Classroom Poems


I wanted to finally post some of the poems that we’ve looked at in class.  Many of you said that you LOVED some of these and wanted your own copy…so now you have it!   You might choose one for your final poetry project (or to help you prepare for our quiz on Wednesday).


The Summer Day

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?

From poetry 180

from New and Selected Poems, 1992, Beacon Press, Boston, MA

By Valerie Worth

Marbles picked up
Heavy by the handful
And held, weighed,
Hard, glossy,
Glassy, cold,
Then poured clicking,
Water-smooth, back
To their bag, seem
Treasure: round jewels,
Slithering gold.

From all the small poems and fourteen more


God Says Yes To Me

Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

 Taken from here

Abuelito Who
By Sandra Cisneros

Abuelito who throws coins like rain
and asks who loves him
who is dough and deathers
who is a watch and glass of water
whose hair is made of fur
is too sad to come downstairs today
can’t come out to play
sleeps in his little room all night and day
who used to laugh like the letter k
is sick
is a doorknob tied to a sour stick
is tired shut the door
doesn’t live here anymore
is hiding underneath the bed
is blankets and spoons and big brown shoes
is the rain on the roof that falls like coins
asking who loves him
who loves him who?

 Taken from here

Death of a Snowman

 Vernon Scannell

I was awake all night

Big as a polar bear

Strong and firm and white

The tall black hat I wear

Was draped with ermine fur.

I felt so fit and well

Till the world began to stir

And the morning sun swell.

I was tired, began to yawn

At noon in the humming sun

I caught a severe warm,

My nose began to run

My hat grew black and fell,

Was followed by my great head.

There was no funeral bell,

But by tea-time I was dead.

Taken from here

  April Rain Song


Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—
And I love the rain.

Found here


The Grammar Lesson

Steve Kowit

A noun’s a thing. A verb’s the thing it does.
An adjective is what describes the noun.
In “The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz”

of and with are prepositions. The’s
an article, a can’s a noun,
a noun’s a thing. A verb’s the thing it does.

A can can roll – or not. What isn’t was
or might be, might meaning not yet known.
“Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz”

is present tense. While words like our and us
are pronouns – i.e. it is moldy, they are icky brown.
A noun’s a thing; a verb’s the thing it does.

Is is a helping verb. It helps because
filled isn’t a full verb. Can’s what our owns
in “Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.”

See? There’s almost nothing to it. Just
memorize these rules…or write them down!
A noun’s a thing, a verb’s the thing it does.
The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.

Found here


June 11

David Lehman

It’s my birthday I’ve got an empty
stomach and the desire to be
lazy in the hammock and maybe
go for a cool swim on a hot day
with the trombone in Sinatra’s
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
in my head and then to break for
lunch a corned-beef sandwich and Pepsi
with plenty of ice cubes unlike France
where they put one measly ice cube
in your expensive Coke and when
you ask for more they argue with
you they say this way you get more
Coke for the money showing they
completely misunderstand the nature of
American soft drinks which are an
excuse for ice cubes still I wouldn’t
mind being there for a couple of
days Philip Larkin’s attitude
toward China comes to mind when
asked if he’d like to go there he said
yes if he could return the same day

from The Daily Mirror, 2000
Scribner, New York

Taken from here


Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Taken from here

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
Permissions information.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

– Naomi Shihab Nye
in The Red Suitcase, Brockport, NY: BOA Editions, 1994.


Casey at the Bat

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.


A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—

We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”


But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,

And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,

For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.


But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,

And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;

And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,

There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.


Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,

For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.


There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;

There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,

No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.


Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;

Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.


And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—

“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.


From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;

And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.


With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;

But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”


“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”

But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,

And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.


The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,

He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.


Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Found here


  1. Wow, thank you so much for posting this!
    I really enjoyed all of these poems, especially the very repetitive The Grammar Lesson.
    Also, I loved hearing the accompanying poem for Casey at the Bat! I especially remember the part that used the same words, but in the reverse order.
    All in all, thanks for posting this so we can all come back to these poems whenever we want/need to!

  2. Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
    There are four seasons in the mind of man:
    He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
    Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
    He has his Summer, when luxuriously
    Spring’s honied cud of youthful thought he loves
    To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
    Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
    His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
    He furleth close; contented so to look
    On mists in idleness—to let fair things
    Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
    He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
    Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

  3. The Unicorn by Shel Silverstein

    A long time ago, when the earth was green
    And there was more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen,
    And they run around free while the world was bein’ born,
    And the lovliest of all was the Unicorn.
    There was green alligators and long-neck geese.
    There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
    There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born
    The lovliest of all was the Unicorn.
    But the Lord seen some sinnin’, and it caused him pain.
    He says, “Stand back, I’m gonna make it rain.”
    He says, “Hey Brother Noah, I’ll tell ya whatcha do.
    Go and build me a floatin’ zoo.
    And you take two alligators and a couple of geese,
    Two humpy bumpy camels and two chimpanzees.
    Take two catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born
    Noah, don’t you forget my Unicorn.”
    Now Noah was there, he answered the callin’
    And he finished up the ark just as the rain was fallin’. He marched in the animals two by two,
    And he called out as they went through,
    “Hey Lord, I got your two alligators adn your couple of geese,
    Your humpy bumpy camels and your chimpanzees.
    Got your catsandratsandelephants — but Lord, I’m so forlorn
    ‘Cause I just don’t see no Unicorn.”
    Ol’ Noah looked out through the drivin’ rain
    But the Unicorns were hidin’, playin’ silly games.
    They were kickin’ and splashin’ in the misty morn,
    Oh them silly Unicorn.
    The the goat started goatin’, and the snake started snakin’,
    The elephant started elephantin’, and the boat started shaking’.
    The mouse started squeakin’, and the lion started roarin’,
    And everyone’s abourd but the Unicorn.
    I mean the green alligators and the long-neck geese,
    The humpy bumpy camels and the chimpanzees.
    Noah cried, “Close the door ’cause the rain is pourin’–
    And we just can’t wait for them Unicorn.”
    Then the ark started movin’, and it drifted with the tide,
    And the Unicorns looked up from the rock and cried.
    And the water come up and sort of floated them away–
    That’s why you’ve never seen a Unicorn to this day.
    You’ll see a lot of alligators and a whole mess of geese.
    You’ll see humpy bumpy camels and lots of chimpanzees.
    You’ll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born
    You’re never gonna see no Unicorn

  4. My too late poem!
    The sun rises late in this southern county. And, since the first thing I do when I wake up is go out into the world, I walk here along a dark road. There are many trees…

    Isn’t everything, in the dark, too wonderful to be exact, circumscribed?

    For instance, the white pine that stands by the lake. .. Everything is in it. But no single part can be separated from another.

    I have read that, in Africa, when the body of an antelope, which all its life ate only leaves and grass and drank nothing but wild water, is first opened, the fragrance is almost too sweet, too delicate, too beautiful to be borne. It is a moment which hunters must pass through carefully, with concentrated and even religious attention, if they are to reach the other side, and go on with their individual lives.

    And now I have finished my walk. And I am just standing, quietly, in the darkness, under the tree.

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