17 Of The Most Powerful Excerpts From Poetry

17 Of The Most Powerful Excerpts From Poetry

We have included 17 of the most powerful excerpts from poetry in this post.

What Is Poetry?

According to Oxford, poetry is ‘literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.’

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica it is ‘literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.’

I have chosen some of my favourite lines of poetry to celebrate World Poetry Day, which is celebrated on 21 March each year.

These are lines that I find powerful, moving, and poignant.

17 Of The Most Powerful Excerpts From Poetry

Or read it in this format.

17 Powerful Excerpts From Poetry

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes…
~Lord Byron

He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest.
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
~W.H. Auden

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
~W.B. Yeats

Dying is an art.
Like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.
~Sylvia Plath

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
~Dylan Thomas

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all
~Emily Dickinson

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
~David Whyte

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.
~Pablo Neruda

I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
~Charles Bukowski

to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go
~Mary Oliver

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart) I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
~ee cummings

As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
~Anne Sexton

We were so wholly one I had not thought
That we could die apart. I had not thought
That I could move,—and you be stiff and still!
That I could speak,—and you perforce be dumb!
I think our heart-strings were, like warp and woof
In some firm fabric, woven in and out;
Your golden filaments in fair design
Across my duller fibre.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I carry you with me into the world,
into the smell of rain
& the words that dance between people
& for me, it will always be this way,
walking in the light,
remembering being alive together
~Brian Andreas

If you want to write poetry, you may enjoy this series on the craft:

  1. Poetry 101: What Is A Poem?
  2. Poetry 101: How To Analyse A Poem
  3. Poetry 101: Creating Figurative Language Using Literary Devices
  4. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Sonnet
  5. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Haiku
  6. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – Free Verse
  7. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Limerick
  8. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Villanelle
  9. Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems: The Ballad

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Poetry 101: What Is A Poem?
  2. The Day Jobs of 12 Famous Poets
  3. 33 Quotes By Poets On Poetry
  4. How To Write And Talk About Poetry When You Don’t Have A Clue
  5. 7 Bits Of Poetry Advice From Mary Oliver
  6. 15 Reasons To Write Poetry
  7. How To Get An ‘A’ Analysing Poetry
  8. How To Use Emily Dickinson’s 4 Super Simple Writing Techniques
  9. Billy Collins’s 6 Pleasures Of Poetry
  10. Billy Collins’s 6 Elements Of A Poem
  11. And more on Poetry

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Posted on: 21st March 2015

40 thoughts on “17 Of The Most Powerful Excerpts From Poetry”

  1. Elsabé van der Merwe

    Two of my favourites are from CS Lewis:

    1. Joys that Sting (I can’t choose an excerpt -it’s the poem as a whole that’s so striking):

    Oh doe not die, says Donne, for I shall hate All women so. How false the sentence rings.

    Women? But in a life made desolate It is the joys once shared that have the stings.

    To take the old walks alone, or not at all, To order one pint where I ordered two, To think of, and then not to make, the small Time-honoured joke (senseless to all but you);

    To laugh (oh, one’ll laugh), to talk upon Themes that we talked upon when you were there, To make some poor pretence of going on, Be kind to one’s old friends, and seem to care, While no one (O God) through the years will say The simplest, common word just your way.

    2. Epitaph for Helen-Joy Davidman (will post separately).

  2. Elsabé van der Merwe

    CS Lewis – Epitaph for Helen-Joy Davidman:

    Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
    And field, and forest, as they were
    Reflected in a single mind)
    Like cast off clothes was left behind
    In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
    Re-born from holy poverty,
    In lenten lands, hereafter may
    Resume them on her Easter Day

  3. The caged bird sings
    with a fearful trill
    of things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune in heard
    on a distant hill
    for the caged bird
    sings for freedom

    Maya Angelou

  4. So live that when thy summons comes to join
    The innumerable caravan that moves
    To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
    His chamber in the silent halls of death,
    Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
    Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
    By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
    Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
    About him and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
    – William Cullen Bryant, Thanotopsis

  5. A Magic Moment I Remember

    A magic moment I remember:
    I raised my eyes and you were there.
    A fleeting vision, the quintessence
    Of all that’s beautiful and rare.

