Your favorite poem ever

I mostly agree, though I do have a tendency to return to some things over and over. Here’s one. A poem about writing poems:

by James Tate
They didn’t have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
first they strapped him into the chair
then tied his pencil around his hand
(the paper had already been nailed down).
Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder
and whispered into his ear:
“You look like a god sitting there.
Why don’t you try writing something?”

I was glad to see Gerard Manley Hopkins mentioned. His poetry is not always accessible to ordinary English speakers, but when it is, it is quite striking. He wrote my favorite poem of all time: Windhover: to Christ our Lord. I will copy it below, but it is important to know a few things first. The poem describes the flight of a hawk called a windhover. He calls it a minion of morning, the prince of daylight, names that we understand to apply to Christ. He describes it swooping around as if it clung to a ring by his fluttering wing. Then suddenly the comparison is to a sea creature that swims in a smooth curve. Then Jesus appears as his chevalier. Remember how a knight would ride in a joust to redeem a woman’s honor, riding with feathers and scarf flying. And then we see how this dangerous beauty shows up everywhere even in the lowliest things, like a plowed row (scillion) where the plow is burnished by the plods of soil, and in an ordinary fire where the embers reveal the gold of majesty and the red of sacrifice. This poem gives me goose bumps even though I’ve read it almost a hundred times.

             The Windhover
            To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, 5
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.


Have you studied poetry? :slightly_smiling_face: How come you know so much about prosody? :thinking:

Yes, I was an English major. So it was nice to have a small chance to talk about poetry on a forum that is primarily geared toward the sciences. :smiley:


That is amazing! Starting today, you are my favorite member of this online community. :flushed:

Have you ever dabbled in writing (poetry, fiction etc.)? :yum:

I did a creative writing minor in college so I did some fiction and poetry writing – some of it was good, some would probably embarrass me now. :wink: At some point I hope to get a first draft of a novel done, but it’s hard to stay focused on it.

Are you a writer as well?

1 Like

Yes, writing is among my hobbies, and I am currently working on several short stories and a novel, but my health problems seem to keep getting in the way.

I wish you the best of luck with your projects! And don’t forget to send me a private message when you do publish your novel or a poetry volume, because I’d love to purchase a copy. :slightly_smiling_face:

I was an English major, too (dropped out of a PhD program, in fact). I agree that it’s nice to see some poetry here.

I kicked around ideas to post as my favorite poem, but there was no obvious choice and too many imponderables (is that one too pretentious? too dumb? do I actually even like it?) Going by objective criteria, the poem that I’ve read the most in the last five years is not one likely to bring me much credit here: “Aubade”, by Philip Larkin.


Thank you, and same to you! It will probably be a while before I’d be ready to self-publish anything, but who knows.

That’s so cool! I imagine the pay is better in the sciences, but the humanities help to hold things together. Thanks for sharing the poem – I hadn’t read that one before.

I’m highly disappointed to learn this. English, Physics, Genetics. Is there anything you can’t do? Please tell me you’re a lousy golfer or something!


I would give you a full list of all the things I’m bad at, but the length would break the internet.

(As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, though, I believe the canonical answer is, “Synchronized swimming – complete mystery to me”.)


I like this poem. It reminds me of “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, and even of Tennyson’s"Oh, Yet We Trust That Somehow Good."

Randal Rauser argued

“If you want a simple and effective way to identify a Christian apologist worth listening to, ask them to share their thoughts on the problem of evil. If they keep their discussion of the problem in the abstract and if they suggest that it is a problem easily solved, you should keep looking. But if they instead take the time to describe the agonizing depth and breadth of the problem, and if they recognize that the problem is such that some people reasonably find their way to non-belief, then that is likely an apologist worth heeding in other matters”

Poetry is, in a way, an apologetics for life. If we ignore the depth of suffering, it’s not real.


Not a very spiritual response, but I’ve always loved “Idylls of the King” by Tennyson. I first read it in college for a seminar on Arthurian legends.

I should answer “Paradise Lost”, but it wouldn’t be honest.


I like anything by L M Montgomery with regard to “Anne of Green Gables.” She’s the one who alerted me to Tennyson…and the “Lady of Shalott”–but he has some rather deep works, too.

I read a lot of Paradise Lost again last year, as well as some of Milton’s earlier poetry. (I was watching these lectures, which I quite liked.) Milton could craft wonderful lines and great images, but I’ve never really liked the guy. In grad school I wrote a paper analyzing his divorce tracts, which run to hundreds of pages. Man, was that a slog. I now remember only two things from all of that work:

  1. Milton was in favor of divorce.
  2. The line, “I mean not to dispute philosophy with this pork, who never read any.”

For some reason the latter comes to mind from time to time when engaging in web discussions of controversial subjects.


Wow. Just wow.

Yep, I vote for Birches too. One reason is that as a kid my friends and I would shinny up ironwood (blue beech) saplings to the top and then kick out our feet to have it bend down and bring us back to the ground like an elevator–unless it was too weak! Then we met the ground much faster.


What was your PhD going to be in? :thinking:

I was aiming for something in medieval or Renaissance English lit. I ended up with a PhD in rare K meson decays. It was an odd experience.


I figured enough time had gone on to justify another favorite-ever poem. I probably don’t have just one favorite-everest poem, just a medium sized set of faves. I like it because it seems to stick up for religious experience by lampooning the narrowness of human experience without it and the pettiness of nothing-but’ists. Even though I reject ‘the supernatural’ as incoherent, I like to think the infinite can fit in the natural world.

of Ever-Ever Land i speak

(of Ever-Ever Land i speak
sweet morons gather roun’
who does not dare to stand or sit
may take it lying down)

down with the human soul
and anything else uncanned
for everyone carries canopeners
in Ever-Ever Land

(for Ever-Ever Land is a place
that’s as simple as simple can be
and was built that way on purpose
by simple people like we)

down with hell and heaven
and all the religious fuss
infinity pleased our parents
one inch looks good to us

(and Ever-Ever Land is a place
that’s measured and safe and known
where it’s lucky to be unlucky
and the hitler lies down with the cohn)

down above all with love
and everything perverse
or which makes some feel more better
when all ought to feel less worse

(but only sameness is normal
in Ever-Ever Land
for a bad cigar is a woman
but a gland is only a gland)