Home » Poetry » The Best Kinds of Poems, In Order The Best Kinds of Poems, In Order Mallory Ortberg on June 9, 2014 in Poetry 1523765 Commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F2014%2F06%2F09%2Fbest-kinds-poems-order%2FThe+Best+Kinds+of+Poems%2C+In+Order+2014-06-09+14%3A00%3A04Mallory+Ortberghttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F%3Fp%3D15237 Previously in Mallory’s Poetry Opinions: The only things poems should ever be about. “Someday we’re both going to be dead so you absolutely have got to have sex with me right now” “War is hell and World War One, specifically, was a terrible idea, and this is what machine guns sound like” “Carefully coded support for male-male sex” “Goddammit I love this shepherd; just look at him” “Let me describe this cherry tree to you, in detail” “Where is everybody? Oh, right, they’re all dead. Everyone is dead” “European colonialism is a terrific idea” “I am looking at a poor person and thinking about death” “Here is what you should do after I die when you’re standing by my grave” “The sun is rising and we are going to have to stop having sex soon“ Tags: literary themes, obviously colonialism was not a great idea but poems about colonialism are just terrific if you're in the right frame of mind, poetic genres, poetry, ranking things Related PostsThe Greatest Poems In The Works Of P.G. WodehousePoems That Sound Like Reputable Contemporary Poems But Are BadThe Cat in the Hwæt: An Old English Seuss Translation“The Spinster’s Almanac”: Poetic Advice for Loneliness“The Spinster’s Almanac”: Poetic Advice for Depression“The Spinster’s Almanac”: Poetic Advice for a Terrible Summer About Author by Mallory Ortberg Mallory is an Editor of The Toast. 15237Latest Commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F2014%2F06%2F09%2Fbest-kinds-poems-order%2FThe+Best+Kinds+of+Poems%2C+In+Order+2014-06-09+14%3A00%3A04Mallory+Ortberghttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F%3Fp%3D15237 ellbeejay “The sun is rising and we are going to have to stop having sex soon“ Mallory, you have won my heart forever, as did John Donne and G. Chaucer before you. notdarkyet Are there double points for scoring multiple categories? e.g. 'Colonialism is terrific, so have sex with me right now!' "Licence my roving hands, and let them go Before, behind, between, above, below. O, my America, my Newfoundland, My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd," http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/elegy20…. ellbeejay oh god, absolutely. Dr LadyBusiness Omg I love this poem so hard DONNE RULES, MILTON DROOLS MissAndrie FALSE Household_Opera How about Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier"? "WWI is hell" with added bonus "Here is what you should do after I die," with a dash of colonialism on top. annaisabe *le sigh* Spinozagal A.E Houseman has got it all covered. Guest He always does. Elsa is Emily “Here is what you should do after I die when you’re standing by my grave” Did anyone else laugh out loud because they flashed on the first-episode funeral from Slings & Arrows? Sean_Sullivan I used to think that Kipling pivoted from "European colonialism[/adventurism] is a terrific idea” to "World War One was a terrible idea" after a shrapnel cloud obliterated his son's face at the Battle of Loos. But there are those who insist that Rudyard became more belligerent after John's death. Maybe. The famous epitaphs can be read either way. Or neither way, perhaps; as more experiential than consciously political. Nausikaa I think the trick to understanding Kipling is realizing that there is no pivot point; Kipling was always both belligerent and compassionate. Sometimes one side of him was uppermost, sometimes the other. I think he did decide World War One had been a terrible idea, but that doesn't mean he felt war itself was a terrible idea. And I think the war intensified a lot of his prejudices; he didn't become anti-Semitic, for instance, until after the war. But then you can read a post-war story like "The Gardener" or "On the Gate," and just be blown away by how broad-minded and tolerant and compassionate it is. Kipling is a puzzle, all right. "Something I owe to the soil that grew/More to the life that fed/Most to Allah who gave me two/Separate sides to my head." Nausikaa Did you know that "The Coward" is on a Belgian memorial to soldiers shot for cowardice? I don't really know how to do links or pictures, so I'm just copying and pasting: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/11/26/wo… PonyAlong POETRY! The only war poem you'll ever need: "From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose." Randall Jarrell MalloryOrtberg girl that's why i linked to it in this piece! PonyAlong Whoops, so you did! (That's what I get from clicking only one war poem but I'm pretty chuffed we share the same appreciation for Jarrell). Loony_Lovegood But are you…chuffed as nuts?! I hope that you are. I would be. cee other best types of poem include Catullus being a petulant manchild about EVERYTHING: http://dressthesavage.tumblr.com/post/86230179412… Abanthis He can single-handedly undercut the "hrmm, Classics so dignified, Romans so noble, poetry so serious" stereotype. I like showing number 16 to the uninitiated and giggling quietly. eleventysix Catullus and his petulance! I adore Latin poetry, I truly do; but the only miserable time I ever had studying it was heading into the 6th month of him whining about everything and not even trying to be subtle about his ~needs~ during my AP class in high school. I have never forgiven him. Plus, my heart belongs to one P. Ovidius Naso dakimel It's Poetry Week! I love poetry week. I'm terrible at paying attention to poems the other 51 weeks of the year, and then I jump