Poetry 180

Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race. By just spending a few minutes reading a poem each day, new worlds can be revealed.

Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem each day of the 180 days of the school year. I have selected the poems you will find here with high school students in mind. They are intended to be listened to, and I suggest that all members of the school community be included as readers. A great time for the readings would be following the end of daily announcements over the public address system.

Listening to poetry can encourage students and other learners to become members of the circle of readers for whom poetry is a vital source of pleasure. I hope Poetry 180 becomes an important and enriching part of the school day.

Billy Collins      Poet Laureate of the United States

Visit the Poetry 180 web site at the Library of Congress and scan the list of poems.*   We looked at Billy's own poem, "An Introduction to Poetry" ( from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems ) Select a poem title from the list. Choose a title you have never seen before and that intrigues you. DO NOT read the poem!
Write your own poem inspired by that title and using that same title for your own poem. (Incidentally, titles can not be copyrighted)

Of course, read the original poem later - but don't revise or write your poem because of that reading.

The links provided for each title will take you to the original poem on the Poetry 180 site.

* Note: Poetry 180 is a site in progress - as of May 20, 2002, there were 122 poems available.


To ache the way of days
whispered voices,
a hemorrhage of words
a swelling of lies
on surprised flesh
the throbbing blood flow in blue
spreading wider and wider
in odd tissue shapes and shades.

Ice, to mask the pain
betrays a nervous response
in the chilled cold
a verse frozen on the breath
and still it blues
marking every movement in hurt
hearing, each time, her name
her voice, her lies.

I, a blackened fruit,
damaged, marked in form
excise the bruise
with a stanzaed knife
cutting to my core
bleeding a sticky sweet
to taste again, and again
the bruise of this.

James M. Thompson



She keeps butterflies
in her purse,

a ragtag purse of leather
and sidewalk dirt
Why anyone would call her
bag lady

makes me crazy
She's someone's mother,
though her children don't know her

anymore -
she keeps butterflies,
talks to them like daughters,
and they answer back,
when no one's looking -- 'We love you, good lady -
you never pulled wings off flies - don't cry'
The man on the corner gives her a cigarette
and a cup of coffee, free
She keeps butterflies
Why anyone would call her bag lady escapes me -
makes me crazy -

'you never pulled wings off flies -
don't cry'




I am a fresh biscuit.
Bite me.
You'll get some crunch.
You'll get some soft.
You'll get some chew.
I sop up your gravy
And go with everything.

Warm all over.
I steam therefore I am.

Michael Z Murphy


Trees leaned together like lovers
waiting to kiss in the dark.
A street light quivered a second
and went out.
Mosquitoes hummed in search of limbs.
Clothes were unpressed
by the atmosphere.
Barbecued chicken hung in the air.
Horseradish lingered on my tongue
tasting bitter the way words stung
when I had to tell Bill it was over
that night in my driveway on Fairchild Ave.
It wasn't really over.
My mother talked loudly in the kitchen
and slammed pots and pans,
as if she were breaking up housekeeping,
because we sat in his car and talked.
As though we were in the family way
or something,
our groping words of love
embarrassing eavesdroppers.
We were as sophisticated as picket fences.
In the morning we became stars
when the sun came up.
Shy little Sissy always worried
about today, thirty years from then
when he would be gone.
When lucky insulin would lose its balance
because sweetness sucked him in.
Ewiges Leben. Ewiges Leben.
As geese fly over signaling peace,
as trees lean together for a goodnight kiss.

Ruth Zimmerman

title suggested by a poem by Ruth L. Schwartz

The reflection of the swan in water
is a liquid Rorschach test to me.
Too much time in analysis,
you say from the bench.
I see a swan door, hinged
and open, waiting.
A wedding band on its throat.
Of course, you comment.
A cityscape in October
(the leaves beneath the water)
An Egyptian death mask.
Dysthymia, you declare.
And when the swan lifts,
wings pushing down,
the water breaks
and I see white rising to white,
I see someone leaving.
And you say nothing.

Charles Michaels



Charred spiders sprawled in groves
of second growth
recall your stately origin.

Indulgent extravagance in a wall
used whole trunks where slivers of timber
now suffice.

Was it dearth of tools
or rapturous wealth of trees
that prompted such solidity?

