, Dramatis Personae (1864).

Among the Rocks by Robert Browning

Contusion by Sylvia Plath

‘Contusion’ by Sylvia Plath is a memorable, short poem about death and a loss of passion or meaning in one’s life. It is a dramatic monologue written 12 days before the poet’s death. 

Contusion by Sylvia Plath

A Picture of Otto by Ted Hughes

‘A Picture of Otto’ by Ted Hughes is addressed to Sylvia Plath’s father, Otto. It contains Hughes’ disagreements about how he and Otto were depicted in Plath’s work.

A Picture of Otto by Ted Hughes

Darling by Jackie Kay

‘Darling’ by Jackie Kay describes a woman’s death on a beautiful summer day and her close friend’s reaction. It was inspired by a personal loss the poet experienced. 

Darling by Jackie Kay

Australia 1970 by Judith Wright

‘Australia 1970’ by Judith Wright speaks on the changing landscape of Australia in the 1970s. It promotes a version of Australia that is fierce, wild, and dangerous just like the animals that have always lived within its boundaries.

Australia 1970 by Judith Wright

Whose cheek is this? by Emily Dickinson

‘Whose cheek is this?’ by Emily Dickinson is a complicated poem in which the poet describes finding a flower that metaphorically resembles a dead girl.

Whose cheek is this? by Emily Dickinson

Touch Me by Stanley Kunitz

‘Touch Me’ by Stanley Kunitz is a moving poem about aging, the loss of identity, and desire. It explores what keeps people, and creatures of all varieties, going as they enter the final “season” of their life. 

Touch Me by Stanley Kunitz

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 by William Carlos Williams

A Wounded Deer—leaps highest by Emily Dickinson

‘A Wounded Deer—leaps highest’ by Emily Dickinson is a highly relatable poem that speaks about the difference between what someone or something looks like and the truth. She uses the examples of a fatally wounded deer and someone dying of tuberculosis.

A Wounded Deer—leaps highest by Emily Dickinson

How to Like it by Stephen Dobyns

‘How to Like It’ by Stephen Dobyns was written in order to explore a man’s struggle to accept change as he ages. The poem uses humor and very relatable emotions in order to appeal to readers. 

How to Like it by Stephen Dobyns

Quid Pro Quo by Paul Mariani

‘Quid Pro Quo’ by Paul Mariani is a confessional poem that narrates a speaker’s anger and frustration at God subsequent to his wife’s second miscarriage.

Quid Pro Quo by Paul Mariani

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