Here are three poems I especially like, the work of what anyone would describe as a very diverse trio of poets, but at the same time poetry that touches upon the human experience in the deepest sense. The poems speak so clearly for themselves, I would feel uncomfortable commenting upon any of the three in a pretense of interpretation or analysis. Most might agree that the written lines say it all.
Li-Young Lee is an American poet, though he was born in Jakarta of Chinese parents. He has published four collections of poetry, the most recent in 2008. The poem below comes from his 1986 collection, Rose.
“FROM BLOSSOMS” by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Edna St Vincent Millay is a name already familiar to many lovers of poetry, and was the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Her life and her love affairs were often fodder for scandal, and her poetry unlike anything being written by either men or women of her day. The sonnet below is from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923). It can also be found here.
“SONNET XLIII” by Edna St Vincent Millay
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
Wendell Berry has published fiction, non-fiction, essays and poetry in volumes too numerous to mention. He was born in Kentucky in 1934. The poem below comes from his 1985 collection, The Collected Poems.
“THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS” by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
For those readers who would like to have these poems in one volume, I recommend what I believe is an excellent collection of poems selected and compiled by Garrison Keillor and called simply, Good Poems.