Poems That Can Save Your Life a Little

During last night’s discussion I remembered that whenever I read a poem, I’m asking, “Does this save my life a little?” The poems that do are the ones that stay with me. I’m very happy to share a few of them here.

Firstly, there are poems I love because they make me feel like I’m being present with someone who understands what’s going on inside me. Secondly, there are poems that allow me to dwell somewhere else for a little while, until I can come back rested and ready to see the world a little differently. I’ve put together two lists, one for each of those moods, so you can choose your own adventure.

As I curated these lists of poems, I felt a little like I was assembling wine and cheese pairings. That is to say, I hope you will enjoy them! You never have to like or feel that you ‘understand’ a poem—if a poem isn’t doing something for you, just move on to the next one. There’s a little something here for everybody.

I hope these poems will save your life a little—and if there ever comes a moment when you feel like writing a poem, know that yours can do that too.


Playlist of Poetry for Distressing Times—‘Present’
Curated by Inez Tan

1. “The Pomegranate and the Big Crowd” by Alberto Ríos 
2. “[Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way]” by Juan Felipe Herrera

3. “[After great pain, a formal feeling comes – ]” by Emily Dickinson 
4. “Greater Joy” by Jason Bayani

5. “You Fixed It” by Zeina Hashem Beck
6. “Yellow Glove” by Naomi Shihab Nye

7. “Magdalene—The Seven Devils” by Marie Howe
8. “Something with a Lifespan” by Katie Peterson

9. “Elegy” by Lisa Olstein
10. “Not My Bones” by Marilyn Nelson


Playlist of Poetry for Distressing Times—‘Elsewhere’
Curated by Inez Tan

Outdoors and Outer Space
1. “Meanwhile” by Mary Oliver
2. “Using a Hula Hoop Can Get You Abducted by Aliens” by Matthea Harvey

At Home with Other Animals
3. “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” by Thomas Lux
4. “The Wolf” by Kaily Dorfman

On the Dance Floor
5. “Danse des Petits Cygnes” by Chloe Honum
6. “Beyoncé’s Quadruple Platinum Single—an English to English translation” by E.J. Koh

In Love
7. “Love at Thirty-Two Degrees” by Katherine Larson
8. “To Myself” by Franz Wright

The Place Where You Are Most Yourself
9. “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
10. “The Heart Under Your Heart” by Craig Arnold

Inez Tan


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