poem index

Poems for Times of Turmoil


November 10, 2016


Poetry Roundups
Printer-friendly version

In times of misfortune, turmoil, and despair—both on the scale of our own, personal lives and on the broader scale of a community, a city, a nation, or the world—it can be difficult to figure out what to do and how to react in what seems to be a darkening, “widening gyre” of circumstances. But it is these circumstances, as bleak as they may be, that may best allow art to thrive and allow people a place to be their most empathetic, understanding, imaginative, challenging, and, ultimately, most human.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, as readers and writers, we hope that compensation will come in the form of poetry that, despite what dire circumstances it sprouts from, still reaches toward solace, a place of transcendence and truth.

Read the following selection of poems for times of turmoil. For more, browse poems about death, despair, grief, heartache, mourning, oblivion, sadness, and turmoil in the themes menu.

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz
I have walked through many lives...

by Jack Gilbert
In the small towns along the river...

An Arbor
by Linda Gregerson
The world's a world of trouble, your mother must ...

by Adam Zagajewski
I watched the arctic landscape from above ...

Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night...

by Robert Frost
Back out of all this now too much for us...

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone enough
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Annemarie S. Kidder
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone enough...

Northern Pike
by James Wright
All right. Try this...

Believing in Iron
by Yusef Komunyakaa
The hills my brothers & I created ...

by W. S. Merwin
Listen ...

A Nation's Strength
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
What makes a nation's pillars high ...

A Reactionary Tale
by Linh Dinh
I was a caring husband. I bought socks for my family. ...

The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less...

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton
may the tide...

Identity Crisis
by F. D. Reeves
He was urged to prepare for sucess: "You never can tell...

O Little Root of a Dream
by Paul Celan
translated by Heather McHugh
O little root of a dream...

by Hart Crane
We make our meek adjustments...

by Rae Armantrout
We love our cat...

O Me! O Life!
by Walt Whitman
O Me! O Life!... of the questions of these recurring...

In a Country
by Larry Levis
My lover and I are inventing a country, which we...

Poet's Work
by Lorine Niedecker

My Great Great Etc. Uncle Patrick Henry
by James Tate
There's a fortune to be made in just about everything...

[American Journal]
by Robert Hayden
here among them   the americans   the baffling...

by Robert Creeley
America, you ode for reality...

Heroic Simile
by Robert Hass
When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai...

Nothing Twice
by Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
Nothing can ever happen twice...

by Bruce Weigl
I didn't know I was grateful...

by Louise Glück
In your extended absence, you permit me...

First Georgic
by Virgil
translated by David Ferry
When spring begins and the ice-locked streams begin...

Ox Cart Man
by Donald Hall
In October of the year...

Election Year
by Donald Revell
A jet of mere phantom...