Growing an Anthology of Favorite Poems: Four More

Summer arrived in the northern hemisphere on June 21 this year when the sun stood above the Tropic of Cancer and seemingly “stopped” before beginning its return toward the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn where it will bring summer to the southern hemisphere.

A new season seems a good time for me to share more of my collected favorite poems. I began this listing back in January and promised to recommend a few more as the year went by periodically. Six months later, I’ve determined that each change of season is a good time to add to my anthology.

For anyone interested in my inspiration for building my collection of favorites, I recommend poet Robert Pinsky’s 2014 book, Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters. New York: W.W. Norton.

My previous postings in this exercise are available at and Here are four more, added for Summer 2017:

  • “Ars Poetica” by Archibald MacLeish. From Collected Poems 1917-1982. Houghton-Mifflin, 1985.

For me, MacLeish was the first poet I read who defined poetry. His opening and closing lines capture the notions of metaphor and being: “A poem should be palpable and mute/As a globed fruit,/ . . . A poem should not mean/But be.”


  • “A Shropshire Lad: XIII” by A.E. Housman. The Collected Poems of A.E. Housman. Public Domain. This version is from “The Writer’s Almanac” on Public Radio broadcast on March 29, 2017.

I was introduced to this poem in college when I was “one and twenty.”  Housman struck a chord for a young man working hard to study and keep my fancy free.


  • “Flock” by Billy Collins. From The Trouble with Poetry.

–Collins introduces this poem with a note regarding the Gutenberg Bible from an article on printing. The spiritual power of the ending will catch you off guard.


  • “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye. From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Portland, OR: Far Corner Books, 1995.

–Almost every poet at some point writes what poetry teachers call a list poem. Nye’s is one of the best in that form; it defines the notion of fame as no lexicographer could imagine. That’s why we need poetry!


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