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“If you commit yourself to the art of poetry, you commit yourself to the task of learning how to see, using words as elements of sight and their sounds as prisms.”
—Archibald MacLeish, Academy of American Poets Chancellor (1946–1949)
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Angelina Weld Grimké
Angelina Weld Grimké

To Joseph Lee

About this Poem 

“To Joseph Lee” was published in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 11, 1908. 

To Joseph Lee

How strange, how passing strange, when we awake
        And lift our faces to the light
To know that you are lying shut away
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange, when we lie down
        To sleep, to know that you are quite
Alone beneath the moon, the stars, the little leaves,
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange to know—our eyes
        Will gladden at the fine sweet sight
Of you no more, for now your face is hid
        Within the night.

Strange, strange indeed, these things to us appear
        And yet we know they must be right;
And though your body sleeps, your soul has passed
        Beyond the night.

Ah! friend, it must be sweet to slip from out
        The tears, the pain, the losing fight
Below, and rest, just rest eternally
        Beyond the night.

And sweet it must be too, to know the kiss
        Of Peace, of Peace, the pure, the white
And step beside her hand in hand quite close
        Beyond the night.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

American Poets
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poem

Theme for English B

The instructor said,

    Go home and write
    a page tonight.
    And let that page come out of you—
    Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me 
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what 
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white. 
But it will be
a part of you, instructor. 
You are white— 
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. 
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me. 
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true! 
As I learn from you, 
I guess you learn from me— 
although you're older—and white— 
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.
Langston Hughes
1994
poem

We Real Cool

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.



We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Gwendolyn Brooks
1960
 Donald Hall, Grace Schulman, John Ashbery, and Brad Leithauser at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.