Is there a poem that has been a friend to you?
We invite you to tell us about it here…
Whether it is a lifelong friend or one you have met more recently, we would love to hear about your chosen poem and the part it has played in your life…
Read on to discover some of the extraordinary friendships between people and poems that we have gathered so far...and feel free to seek out these poems for yourself.
We look forward to meeting your friend!
Meet some poems as friends nominated so far...
A Cradle Song
by W.B. Yeats
A Friend to Chiara
I sigh that kiss you,
For I must own
That I shall miss you
When you have grown.
“I bought a volume of Yeats' chosen poems on a study holiday in Ireland when I was fifteen. The poem stood out for its simplicity and loving atmosphere and I learned it by heart. It was my first book of poems in English (I'm Italian).”
Butterflies and Goosebumps
by Prince Views
My descent to the present is recent
That it's just now I sensed an incense
That has always been in my atmosphere
I am after a confrontation with my fears
And tears tended to compassionately
“I sipped my black coffee under a warm overcast sky and ‘Butterflies & Goosebumps’ allowed me vulnerability, it listened as I spoke of a hope of love and security. It bears all the load I didn't have to carry.”
by Connie Wanek
A Friend to Sarah
My mother knew the value of free pens.
“My mother died during Covid lockdown. She was very old and alone in hospital. We felt the usual things…grief…end of an era….and especially guilt that we could not have eased her passing. But I saw this poem at this time and shared it with my family and it sort of brought us together although we were all far apart. A bit of light in the dark and love.”
by Lemn Sissay
A Friend to Maggie Atkinson
If there was ever one
To whom when you run
Will push back the clouds
So you are bathed in sun
“All of it speaks. The direct address to the hearer, of that repeated ‘if there was ever one’ binds it together into a series of very key gifts the writer is offering you, open-armed and open-hearted. The vulnerability being offered to you has to sink in. Your tears will be dried, the world will be made brighter, you will be made whole and safe.”
Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes
A Friend to Phoebe Batanda
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
"I loved the realistic advice the mother gives to the son - that life is not a bed of roses. This poem reminds me often times life is a journey filled with ‘climbings, bare places’, but we ought not to give up."
by Sheenagh Pugh
A Friend to Jann Paton
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.
“I found this in a Sunday supplement that would feature a single poem each week (sadly it has long been discontinued). It is a poem of optimism which has stuck with me in many difficult times, and always gives me hope.”
by Jane Draycott
A Friend to Robbie Burton
To the prisoners in
solitary and those with no voice
National Day of Silence dawned like any other.
“It was on an Arvon course that I first encountered 'The Note'. I loved it for many things...the intrigue of the first line, the form, the pace…but most of all it filled me with some kind of hiraeth - a longing for something I hadn't known I needed.”
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
A Friend to Beth Calverley
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
"The last lines are the perfect example of how friends must occasionally be challenging as well as kind. Sometimes we need a reminder from our friends to live the life we want to, even if it’s not what we want to hear in the midst of it all."
To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall
by Kim Addonizio
A Friend to Sallyanne Rock
if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming
"This poem sums up for me what it means to be a woman just trying to exist against a world that seems to be set up against us. I have the phrase tattooed on my arm, it's that dear to me."
A Ritual to Read to Each Other
by William E. Stafford
A Friend to Simon Seligman
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
“This poem has been an absolute touchstone, a profound friend to me, throughout my adult life. The line above is the absolutely central text of my life. I hope when I get to the end of it, I will feel I was awake.”
by Carl Sandburg
A Friend to Atar Hadari
If they nail you call in a mouthpiece.
Fix it, you gazump, you slant-head, fix it.
Feed 'em. . . .
“I first encountered this poem as the epigraph to a biography of Al Capone, which I started but never finished. The lines of Carl Sandburg stayed with me though and would play in my head as an attitude to things, a way of not being fooled by the way things look, a toughness which was not put on but deeply engrained.”
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A Friend to Frances
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
“I read it often at the peak of the pandemic. Days when I felt lonely, frightened, and missing the people that I loved. It held an even deeper meaning then, and has never left my side since.”
It ain’t what you do, it’s what it does to you
by Simon Armitage
A Friend to Jessica Taylor
I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi's and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.
“I stumbled upon this poem as a shy, quiet sixteen year-old. In those days I used to yearn for adventure - I felt like I'd never done anything truly exciting. But when I read this poem it made me realise that sometimes the quiet, pensive, everyday moments can mean more to you than the wild crazy adventures.”
by D.H. Lawrence
A Friend to Susan Lumsden
Yet what a gap in the world, the missing white frost face
of that slim yellow mountain lion!
