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10 of the Best Poems about Identity and the Self

Classic poems about selfhood and identity

Poetry and self-expression go hand in hand: we often treat them as synonymous. Of course, this is a relatively modern notion, largely the legacy of the Romantics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – and poets in the twentieth century in particular have sought to move away from this idea of poetry as a record of the poet’s own self. (See T. S. Eliot’s influential essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ for one prominent example.) Nonetheless, many poets have written about the self, and their individual identity, as the following classic poems about selfhood demonstrate.

William Wordsworth, ‘Tintern Abbey’. This is one of Wordsworth’s most famous poems and one of the best-loved of the English Romantic movement. In this blank-verse meditation prompted by the ruins of the medieval Welsh abbey that gives the poem its title (although the full title is considerably longer), Wordsworth muses upon the ‘true self’ which creativity allows the poet to recover. The poem’s full title is ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour’. Read the rest of this entry

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10 of the Best Poems about Beaches

The greatest coastal poems

We’ve taken ourselves off to the seaside for this week’s poetry selection. What are the best poems about beaches and the coast? We offer the following ten suggestions.

Edmund Spenser, from Amoretti LXXV. One of the earliest sonnet sequences written in English, Amoretti dates from the mid-1580s and features this fine sonnet about the poet’s seemingly vain attempt to immortalise his beloved’s name by writing it on the sand at the beach – the tide comes in, and the name is washed away. Spenser is more famous for writing the vast (and unfinished) epic poem The Faerie Queene, but as this poem demonstrates, he also helped to pioneer the English sonnet during the Elizabethan era.

Charlotte Smith, ‘Sonnet on being Cautioned against Walking on a Headland’. In this poem we’re not on the beach as such but rather on a cliff overlooking the sea, but since we’re still at the point where the land meets the sea, we think Smith deserves her place on this list of great beach poems. This poem is that rarest of things: a Gothic sonnet – a fact that needn’t surprise when we bear in mind that the sonnet’s author, Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806) was associated with English Romanticism and was also a key figure in the revival of the English sonnet. Read the rest of this entry

The Best Ezra Pound Poems Everyone Should Read

Five of Ezra Pound’s best poems

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was a controversial but central figure in the history of modernist literature. He helped to publish both T. S. Eliot and James Joyce, was friends with a number of leading modernist writers including W. B. Yeats and Ford Madox Ford, and his slogan, ‘Make It New’, encapsulates much of what modernist literature sought to do. But as well as all this, we should remember that Ezra Pound was a major modernist poet himself, albeit a very difficult one. Here’s our pick of five of Pound’s best poems or poetic works.

In a Station of the Metro’. This is probably the most famous Imagist poem ever written: in just two lines, Pound seeks to capture the fleeting impression of seeing a crowd of people at the Paris Metro. After the poem’s publication in 1913, Pound’s interest in Imagism dwindled, and he moved away from the Image and towards the ‘Vortex’, founding the short-lived artistic movement Vorticism with his friend Wyndham Lewis.

The Return’. The old gods have gone, but are not quite forgotten; and now, Pound announces, ‘they return’. This is the subject of this short poem, which remains one of Pound’s most popular shorter works. Read the rest of this entry