on board and get all excited about buried passions and syncopated rhythms and understated jingoism. Or overstated jingoism, it's all good! Amphora In my house, we kicked things off by playing Guess the Poet From the Poem. This is how I discovered, to my horror, that my husband has never heard of William Carlos Williams. eegghh I wrote a WCW poem this weekend: This is Just to Say I have discarded the pickles that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving forever Forgive me they were gross so moldy and so half-empty I suggest WCW for all your household notes. Alternatives: So much depends upon a green swiffer mop glazed with windex spray in your white hands dakimel You threw out my pickles? I WAS GOING TO EAT THOSE! Grrrr. (WCW-themed nagging is the best kind of nagging.) Steph Ahahaha, perfect. Household_Opera Wow. That second cherry tree poem is actually more depressing than the A.E. Housman poem that precedes it. I would not have predicted that. Also, "Goddammit I love this shepherd; just look at him" is possibly the best one-sentence summary of the pastoral genre that I've seen to date. PonyAlong Ode on a Grecian Urn Summarized – Desmond Skirrow Gods chase. Round vase. What say? What play? Don't know. Nice, though. Ashleigh Brantingham My favorite “Someday we’re both going to be dead so you absolutely have got to have sex with me right now” poem is Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress": http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173954 Abanthis Here's "To His Coy Mistress" read by Tom Hiddleston. Liz the Lemur A bit disappointed not to see the reappearance of the "don't you die in that war buddy" tag. jenphalian “Goddammit I love this shepherd; just look at him” Where's that meme pic of Obi-wan exhorting Anakin to just look at all the fucks he doesn't give?? Because that's how I read this line. oldsampeabody War poetry is the best poetry. Favorites at the moment are Wilfie's "Parable of the Old Man and the Young" and Ivor Gurney's "To His Love". Those last two lines…BOOM, right in the gut. Glynn Maxwell said it best (on Gurney): "It’s the sound of a culture’s poetic history cracking in half." huntresswizard Oh my god, that Gurney. Somehow, I hadn't encountered it before and am now just shattered. threatqualitypress Ooof, Wilfred Owen, always. Scared_Vagina I should have known that I am in too mental a fragile state to read Owen. A small sob just escaped after Anthem for Doomed Youth and how many millions of times have I read that poem in my life. ru_ri I feel that poems with pigeons in them are really the best poems. thejcar Goddammit I DO love this shepherd, thx for pointing him out b/c I want to live with him and be his love! keshchev Poems about colonialism are my guilty pleasure. My not-so-guilty pleasure are poems about people who are not sure about whether to eat peaches or not. Upsidedown_Cake I've always suspected that Eliot's peach dilemma was really oral sex performance anxiety. But either way, I end up wanting to gently and lovingly say to him, "Damnit, Tom, dive in." (While he has so many problematic things going on, he is still the voice of my teenage self.) alicia I am only mildly disappointed not to see Lil' Jon compared to John Donne here. I hope you're saving that for later, Mallory. Household_Opera I just remembered Richard Barnfield, a now-obscure 17th-century poet, quite a few of whose poems are a twofer of "goddammit I love this shepherd" AND not-coded-at-all support for male-male sex (aside from the coding that pastoral convention itself provided, i.e. "Hey, I'm just imitating Virgil here!"). Especially this sonnet. And this one. Teka Lynn Poor Hobbinol. bocadelperro IMO the best poem is one that plays with several of these tropes, and simultaneously undercuts and supports them. (Marry me Philip Larkin, you sublimely grumpy man) Grumbly Queer Oh my god, Walt Whitman. War is hell/a> and there is no coding/a> about thisa/> male-male/a> sex. Elise Suggestions, please! I'm trying to memorize poems to recite to my baby. Because he likes them, and because I want him to hear all different kinds of words. I've gotten through "The Raven," "The Second Coming," "Jabberwocky," "Ozymandias," and a few Shel Silverstein poems, plus a couple that are slipping my mind. Rhyming poems are best for my purposes, as they are easier to memorize. And maybe shorter than "The Raven," which stalled my whole project. Any suggestions? fireblargg Fun! Have you tried Emily Dickinson? Those are short (and awesome), and they usually rhyme. Sometimes the subject matter can get a little dark, but if you're cool with "The Second Coming" I'm guessing that is not a problem for you. actualmeg Also, if you want, you can sing almost all of them to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme song. pearlrose Emily Dickinson's pretty easy to memorize–just choose your favorite. "I cannot dance upon my toes" is one of the more child-friendly ones. I'm also fond of the very brief "Beauty crowds me till I die." Sonnets? "How do I love thee, let me count the ways"? Oh, oh, or e.e. cummings' "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)"? hungryandfrozen It's pretty dark and long, but so is life – The Highwayman? Also Roald Dahl has some good poems that rhyme – one of my favourites as a child was Crocky Wock the Crocodile. owlet seconding The Highwayman! owlet I love that you are doing this! Some great suggestions at this link: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/lesson/committed-me… for reading to a baby, I especially like "If–" by Rudyard Kipling and "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear. I memorized both of those as a child and they were great fun to recite. Nausikaa King John's Christmas and the one about James James Morrison Morrison. If you want him to hear lots and lots of words, including ones that don't actually exist, I recommend Hopkins. Probably "Spring and Fall to a Young Child" and "Pied Beauty." Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay. "We were very tired, we were very merry. We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry…" It's a lovely poem and has a rhythm that carries you along nicely. Kipling's "Smuggler's Song" is a fun one, too. "Five-and-twenty ponies, trotting through the dark/Brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk/Laces for a lady, letters for a spy/And watch the wall, my darling, when the gentlemen go by." Hardy's "The Ruined Maid" is fun because you can do two voices. Upsidedown_Cake Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is an excellent source of such material. — When I was a young thing, my father read it to me and bits have remained stuck in my head. Which is not bad for something I first heard when I was two. I particularly liked "Growltiger's Last Stand," "The Old Gumbie Cat," and "The Naming of Cats." They are still my favorites. From the same source (my best friend describes him of having a Yeats infection), I also got most of "Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad" which slithers off the tongue delightfully. Oh and Robert Frost. Not just the usual suspects but also "The Bearer of Evil Tidings." Household_Opera Seconding Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats! I have very fond memories of my parents reading those poems to me when I was a child. UnderhandedMazie I once talked a 5-month-baby to sleep by reciting Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" to her. It's a little long to memorize, but the rhythms are wonderful. Girl Detective Gilgalad was an elven king Of him the harpers sadly sing The last whose land was fair and free Between the mountains and the sea His sword was sharp and his lance was keen His shining helm afar was seen The countless stars of heaven's field Were mirror'd in his silver shield But long ago he rode away And where he dwelleth none can say For into darkness fell his star In Mordor where the shadows are (Memorised it when I was pregnant 9 years ago, still able to recite it) Ms__M Everything by Edward Lear. The Owl and the Pussycat (as another person suggested), The Pobble Who Has No Toes, and all of his limericks. They often cheat (the last word of the first and last line tends to be the same), but they're still good all the same. Household_Opera There's a wonderful anthology from Faber & Faber called The Faber Book of Children's Verse — now, sadly, out of print, but there may be used copies available somewhere? — that I was given as a child, and I still have it because it was my first introduction to "Kubla Khan," and a lot of Yeats ("The Song of Wandering Aengus"! ), and the more grown-up T.S. Eliot poems, and Shelley ("Ozymandias" was a favorite of mine, too), and so many others. If you ever come across it I highly recommend it. Also, how about Walter de la Mare? There's a collection of his called Peacock Pie (which is on Gutenberg) that I remember liking a lot as a child, as well. Adventure_Club This is such a cool idea! I recommend Christina Rossetti. Elise Thanks everybody! These are all A+ suggestions. I did do "The Owl and the Pussycat," so we are definitely on the same track. Will check all of these out! cuminafterall I know this is late, but I love The Overworked Elocutionist! Once there was a little boy whose name was Robert Reece; And every Friday afternoon he had to speak a piece. So many poems thus he learned, that soon he had a store Of recitations in his head… and still kept learning more. And now this is what happened: He was called upon one week And totally forgot the piece he was about to speak. His brain he cudgeled. Not a word remained within his head! And so he spoke at random, and this is what he said: "My beautiful, my beautiful, who standest proudly by, It was the schooner Hesperus-the breaking waves dashed high! Why is this Forum crowded? What means this stir in Rome? Under a spreading chestnut tree, there is no place like home! When freedom from her mountain height cried, "Twinkle, little star," Shoot if you must this old gray head, King Henry of Navarre! Roll on, thou deep and dark blue castled crag of Drachenfels, My name is Norval, on the Grampain Hills, ring out, wild bells! If you're waking, call me early, to be or not to be, The curfew must not ring tonight! Oh, woodman, spare that tree! Charge, Chester, charge! Oh, Stanley, on! and let who will be clever! The boy stood on the burning deck, but I go on forever!" His elocution was superb, his voice and gestures fine; His schoolmates all applauded as he finished the last line. "I see it doesn't matter," Robert thought, "what words I say, So long as I declaim with oratorical display." owlet One time at uni, our honours english program had a dumb dress-up party and everyone dressed up as people from literature and one girl just dressed up as "the pastoral" and she had a tiny sheep stuffed animal and it was the best. The End. literaltrousersnake Two thousand pounds of education Drops to a ten-rupee jezail – popjunkie42 How long ago Hector took off his plume, Not wanting that his little son should cry, Then kissed his sad Andromache goodbye- And now we three in Euston waiting-room. Frances Crofts Cornford rusalka That's funny, there are several Balkan folk songs in the "sun is rising, time to stop boning" genre. ("A lad was sleeping on a fair maid's arm, and she was loath to wake him"/"How can I get up, fair maid, if you have drunk my life force from me?" etc etc) I wonder if that's a Thing and Donne and Chaucer were borrowing from folk tradition?