    I pray to mute despair and anguish
    To vain pursuits the world esteems,
    Long did I near your soothing accents,
    Long did your features haunt my dreams.

    Time passed- A rebel storm-blast scattered
    The reveries that once were mine
    And I forgot your soothing accents,
    Your features gracefully divine.

    In dark days of enforced retirement
    I gazed upon grey skies above
    With no ideals to inspire me,
    No one to cry for, live for, love.

    Then came a moment of renaissance,
    I looked up- you again are there,
    A fleeting vision, the quintessence
    Of all that`s beautiful and rare.

    Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799 – 1837)

  6. Peter Chabanowich

    These poignant snippets, ah! All crushed, milled hearts. Do they await my
    baker’s hands?

  7. Christine Evans

    Breathes there a man with soul so dead
    who never to himself hath said:
    “This is my own, my native land”?
    Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned
    As home his footsteps he hath turned,
    from wandering on a foreign strand?
    If such there breathe, go mark him well;
    For him no minstrel raptures swell;
    High though his titles, proud his name,
    Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
    Despite those titles, power and pelf,
    The wretch concentered all in self,
    Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
    And, doubly dying, shall go down
    to the vile dust from whence he sprung,
    Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

    “Love of Country” Sir Walter Scott

  8. Christine Evans

    I must go down to the seas again, to the
    lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer
    her by;

    “Sea Fever” John Masefield

  9. Christine Evans

    one more…

    Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
    And whether he’s slow or spry,
    It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
    But only, how did you die?

    “How Did You Die?” Edmund Vance Cooke

  10. What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
    I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
    Under my head till morning; but the rain
    Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
    Upon the glass and listen for reply,
    And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
    For u remembered lads that not again
    Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
    Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
    Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
    Yet knows its boughs more silent than before;
    I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
    I only know that summer sang in me
    A little while, that in me sings no more.
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

  11. Michelle Wallace

    Some beautiful snippets shared above…

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much:
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

    I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so…

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

  12. Mastered by desire impulsive
    By a mighty inward urging
    I am ready now for singing
    Ready to begin the chanting
    Of our nation’s ancient folksong.

  13. “Dreams” by Langston Hughes:

    Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.

    Hold fast to dreams
    For when dreams go
    Life is a barren field
    Frozen with snow

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of being and ideal grace.
    I love thee to the level of every day’s
    Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

  15. Wave of sorrow,
    Do not drown me now.
    I see the island
    Up ahead somehow.

    I see the island,
    and its sands are fair.
    Wave of sorrow,
    Take me there.

    Langston Hughes

  16. Amanda Patterson

    Thank you for sharing your favourite excerpts. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the post.

  17. Loss of a Child
    By Thomas Crofton

    When did it become so gray
    Now winter, no more summer’s day
    The rose so pink and deeply red
    Once danced around inside my head
    With shimmering colors, vibrant, bright
    Has somehow turned to darkest night.
    Alas how once the sun did shine
    To warm the flower and the vine
    My thoughts return to yesterday
    When we use to run and play
    Where hope, the ember, warm and bright
    Could still drive out the darkest night.

  18. Walt Whitman
    O me! O Life!

    What good amid these O me! O life!

    That life exists and identify.
    And the wonderful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

  19. There lies the port, the vessel puffs her sail:
    There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
    Souls that have tol’d and wrought, and thought with me-
    That ever with a frolic welcome took
    The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
    Free hearts, free foreheads – you and I are old;
    Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
    Death closes all: but something ere the end,
    Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
    Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

  20. My favorite one is from William Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:

    What though the radiance which was once so bright
    Be now for ever taken from my sight,
    Though nothing can bring back the hour
    Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind;

  21. Love these, Susan!
    May I add one?
    when the world is mud luscious and puddle wonderful
    and betty and isabel come running from hopscotch and jump rope,
    it is spring!

  22. *Jacqueline Rocker

    These words brought me back to first love,mortality, hope,freedom and great and small moments of mind and beauty

  23. Another of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poems, “The Coin” contains the words:
    “Oh better than the minting of a new crowned king [a coin]
    Is the safe kept memory of a lovely thing.”
    The poem itself is short, but very pithy.

  24. A little Robert Frost wouldn’t hurt…

    “The woods are lovely dark and deep
    But I have promises to keep
    And miles to go before I sleep
    And miles to go before I sleep…”


    “The rain to the wind said,
    You push and I’ll pelt.
    They so smote the garden bed
    That the flowers actually knelt,
    And lay lodged -though not dead.
    …I know how the flowers felt.”

  25. The Neruda-Bukowski-Oliver sequence is quite moving.
    When I thought of what lines move me, I realized many come from the lyrics of our greatest songwriters. A few examples:

    Like your smile
    And your fingertips
    Like the way that you move your lips
    I like the cool way you look at me
    Everything about you is bringing me
    —Bob Dylan

    Once I was your heart’s desire
    Now I am the ape hunkered by the fire
    With my knuckles dragging through the mire
    You float by so majestically.
    You’re my north, my south, my east, my west
    You are the girl that I love best
    With an army of tanks bursting from your chest
    I wave my little white flag at thee.
    —Nick Cave (perhaps in response to Auden?)

    It was deep into his fiery heart
    he took the dust of Joan of Arc
    and then she clearly understood
    if he was fire, oh, then she must be wood
    I saw her wince, I saw her cry
    I saw the glory in her eye
    Myself I long for love and light
    but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?
    —Leonard Cohen

    Oh the last I heard she’s sleeping rough back on the Derby beat
    White Horse in her hip pocket and a wolfhound at her feet
    And they say she even married once, a man named Romany Brown
    But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down
    And they say her flower is faded now, hard weather and hard booze
    But maybe that’s just the price you pay for the chains you refuse
    Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee’s wing
    And I miss her more than ever words could say
    If I could just taste all of her wildness now
    If I could hold her in my arms today
    Well I wouldn’t want her any other way
    —Richard Thompson

    Arithmetic Arithmetock
    I turn the hands back on the clock
    How does the ocean rock the boat
    How did the razor find my throat
    The only strings that hold me here
    Are tangled up around the pier
    —Tom Waits

  26. Amanda Patterson

    Thank you for sharing your favourite lines and for your lovely feedback. I appreciate it.

  27. This is the way the world ends
    This the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a BÀNG ……
    …… but a whimper …..
    TS Eliot

  28. From Pippa Passes by Robert Browning. . . .

    The year’s at the spring,
    And day’s at the morn;
    Morning’s at seven;
    The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
    The lark’s on the wing;
    The snail’s on the thorn;
    God’s in His heaven—
    All’s right with the world!

  29. Oh Amanda, I have lived Auden’s poem, and will never more give of myself 100%. One of my favorite poets the start of just one of his songs…

    Anthem by Leonard Cohen

    The birds they sang
    at the break of day
    Start again
    I heard them say
    Don’t dwell on what
    has passed away
    or what is yet to be.
    Ah the wars they will
    be fought again
    The holy dove
    She will be caught again
    bought and sold
    and bought again
    the dove is never free.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.

  30. Quite by chance I tripped and stumbled, here you are! I am humbled by these gifts you’ve given me, beauty I so rarely see. That’s a wrap. xox, Lee

  31. Sonnet XXIX (Shakespeare)

    When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
    I all alone beweep my outcast state,
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
    And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;
    Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
    For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

  32. I’m a fan of African poetry as it really depicts life and struggles. The beauty and ugliness one faces when growing up. The hustle can’t of course be left out as well.

  33. Maria Belen Salvosa Viñas-Paruan

    I do love poetry a lot…picturing in your mind while reading beautiful poetries…

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