poem index

Poems for Times of Turmoil


October 14, 2008
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Dear Friends,

What does poetry have to do with the serious financial havoc the world has been enduring? Does anyone have time to consider a confection of art — spun from the imagination — while we face the chilling reality of lost homes, tattered businesses, or a compromised future? "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

We seem to be able to do so little against the loss and fear and panic. Yet poetry’s realm is precisely here — in the emotional center, where desire and terror and hope and dread converge without easy answers.

The complex world of finance is one that humans invented, and it is a world that is incomprehensible to many people — yet it too was first made in the imagination. The response to the current distress will also be forged in our collective imagination. Those of us who believe in the economy of words look to poetry to give shape to inchoate anxieties.

The staff at the Academy of American Poets has assembled a selection of poems on Poets.org that we each have turned to during the recent confusion, and we hope they will open the possibility of a different kind of reflection in the fog of uncertainty. Poetry can provide solace, give voice to despair, restore optimism, or simply remind us of our common connection through words. As William Faulkner said in his Nobel speech, "The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."


Tree Swenson
Executive Director, Academy of American Poets

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 br>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...