National Poetry Month is a celebration of passion in language. For the entirety of April, readers are invited to lose themselves in the titles, the words, the stanzas, the rhyme, the rhythm, the ideas. Poems create magic. They inspire readers to look at life in new ways. Poems stir us. It's true, there are tons of sexy poems out there.
There are many quotable gems from Dead Poet's Society, but one of the lines that always makes me laugh is when the young, ardent English teacher John Keating (as portrayed by the inimitable Robin Williams) tells a classroom full of sexually-repressed teenage boys in boarding school the true motive behind poetry. "Language was developed for one endeavor," he says. "And that is... to woo women."
Each of Keating’s students relaxes in their chairs. They laugh knowingly. They laugh because – like so many of the best jokes – there’s truth behind the punchline. Later, Keating’s words will take a more serious turn: “We don't read and write poetry because it's cute,” he tells the class. “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.”
In honor of #NationalPoetryMonth, here are some of the most passionate poems tucked away in print and worth the read.
1. "Late Loving" by Mona Van Duyn
Over, in the shifty face you wearand over, in the assessments of your eyes,you change, and with new sweet or barbed wordfind out new entrances to my innermost nerve.When you stand at the stove it’s I who am most stirred.
2. "Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni
The Dells tell me Loveis so simplethe thought though of yousends indescribably delicious multitudinousthrills throughout and through-in my body
3. "Love Poem" by Audre Lorde
And I knew when I entered her I washigh wind in her forests hollowfingers whispering soundhoney flowedfrom the split cupimpaled on a lance of tongues
4. "As We Are So Wonderfully Done With Each Other" by Kenneth Patchen
Your lips have splashed my dull house with the speech of flowers
My hands are hallowed where they touched over your
It is good to be weary from that brilliant work
It is being God to feel your breathing under me
5. "To a Stranger" by Walt Whitman
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only, You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return, I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone, I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again, I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
6. "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
7. "Marriage" by Gregory Corso
Don't take her to movies but to cemeteries tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries and she going just so far and I understanding why not getting angry saying You must feel! It's beautiful to feel! Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky--
8. "How Do I Love Thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
9. "An Exercise in Love" by Diane di Prima
My friend walks soft as a weaving on the wind
He backlights my dreams
He has built altars beside my bed
I awake in the smell of his hair & cannot remember
his name, or my own.
Images: Butz.2013/Flickr; Giphy: 1-9