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Friday, July 12, 2024

Of love, life, and hope: 8 poems that will lift you from a writing rut

4 min readWith varying themes about love, life, and hope, here are eight classic poems that will refill your ink cartridge and lift you from a writing rut.
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Published 2 months ago on April 29, 2024

by Denise Julianne Pangan

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Photo from Dead Poets Society (1989)

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Like ink in a pen, words and creativity do not always flow so steadily for those who wield pen and paper as instruments. And when one is stuck in a writer's rut, where figurative languages falter as much as inspiration diminishes, it is always best to immerse oneself with a form of literature that evokes raw emotion and tickles the creative mind—poetry.

With varying themes about love, life, and hope, here are eight classic poems that will refill your ink cartridge and lift you from a writing rut.

1. ‘Having a Coke with You’ by Frank O’Hara (1960)

"it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles"

In an unconventional poem, where punctuation is mostly nonexistent, Frank O'Hara finds happiness and a connection in sharing a Coke with a young lover under a tree in New York City. This poeticizing of such a mundane moment of having an afternoon drink might motivate writers to write about little, private moments of affection and express in words the spontaneity and delight of love in a carefree manner, much like O'Hara does.

2. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth (1807)

"For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils."

On a fateful walk in the English countryside, William Wordsworth and his sister discovered a "host of golden daffodils," which made the poet so happy and cheerful that his mind returned to the stunning belt of flowers whenever in a "pensive mood." This homage to the beauty of nature, capturing a sense of solitude, might encourage writers to write about the vividness of the natural world—or to find joy in the little things in life, as Wordsworth did.

3. ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley (1875)

"It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

With one leg remaining and while confined within the white walls of a hospital, William Ernest Henley ironically wrote Invictus, a poem of defiance against hopelessness and hardships. The renowned lines, "I am the captain of my soul, I am the master of my fate," embody an indomitable spirit that may inspire writers to take charge of their stories, whether in life or on a mere blank sheet of paper.

4. ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe (1849)

"But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we— Of many far wiser than we— And neither the angels in Heaven above Nor the demons down under the sea Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;"

Set in a “kingdom by the sea,” Annabel Lee narrates the story of two young lovers whose affection for each other was so profound it made the heavens envious. Their love, cut short by an untimely tragedy, transcends death as the speaker vows nothing can dissever their souls.

It is lyrical poems like Annabel Lee that would make writers wish they could weave words in a hauntingly melancholic way like Edgar Allan Poe once did, whether it be out of love or any emotion that consumes them wholly.

5. ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost (1915)

"I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."

People from all walks of life would probably remember a line or two from Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, a classic poem every English teacher in high school has surely assigned students to pick apart its stanzas in a 500-word essay.

Originally written as a joke for Frost's chronically indecisive friend, Edward Thomas, The Road Not Taken highlights the inevitability of making profound choices and how these intricately intertwine to make all the difference in life—whether one takes the road less traveled or not.

Take a trip down memory lane and unearth a friend's funny anecdote for a writing prompt. Who knows? It might make them the next great English homework.

6. ‘Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott (1976)

*"Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life."*

Poems about love are usually full of evocative imagery, but Derek Walcott's poetry celebrates self-acceptance and self-love following a relationship breakdown. And as much as it encourages readers to recognize their worth and discover contentment, fulfillment, and love within, it may also inspire writers to explore themes of introspection and personal growth. After all, as Walcott says, "The process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery."

7. ‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Maya Angelou (1978)

"I say, It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me."

Poems do not always have to be inherently indecipherable at first read to drive a nail home; Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman can attest to that. Written in such a passionate and straightforward voice, Phenomenal Woman remains a powerful symbol of empowerment, celebrating women's distinctiveness and self-confidence despite the pressures of societal conformity.

8. ‘“Hope” is the thing with feathers' by Emily Dickinson (1861)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops - at all -"

With her great love for birds, Emily Dickinson personified hope as a tiny, resilient bird that "perches in the soul," sings through the worst of storms, and "never stops at all." Full of figurative language, the metaphor-filled sonnet may encourage writers to delve into the idea of hope as a tenacious, kind force in the face of adversity and perhaps find a way to personify it with what they are fond of.

Despite its daunting nature of indecipherability when first read, poetry remains a haven for introspection, a playground for the fickle mind, and an endless source of inspiration—one just needs to find what poem resonates with them the most.

POETRY

POEMS

POETRY MONTH

Profile picture of Denise Julianne Pangan

Denise Julianne Pangan

Blogs Writer

Denise Julianne Pangan was a Blogs Writer at TomasinoWeb. Denise is a journalism major exploring the many faces of popular culture and its intertwinings with society. Though she has yet to discover her beat as a newbie blog writer, she writes easy-to-read listicles and social commentaries. When she's not drinking too much coffee, she watches anime and EN-O'CLOCK vlogs, reads fiction novels and Twitter seryes, and romanticizes cleaning her bookshelf.

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