"It chimes with my despair at how little humankind cares for the lives of other creatures and so readily and easily destroys the beauty of the natural world."
by Wilfred Owen
A Friend to Gary Gach
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
"I can think of two poems which are vital to me right now in my life. One you already know - 'Oh Western Wind when wilt thou blow' - the other I've tried recording and putting on my Facebook page, by Wilfred Owen – ‘Strange Meeting.' Thanking you and wishing you every good thing."
by Wendy Cope
A Friend to Emily Escott
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
“I first read The Orange after it was sent to me by an online friend. It offers a quiet realisation of happiness and fulfilment in the everyday that I felt so hungry for all those years ago at my lowest, that I am working towards achieving every day. I could read it every day, and I want to get a tattoo of an orange at a future date.”
by Eavan Boland
A Friend to Matthew Dickman
Apples sweeten in the dark
"I was maybe 19 years old, riding on a bus through Portland, Oregon. I remember I had just enough money for a pack of cigarettes and a coffee. I was feeling lost. Then I happened on this poem in a packet from school and when I read it it felt like everything stopped - the bus, the rain, my worry."
Where the Mind is Without Fear
by Rabindranath Tagore
A Friend to Linda Kader
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
“Tagore wrote it over 30 years before India's independence. The clarity of the vision, the poignancy of the words, the power of the dream, passion for freedom, all are encompassed in this poem, for me.”
And It Does, Marianne
by Eli Siegel
A Friend to Leila Rosen
Marianne, it’s a very connected world.
That takes you in, Marianne.
It should, I think, too.
You deserve it and the world does.
“What stood out to me in this poem is this wonderful line: ‘lt's a very connected world, Marianne.’ A week doesn’t go by when this line, and what it represents, doesn’t come to mind. It strengthens and inspires me, encourages me to feel permanently and widely related to everything and everyone.”
by Stephan G. Stephansson
A Friend to Jerry Iwanus
Till finally called - and shall calmly retire
Where sleeplessness may not assail
Convinced that whatever of good I conceived
Continues - and never shall fail
The best that was in me forever shall live
The sun over darkness prevail.
“Stephan G. Stephansson, considered Iceland’s greatest poet, actually homesteaded in Central Alberta, where I moved in 1985. It is in my will that the last line should be etched on my gravestone. Those last four lines have sustained more often than I care to admit.”
Having A Coke With You
by Frank O'Hara
A Friend to Carolina Carriazo
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
"I had just moved to New York after graduating college for my first real job. I knew no one there. It became a constant companion for the next few months. I even took it with me to the Frick - no less than it deserved."
by Robert Frost
A Friend to Daniel Bee
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
"Throughout my international business career I have repeatedly quoted the line "good fences make good neighbours". I could carry on for hours about this poem."
by Arthur Rimbaud
A Friend to Isabelle Audiger
The Great Bear became my abode
And my stars in the sky whispered into my soul.
“It would be at school. The teacher reading the poem for us. The words of the 16 year-old poet saved me as a pupil. Suddenly, I found an interest in what was coming my way from my teachers. I pricked my ears, I related, I was grateful.”
by Seamus Heaney
A Friend to Rob Kenny
All day the clunk of a baler
So taken for granted
It was evening before I came to
To what I was hearing
“I was living in London and feeling lost and a little homesick. I had recently rediscovered Heaney's poetry and had felt through it a strong connection to home in Northern Ireland. ‘The Baler’ spoke to me both in its deeply familiar imagery but also in the subtle elegy."
The Road Less Taken
by Robert Frost
A Friend to Kelly Banek
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
"My speech teacher first showed it to me aged 13 and it has been etched into my tissues since...this verbal tattoo, that keeps whispering away at me. After a wild journey in advertising, charity, motherhood, I return to speech; this time, I am the teacher."
by T.H. Gillis
A Friend to Joe Dudeck
And the color of forever is
Enduring, priceless, sempiternal
“I've always enjoyed the opportunity to freeze time with a photograph. And having done it for many years, people in the photos have passed away, couples have separated, kids have grown. So this poem helps me hold onto the privilege of allowing someone to re-enter those scenes and passing moments of time.”
i thank you God for this most amazing
by e.e. cummings
A Friend to Maureen P Kane
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
"I got a mimeographed copy in tenth grade from my English teacher. I love the reference to ‘the leaping greenly spirit of trees and the blue true dream of sky.’ And it’s a poem of gratitude and rising from depression: ‘i who have died am alive again today.’"
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