To read a poem every day is something that is very achievable, and yet can change your life. Just get a few nice volumes of poetry from the library, or find more recent volumes in local indie bookstores. Or you can even read them online.
A Poem for Every Spring Day is a gorgeous collection of verse, taking you from the first sight of blossom, to Easter. Selection from the anthologies below, this is perfect for reading aloud and has introductory paragraphs on seasonal poems by William Wordsworth, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes and Maya Angelou.
A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year is a compendium of poems, each chosen to chime with the natural world, through the seasons. Spring is a time of hope, a season of new life with Wordsworth’s daffodils, Clare’s lambs and Rossetti’s birdsong. Summer shifts into a time of long holidays in the countryside (Henry James said the two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘summer afternoon’) – a sentiment echoed by Edward Thomas and Emily Dickinson. Poems we associate with the most poetic season of autumn are Keats, Blake and Auden. And winter can be savoured in poetry with bleak grey days transforming into a world of glittering frost and snow-blanketed landscapes.
A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year offers a daily fix for the natural world, to calm you to sleep. Keep this beautiful book by your bedside, to enjoy a dreamy stroll through nature, each evening. From Emily Brontë on bluebells in spring to Edward Thomas’s evocative ‘Adlestrop’ in summer, then experience golden autumn with Hartley Coleridge and William Blake’s ‘To Winter’.
Pam Ayres on Animals is a beautiful collection from the much-loved poet, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon. Featuring her best verse dedicated to other species, Pam has been enchanted by animals all her life, from a first encounter with a friendly golden Labrador when she was just 3 years old. Now she gathers together old and new poems, dedicated to her love of animals.
‘Oh, WHY must you bark at the postman?
Why must you batter my ears?
I know it seems rum
But the postman has come
Every morning for SEVENTEEN YEARS!’
This collection brings to life the charming characters and voices of all creatures great and small, through Pam’s poetry over the last 50 years. From delightful tales of our british wildlife (‘I’m a Starling Me Darling’ to an ‘Ode to a Jack Russell’, there is even a poignant reflection on the end of life in ‘Tippy Tappy Feet’. A celebration of animals everwhere.
Everyone Sang: A Poem For Every Feeling is a magnificent anthology of poems themed around different moods, illustrated by Emily Sutton. This exquisite gift book contains over 100 poems, chosen by William Sieghart and divided into four thoughtfully-curated sections including:
- Poems to Make You Smile
- Poems to Move You
- Poems to Give You Hope
- Poems to Calm & Connect
From an extraordinary and diverse range of sources, the book combines traditional favourites with recent gems to delight, inspire, entertain, intrigue, console and uplift readers of all ages. The volume includes poems by:
- Maya Angelou
- Roger McGough
- WB Yeats
- Christina Rossetti
- Emily Dickinson
The Illustrated Emily Dickinson is a gorgeously illustrated collection of poems, introducing readers to 25 of her most beloved poems, each one with stunning colour collage artwork. Brief commentary and helpful definitions accompany each poem, making this a beautiful introduction. Poems include Hope is the Thing with Feathers, and A Bird Came Down the Walk.
Poetry Books for Children
The Book of Hopes is a stunning book of words and pictures from some of the best children’s writers and artists. Find poems and short stories about insects to elephants, high-flying grandmas, a homesick sprite, the tooth fairy and even extra-terrestrial life. With 133 contributions, a donation from the sale of each book goes to NHS charities.
The Lost Words is a beautiful gift book by Robert McFarlane, and illustrations by Welsh artist Jackie Morris. This giant book to be pored over for years to come, was created to celebrate words disappearing from children’s lives: dandelion, otter, bramble and acorn. A wild landscape of imagination and play is rapidly fading from our children’s minds. The Observer’s Alex Preston calls this book ‘a thing of astonishing beauty’.
Snake by DH Lawrence
This is our favourite poem in the whole world! Mostly known for writing risque novels, in fact DH Lawrence wrote much better poems, about nature mostly. He had an eventful life, running off with the wife of his university tutor who was a few years older than him, but they remained together until his early death of TB age just 45.
This poem was written while they were living in Sicily, and recounts his encounter with a venomous snake (it’s okay to publish as it’s copyright-free, so long after his death). Most of the poem talks of his wondrous fascination for the creature who comes up to drink from a water hole nearby. But in just a split second, the ‘voice of his education’ tells him to kill it, and he clumsily throws a stick at it, and the snake slithers away. It’s an ode to how guilty he feels, as he listened to ‘knowledge’ instead of just letting nature take its course, as the snake was not bothering him. The ‘I wish he would come back, my albatross’ refers to the birds believed to be extinct at the time of writing (they are not, but still endangered). Read this aloud. Even if you’re scared of snakes, you’ll sort of like them, by the end of this poem.
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in an undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate: