‘The Fish’ by Marianne Moore uses imagery and form to objectively describe nature and humanity’s ability to survive and mature in the face of death, destruction, and loss.
While the circle-of-life system in 'The Fish' is definitely not one of reincarnation, Moore suggests that loss provides a foundation for new life. According to the poem, nothing can stop life from returning, whether it's war, decay, darkness, or even bodily harm. While every injury leaves a scar and a mark on this planet, there is always a new life for something just around the corner.
through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
‘Maud Muller’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a classic narrative ballad that recounts how the poor peasant, Maud, and an urban judge fantasize about getting married and living together. However, neither of them ever takes action, which fills their lives with regret.
As this tragic poem sets its course to explore the themes of unrequited love, nature, urban life, and social standing, it finds its way to the unsettling conclusion that, often, our only hope to right a wrong is to wait for another life to come around.
God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
‘Brilliance’ by Mark Doty describes a dying man who wants to control his own life. He eventually opens himself up to new experiences.
'Brilliance' uses goldfish as a metaphor for new life. The man in the poem is dying; there is no way around that fact and no way to increase his life span. Initially, he deals with that fact by behaving as though he is already dead. By bringing goldfish into his home, the man welcomes new life for himself even though he does not have much time left. The speaker of the poem imagines the man being reborn as a goldfish, giving him a metaphorical new life because of his willingness to open himself up to new experiences and joys.
Maggie’s taking care of a man
who’s dying; he’s attended to everything,
said goodbye to his parents,
‘June’ by James Russell Lowell is a religiously-charged romantic narrative poem about the overwhelming beauty and rejuvenating power of summer.
This poem's take on summer is very religiously charged, as it suggests that heaven comes to earth during June. As such, as heaven descends in a golden haze upon the pastoral landscape in this poem, it rejuvenates everything, from the soil to the birds to the breezes.
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
‘The Flock’ is a poem that meditates on the cyclical nature of time and the passage of the seasons. Through vivid imagery and a somber tone, the poet reflects on the inevitability of winter’s end, the unchanging nature of the world, and his own place within this cycle of time.
The concept of new life is evoked in 'The Flock' by Derek Walcott through his exploration of the cyclical nature of migration and rebirth in the natural world.
The grip of winter tightening, its thinned
volleys of blue-wing teal and mallard fly
from the longbows of reeds bent by the wind,
arrows of yearning for our different sky.
‘Answer’ by Chinua Achebe portrays a persona shedding off insecurities about his homeland. He stops comparing it to that of his colonizers, seeing it as the vibrant place it always was.
The theme of new life resonates in Achebe's poem, symbolizing a fresh start or rebirth. The speaker experiences a transformative journey, breaking free from fear and embracing a newfound sense of agency and purpose. Achebe explores the possibilities that new beginnings can bring and highlights the potential for growth and positive change in one's life.
I broke at last
the terror-fringed fascination
that bound my ancient gaze
to those crowding faces
‘Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper’ contrasts two forms of labor and encourages the reader to consider the relationship between them.
The narrator's adult life as a lawyer will likely be cosmetically very different from their childhood. The poem ponders how this can be considered a new life.
At sixteen, I worked after high school hours
at a printing plant
that manufactured legal pads:
‘Polar Exploration’ reflects upon peaceful isolation and urban life, particularly how the latter appears to make the former impossible.
The process of returning from the barren landscape of the arctic into the busy streets of London is presented as akin to experiencing a new life entirely.
Our single purpose was to walk through snow
With faces swung to their prodigious North
Like compass iron. As clerks in whited Banks
With bird-claw pens column virgin paper
‘More Strong Than Time’ by Victor Hugo is a powerfully romantic poem that declares love as withstanding the withering effects of time.
According to the speaker, love has completely changed their perception and experience of life. In a way, it has given them a new life, reinvigorating them with its intimacy and passion. There's a clear distinction between the life the speaker had before they discovered this love and the life they now have after it. One that is now full of intensity and boldness.
Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,
Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,
Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,
And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;
‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.
The poet shows his disappointment for his unfulfilled love and at some point to Philomela's grievance to uplift his misery. Philomela, Procne after running away from Tereus, got a new life as birds and Tereus as an owl. Philomela, as a nightingale got a new life to voice out the tragedy that happened in her life.
O Philomela fair, O take some gladness,
That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness:
Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth;
Thy thorn without, my thorn my heart invadeth.
‘A Long Journey’ by Musaemura Zimunya is based on the changes that came to Rhodesia, a small country in southern Africa, after British colonial rule. The speaker explores the positive changes and the negative.
The poem reflects the transition from rural life ("bush") to urban life ("concrete"), symbolizing a new beginning and the pursuit of a better life. The move to the city represents the hope for improved opportunities and a chance for personal growth and advancement.
Through decades that ran like rivers
endless rivers of endless woes
through pick and shovel sjambok and jail
O such a long long journey
‘The Gates of Midnight’ is about death. It explores images of the afterlife and suggests that humanity has nothing to fear from leaving this life behind.
This poem captures the idea of a new life and a journey beyond death. Meireles describes the angels opening the gates of midnight, which signifies the beginning of a new journey. The imagery in the poem suggests that the afterlife is a beautiful and peaceful place where everything comes alive.
The angels come to open the gates of midnight,
at the very moment when sleep is deepest
and silence most pervasive.
‘The Powwow at the End of the World’ by Sherman Alexie is a stunning poem that reveals the apocalyptic price of an indigenous person’s forgiveness.
Although the poem might deal heavily with images of the apocalypse, the finality of the end of the world in the poem is not so severe. Instead, the destruction of the dam is just the preceding incident to the poem's actual focus: a tribe reunited on land that's been restored. As a result, the poem is as much about the new life found at the end of the old world (i.e. the one that prioritized dams over people and nature).
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
‘They Feed They Lion’ by Philip Levine is a powerful poem that visualizes a scene of apocalyptic proportions. It was inspired by the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots.
The poem presents a somewhat bleak vision of the future, where the Earth becomes a wreck. Yet some hope can be gleaned from the images of a righteous uprising, and the poem’s echoing of biblical apocalypses implies a new life might be found at the end of the old world.
Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
“All You Have is A Country” by Ha Jin explores patriotism and how it can be negatively ingrained into someone’s personality.
New life is a central theme in the poem, as the person the speaker describes struggles to adapt to a new life in exile and reconcile their Chinese identity with the challenges of living in a foreign land. The speaker describes someone longing for things they associate with China but must learn to find joy and meaning in their new surroundings.
You are so poor that all you have is a country.
Whenever you open your mouth
you talk about the country
to which you can no longer return.
Li Bai’s ‘Taking Leave of a Friend’ uses different literary techniques to convey the themes of transience, nature, longing, and friendship.
This poem does not directly address the issue of new life, but it indirectly touches on the theme of impermanence and the cyclical nature of life. The image of the natural world - the blue mountains, white water, floating clouds, and sunset - emphasizes the brevity of human existence and the power of nature. The departure of the friend marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, suggesting that life is a continuous cycle of change and renewal.
Blue mountains lie beyond the north wall;
Round the city's eastern side flows the white water.
Here we part, friend, once forever.
You go ten thousand miles, drifting away
‘Before The Cask of Wine’ is a beautiful lyric that emphasizes enjoying one’s youthful hours to the fullest. As one can’t savor those moments in old age.
One of the less-prominent themes in this poem is that of rejuvenation and new life. The poet asks readers to reclaim their lives (through his natural imagery) and enjoy them while it's possible to. One shouldn't let time pass them by, he suggests.
The spring wind comes from the east and quickly passes,
Leaving faint ripples in the wine of the golden bowl.
The flowers fall, flake after flake, myriads together.