• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Poems From Memory

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 6 months ago

My niece, Super T, needs to find a poem to memorize for school.  (Hi, T!)  They've banned Shel Silverstein, so I'm on the hunt and keeping a little record here.  (New ones added at the bottom.) 


Still going to look for pieces by Ammons, Howe, Collins, Bishop, Lorde, maybe Yeats?


UPDATE 12-10-07:  Taylor has requested more FUNNY poems to choose from, so that's where we're looking, now.  No Silverstein, and nothing under 16 lines permitted.  My money's on Daddy Fell Into the Pond.


Any other suggestions?  Email me over at krause (at) rutgersprep.org or leave a comment on my blog at http://butwait.blogspot.com/2007/12/poems-to-learn-by-heart.html




When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
`Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
`The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two-and-twenty
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.


A.E. Housman


At Blackwater Pond


At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled

after a night of rain.

I dip my cupped hands.  I drink

a long time.  It tastes

like stone, leaves, fire.  It falls cold

into my body, waking the bones.  I hear them

deep inside me, whispering

oh, what is that beautiful thing

that just happened?


Mary Oliver





maggie and millie and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)


and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and


millie befriended a stranded star

who's rays five languid fingers were;


and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and


may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.


For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it's always ourselves we find in the sea.



ee cummings





Eagle Poem

byJoy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you

And know there is more

That you can't see, can't hear

Can't know except in moments

Steadly growing, and in languages

That aren't always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.


The Way It Is


There's a thread you follow.  It goes among

things that change.  But it doesn't change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can't get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you can do can stop time's unfolding.

You don't ever let go of the thread.


William Stafford



A Deeper Healing


This is a healing poem

for when you cannot dance

and cannot work

and cannot walk.

Concentrate on

the things you still can do.







Becky Birtha



Another favorite Becky Birtha poem, Doors, is over here.  (And it's long enough!)


James James				
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother
Though he was only three.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go down to the end of the town, if you don't go down with me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Put on a golden gown,
James James
Morrison's Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James
Morrison's Mother
Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down to the end of the town and be back in time for tea."

King John
Put up a notice,

James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he,
"You must never go down to the end of the town without consulting me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John
Said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
"If people go down to the end of the town, well, what can anyone do?"

(Now then, very softly)
J. J.
M. M.
W. G. du P.
Took great
C/o his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J. J.
Said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:

 A.A. Milne




If people ask me,

I always tell them:

"Quite well, thank you, I'm very glad to say."

If people ask me,

I always answer,

"Quite well, thank you, how are you to-day?"

I always answer,

I always tell them,

If they ask me




I wish


That they wouldn't.


A.A. Milne



The Secret  


Two girls discover

the secret of life

in a sudden line of

poetry.   I who don't know the

secret wrote

the line. They

told me   (through a third person)

they had found it

but not what it was

not even   what line it was.  No doubt

by now, more than a week

later, they have forgotten

the secret,   the line, the name of

the poem.  I love them

for finding what

I can't find,   and for loving me

for the line I wrote,

and for forgetting it

so that   a thousand times, till death

finds them, they may

discover it again, in other

lines   in other

happenings.  And for

wanting to know it,

for   assuming there is

such a secret, yes,

for that

most of all.   ~ Denise Levertov ~  

(Selected Poems)

Neither Snow


When all of a sudden the city air filled with snow,
the distinguishable flakes
blowing sideways,
looked like krill
fleeing the maw of an advancing whale.

At least they looked that way to me
from the taxi window,
and since I happened to be sitting
that fading Sunday afternoon
in the very center of the universe,
who was in a better position
to say what looked like what,
which thing resembled some other?

Yes, it was a run of white plankton
borne down the Avenue of the Americas
in the stream of the wind,
phosphorescent against the weighty buildings.

Which made the taxi itself,
yellow and slow-moving,
a kind of undersea creature,
I thought as I wiped the fog from the glass,

and me one of its protruding eyes,
an eye on a stem
swiveling this way and that
monitoring one side of its world,
observing tons of water
tons of people
colored signs and lights
and now a wildly blowing race of snow.
~ Billy Collins


A Glimpse
by: Walt Whitman
A Glimpse, through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove,
late of a winter night--And I unremark'd seated in a corner;
Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and
seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;
A long while, amid the noises of coming and going--of drinking and
oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.



(More Walt Whitman here.)



