Poems that are deep have a unique power to explore the profound complexities of human emotions and experiences. They delve into the depths of the human soul with eloquence and insight. These poems possess a richness that resonates with readers on a visceral level, inviting them to contemplate life’s mysteries and reflect on the universal truths that bind humanity together. Contemporary poets, with their keen sensitivity and imaginative prowess, continue to craft poems that leave a lasting impact on readers, offering profound insights into subjects like regret, love, and sadness. Here are six examples of deep poems by famous authors, each a testament to the enduring depth and beauty.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
This poem explores the profound question of how to live a meaningful life, urging readers to pay attention to the world and find purpose in the simplest of moments.
The Double Image by Anne Sexton
I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.
I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling months when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomime
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.
Poems that are deep in meaning are a staple of the Confessional poets. Anne Sexton’s beautiful poem delves into the depths of the human soul, exploring interpersonal relationships and the frailty of life. Read the whole poem here.
The Weighing by Jane Hirshfield
The heart’s reasons
even the hardest
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.
As the drought-starved
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.
This contemplative poem delves into the intricate balance of life, examining the weight of our actions and decisions. Read the full poem here.
A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
In this powerful social justice poem, Gay explores the profound grief and injustice surrounding the death of Eric Garner, drawing attention to the deep emotions stirred by social issues and systemic racism.
The Layers by Stanley Kunitz
I have walked through many lives, some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Kunitz’s poem delves into the layers of identity and the passage of time. Kunitz explores the deep complexities of human existence and the continuous process of self-discovery. Read the full poem here.
Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back
Lucille Clifton’s extended metaphor lets the reader stew in the complex image and emotion she is creating. Blessing the Boats is one of the poems that are deep, just is waiting to be unraveled. Read the full poem here.