Spirits spawned within your walls
surely walked away with hearts of woodlands
in their step !

Even within the slivered walls
where their children now must dwell,
the timbered heartbeats of the past
must surely still be heard !

Catherine M. LeGault


My lover watches butterflies
He knows them by their wing shapes
round or square, hooked or clipped
Can identify the patterns
on their shingled, overlapping scales
The Painted Lady with her
large blue eyespots and an underside
of mixed colors delights this man.
I see him respond to the intricate details
of a perching Swallowtail
and it reminds me of his attention to my body...
How he moves his hand over the curve of my hip
or strokes the shadows that shape my back.

This man whose slender fingers
tenderly touch my body
tells me often that nothing is free,
not even the flittering butterfly
Says he once intoxicated Monarchs
with fumes
Pinned flat their stilled wings
on a white board
and created specimens for study.

But that was before he wrote his first poem
about a lover who stroked his cheek
pushed her hungry body into his
and moved him to tears
because he still believed
with all his heart
that nothing is free.

Norma Ketzis Bernstock


i have walked the road
that runs beside the river
more times than i can recall.
in both spring and winter
summers day and fall.
i have left my lonely footprints
at least a thousand times.
little doubt after all these years
there's any left to find.
i have smelled the flowers that grew
along the river's edge.
and spied a robin's nest with eggs of blue,
upon a rocky ledge.
yes, i have heard the whippoorwill,
the mourning dove,
crying in the evening still.
has he too lost his love,
perhaps the will to live?
there beside a polished stone
that forever bears your name.
i have stood alone,so many times
left to bear the pain.
i have walked the road
that runs beside the river
more times than i can recall.
In both spring and winter
summers day and fall.

Ray Cutshaw


seemed just like Tuesday
or Thursday without school
to skip. Somehow, the stones
didn't scream about freedom
and the levees still held

the C & D within their banks.
The same dust settled
on David's funky Mazda,
the same Bad Company

rattling the glass. Jack Daniels
dangerous and hot
straight from the bottle--
but on Saturday without civics
or physics to escape, whiskey passed

without a word,
without a beat tapped out
on the dashboard.. Saturday.
No outlaw truancy,

no bond. No reason to stay
until the booze ran out.
Dust like smoke from ashes
kicking up behind. Now,
the car keeps to the pavement,

a cupholder of coffee, changing
stations at the first notes of
"When the Levee Breaks"-
Zeppelin, wild and bluesy, ringing out

the end of something.

R.G. Evans


She's wild, this one.
Scraping away a depression in my garden.
There is fur and there are feathers.
Wild fare hidden under debris.
Felis catus playing at sylvestris,
reasserting an order, Carnivora.

I have seen her chin and tail
rub on the garden statue
of Saint Francis with his birds.
Scent glands marking the place.

I saw her eat a vole yesterday.
Picking it up, walking, dropping it,
and then doing it again and again.
It might have escaped, but no.
She gives that call, alerting kittens
that she does not have to the food.

Early May, a breeding season now
beginning. She may be watching me
from the bushes as I scrape at the soil,
smooth the surface, challenge the frost.

Tomatoes in 64 days. About the same time
as her own gestation. The heat of summer
will be here. We play at being something
other than what we are. I take my hands
and smooth the statue's stone robes.
I leave my scent; I mark my territory.

Ken Ronkowitz


As the first generation
brought up on a diet
of cocoa puffs and
Saturday morning cartoons,
is it any wonder
we expect the air
to hold us
when we walk
blithely off a cliff?

We don't need
to watch for anvils
or grand pianos
being tipped above
our innocent heads,
because even if
we're crushed beneath,
we know we can peel ourselves
off the ground and pop
back into shape
with no more than a shake
and judder of our limbs.

And so we stretch
ourselves past our limits,
take risks no sane adult
would engage in,
look google eyed at a world
that's not meant to bend
and curve to our whims,
allow our hearts to
go hubba-hubba half
bursting out of our chests
only to be shocked
at the gush and splatter
over a calamity so vast
suddenly takes on
epic and tragic proportions.

Michelle Cameron


© 2016 poetsonline.org | | | | | |







2015 poetsonline.org | | | | | |