HOPE is the thing with feathers


That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I ’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.


Emily Dickinson


(Complete works are here.)



From Atlas of the Difficult World



I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


Adrienne Rich





These shriveled seeds we plant,

corn kernel, dried bean,

poke into loosened soil,

cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into

perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips

This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten

smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket

and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address

so the name balances like a cloud

in the center of sky

This page I type and retype

This table I dust till the scarred wood shines

This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again

like flags we share, a country so close

no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them

The hands are churches that worship the world


-Naomi Shihab Nye



The Earth



Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon

the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up

to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from

as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it.

He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season

and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.

He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest

motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and

all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

For we are held by more than the force of gravity to the earth.

It is the entity from which we are sprung, and that into which

we are dissolved in time. The blood of the whole human race

is invested in it. We are moored there, rooted as surely, as

deeply as are the ancient redwoods and bristlecones.




~ Navarre Scott Momaday





This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.



~ Rumi



The Summer Day


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 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?


                    -Mary Oliver




In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Canadian Army


IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.






Grandpa Never Sleeps


Grandpa doesn't sleep at night.

He never sleeps a wink.

Instead he tinkers with the car

Or mends the kitchen sink.


Sometimes he picks the rhubarb

Or polishes the floor

And other nights he's shopping

At the local all-night store.


Last night he papered half the hall

And built a garden shed.

But when the rest of us got up

He didn't go to bed.


I don't know how he does it,

He's always on the go.

Grandpa never sleeps AT ALL --

At least, I think that's so....



~ Mark Burgess

(exactly 16 lines)



Poem to be read at 3 a.m.
Excepting the diner
On the outskirts.
The town of Ladora
At 3 a.m.
Was dark but
For my headlights
And up in
One second-story room
A single light
Where someone
Was sick or
Perhaps reading
As I drove past
At seventy
Not thinking.
This poem
Is for whoever
Had the light on
~ Donald Justice
(I have loved this one for a long time, and it's quite famous... other people must have loved it, too.)

Best Friends



It's Susan I talk to not Tracey,

Before that I sat next to Jane;

I used to be best frends with Lynda

But these days I think she's a pain.


Natasha's all right in small doses,

I meet Mandy sometimes in town;

I'm jealous of Annabel's pony

And I don't like Nicola's frown.


I used to go skating with Catherine,

Before that I went there with Ruth;

And Kate's so much better at trampoline:

She's a show-off, to tell you the truth.


I think that I'm going off Susan,

She borrowed my comb yesterday;

I think I might sit next to Tracey,

She's my nearly best friend: she's OK.


~ Adrian Henri






`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

  And the mome raths outgrabe.



"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

  The frumious Bandersnatch!"


He took his vorpal sword in hand:

  Long time the manxome foe he sought --

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

  And stood awhile in thought.


And, as in uffish thought he stood,

  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

  And burbled as it came!


One, two! One, two! And through and through

  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

  He went galumphing back.


"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?

  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'

  He chortled in his joy.


`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

  And the mome raths outgrabe.



~ Lewis Carroll

(very famous)



Christopher Robin

Had wheezles

And sneezles,

They bundled him


His bed.

They gave him what goes

With a cold in the nose,

And some more for a cold

In the head.

They wondered

If wheezles

Could turn

Into measles,

If sneezles

Would turn

Into mumps;

They examined his chest

For a rash,

And the rest

Of his body for swellings and lumps.

They sent for some doctors

In sneezles

And wheezles

To tell them what ought

To be done.

All sorts and conditions

Of famous physicians

Came hurrying round

At a run.

They all made a note

Of the state of his throat,

They asked if he suffered from thirst;

They asked if the sneezles

Came after the wheezles,

Or if the first sneezle

Came first.

They said, "If you teazle

A sneezle

Or wheezle,

A measle

May easily grow.

But humour or pleazle

The wheezle

Or sneezle,

The measle

Will certainly go."

They expounded the reazles

For sneezles

And wheezles,

The manner of measles

When new.

They said "If he freezles

In draughts and in breezles,


May even ensue."



Christopher Robin

Got up in the morning,

The sneezles had vanished away.

And the look in his eye

Seemed to say to the sky,

"Now, how to amuse them to-day?"


~ A.A. Milne


Daddy Fell into the Pond


Everyone grumbled.  The sky was grey.

We had nothing to do and nothing to say.

