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:

TEACHING THE APE TO WRITE
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.

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