We were nearing the end of a dismal day,

And there seemed to be nothing beyond,


          Daddy fell into the pond!



And everyone's face grew merry and bright,

And Timothy danced for sheer delight.

"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!

He's crawling out of the duckweed."




Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,

And doubled up, shaking silently,

And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft

And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.

O, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond


          Daddy fell into the pond!


~ Alfred Noyes



The Elf And The Dormouse


Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf, 

Out of the rain to shelter himself. 


Under the toadstool, sound asleep, 

Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap. 


Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet         

Fearing to fly away lest he get wet. 


To the next shelter—maybe a mile! 

Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile. 


Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two. 

Holding it over him, gaily he flew.   


Soon he was safe home, dry as could be. 

Soon woke the Dormouse—"Good gracious me! 


"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented. 

—And that's how umbrellas first were invented.

~ Oliver Herford

A Mortifying Mistake


I studied my tables over and over

And backward and forward too

But I couldn't remember six times nine

And I didn't know what to do

'Til my sister told me to play with my doll

And not to bother my head

"If you call her 'Fifty-four' for awhile

You'll learn it by heart', she said.


So I took my favorite, Mary Anne,

Though I thought 'twas a dreadful shame

To give such a perfectly lovely child

Such a perfectly horrible name,

And I called her my little Fifty-four

A hundred times 'til I knew

The answer of six times nine

As well as the answer of two times two.


Next day, Elizabeth Wigglesworth,

Who always acted so proud

Said, "Six times nine is fifty-two,

And I nearly laughed out loud

But I wished I hadn't when teacher said,

"Now Dorothy, tell if you can."

For I thought of my doll and sakes alive!

I answered, "Mary Anne!"

~ Anna Maria Pratt

A pizza the size of the sun


I'm making a pizza the size of the sun,

a pizza that's sure to weigh more than a ton,

a pizza too massive to pick up and toss,

a pizza resplendent with oceans of sauce.



I'm topping my pizza with mountains of cheese,

with acres of peppers, pimentos, and peas,

with mushrooms, tomatoes, and sausage galore,

with every last olive they had at the store.



My pizza is sure to be one of a kind,

my pizza will leave other pizzas behind,

my pizza will be a delectable treat

that all who love pizza are welcome to eat.



The oven is hot, I believe it will take

a year and a half for my pizza to bake.

I hardly can wait till my pizza is done,

my wonderful pizza the size of the sun.



Written by Jack Prelutsky

(unless, of course, he's one of the banned writers)

Lost and Found


This morning, Mom reminded me

to check the Lost and Found.

So just to make her happy,

I took a look around.


The box was like a stinky mouth,

whose grin was dark and wide.

I gulped and took a monster breath

then reached my arm inside.


I dug around without a sound

through swirls of clothes and dirt.

To my delight, the box spit out

my favorite soccer shirt.


I peered a little deeper down,

and there, to my surprise,

a little face gazed up at me

with wide and eager eyes.


I took a triple-double take

and saw it was my sister.

It’s sad to think—for several weeks,

we hadn’t even missed her.


~ Ted Scheu




Uncle Dave's Car


I pleaded with my Uncle Dave

to take us for a ride.

My sisters grabbed a window seat.

I sat right by his side.


He zoomed across a garden

and knocked some hedges down,

then barreled over sidewalks

in a busy part of town.


He zipped along a winding road—

a siren made him stop.

My uncle got a ticket from

a very angry cop.


At home our mother asked us,

"Did all of you behave?"

We answered her, "Of course we did."

(Except for Uncle Dave!)



~ Helen Ksypka

Mrs. Lorris, Who Died of Being Clean


Mrs. Lorris was a fusser

always asking, "Is it clean?"

boiled her knives and forks twice daily,

vacuumed the village green.

When she took the bus to market

she spread a towel on the seat,

washed her hands in disinfectant

before sitting down to eat.

She never ate raw food like lettuce --

"Full of germs," she used to say

and by her strenuous housecleaning

hoped to keep the germs away.

Always at it, night and morning,

with the scrubbing-brush and soap --

still she wasn't really certain

so she bought a microscope.

Horrid horror, in the eypiece

microbes swarmed on every side:

too much for Mrs. Lorris, who

plugged her nostrils up and died.



~ Barbara Giles

Where Go the Boats?

From Child's Garden of Verses
Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating--
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.



~ Robert Louis Stevenson





Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.