Poems of direct address?
August 12, 2009 1:16 PM   Subscribe

What are some good poems to read aloud, that take the form of direct address?

Something about the specific nature of address comes easily to me in performance, and I am looking for poems to read which thus allow me to inhabit the speaker in that particular way. "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath, and "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns were really fun for me to perform, for example.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Writing & Language (37 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is just to say...
posted by felix betachat at 1:18 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shakespeare's sonnets?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:19 PM on August 12, 2009

i always imagine the laughing heart being whispered by an old, wise friend...
posted by gursky at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

photograph by Andrea Gibson might be good, too. a friend of mine read it for a poetry reading event and it went over really well.
posted by gursky at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Browning used a lot of dialogue in his poems. "A Toccata of Galuppiā€™s," which is addressed to the composer, is one of my favorites.

Ulysses by Tennyson let's you play a pretty famous character.

I feel like I'm forgetting a lot of good ones, but those were the first to jump out.
posted by thebergfather at 1:30 PM on August 12, 2009

There are a ton of these (I think Margaret Atwood is one good modern author for this), but Fra Lippo Lippi immediately springs to mind.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:31 PM on August 12, 2009

Any number of love poems and things like them...

Byron's "Remember Thee! Remember Thee!" is particularly suited for melodramatic reading, though it's a bit short. I also like his "Dear Doctor, I Have Read Your Play" which is a total delight. For something more serious, perhaps "And Thou Art Dead, As Young And Fair," or "Fare Thee Well."

(Can you tell I like Byron?)

Borges's "To A Cat."

Dorothy Parker's "Superfluous Advice."
posted by paultopia at 1:36 PM on August 12, 2009

Fra Lippo Lippi by Robert Browning
posted by not_on_display at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2009

Yes, Browning is always a go-to for that. I like "My Last Duchess" if you have a good evil laugh.

"Stepping Backward" and "Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff" by Adrienne Rich might be interesting choices.

Selections from Geoffrey Hill's "Mercian Hymns" might also work.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2009

I wonder if you might like Bernadette Mayer's work, particularly "Sonnets" or some of the later poems in the New Directions "Reader."
posted by aught at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I wrote "let's you." I really shouldn't comment from work. Anyway, here's one more ...

Eliot's Journey of the Magi doesn't have a specific audience, but it's spoken from a very specific perspective and contains some of the most fun lines to read aloud that I know of:
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?
posted by thebergfather at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2009

spooky, shocking: Margaret Atwood, "This is a Photograph of Me" and "You Fit Into Me" (only 4 lines long, but will make your audience shudder)

sad, melancholy: W.H. Auden, "Stop All the Clocks (Funeral Blues)"

sensual, erotic: Michael Ondaatje, "The Cinnamon Peeler"
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:45 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sharon Old's "My Father Speaks to Me From the Dead" is part of the same confessional, psychotherapeutic, Oedipal vein as "Daddy," but I cannot find online.

Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" because it only addresses the listener at the end, and it's quite effective.

Derek Walcott's "Love After Love" is just excellent, and I love the opening line: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat."

Emily Dickinson
posted by zoomorphic at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2009

Cavafis talks to his subjects a lot, especially in his historical stuff.

The God Abandons Antony is a good example. Also, The City. Oh, and Ithaka.
posted by Copronymus at 1:53 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

whoops, hit "post" too soon. Emily Dickinson's "He Fumbles at Your Spirit" and especially "I Cannot Live With You"
posted by zoomorphic at 1:53 PM on August 12, 2009

Bishop's "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore" is favorite of mine.
posted by neroli at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2009

Catullus. All of them, but you might want to find a better translation in a library.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:01 PM on August 12, 2009

Have a handkerchief ready.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:06 PM on August 12, 2009

You get to do two different dramatic voices in Piazza Piece!
posted by nonane at 2:09 PM on August 12, 2009

posted by juv3nal at 2:09 PM on August 12, 2009

Terrance This Is Stupid Stuff is a delight to the mind and ears, read aloud....
posted by availablelight at 2:22 PM on August 12, 2009

Spoon River Anthology
posted by nax at 2:26 PM on August 12, 2009

This one is another one of my favorites . . .
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:33 PM on August 12, 2009

Allen Ginsberg's A Supermarket in California

A.E. Housman's Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff
posted by amyms at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2009

harold pinter: death
posted by Think_Long at 3:02 PM on August 12, 2009

Philip Levine's To a Child Trapped in a Barber Shop

Yvor Winters' At the San Francisco Airport

And, Lucille Clifton's To the Unborn and Waiting Children is powerful, although it's not addressed to a specific person.
posted by amyms at 3:10 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the best poems I have ever read is The Mary Gloster by Rudyard Kipling.
    I've paid for your sickest fancies; I've humoured your crackedest whim - Dick, it's your daddy, dying; you've got to listen to him!
A shipping magnate, lying on his death bed, demands that the pampered son he hates agree to perform an unusual funeral for him.

The first time I listened to this was in a class at Uni. My tutor turned on his laptop and told us all to shut up. We listened to an mp3 of a famous actor - I think it was Alec Guiness - doing a very powerful version. I have the Kipling's complete poems, and that is the most well thumbed page. Amazing story, amazing flow. Actually, I'm going to go read it again.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 3:13 PM on August 12, 2009

The White House kills me every time I read it.
posted by Mouse Army at 3:52 PM on August 12, 2009

"To Judge Faolain, Dead Long Enough: A Summons" by Linda McCarriston. You can find a reprint through Google books but I suggest picking up her collection Eva-Mary.
posted by Orinda at 4:53 PM on August 12, 2009

Another favorite with lots of emotional color: "I, being born a woman and distressed" by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
posted by Orinda at 4:57 PM on August 12, 2009

"What Do Women Want?" by Kim Addonizio

Prepare by Hayden Carruth (previously)

Superbly Situated by Robert Hershon

They Flee from Me by Sir Thomas Wyatt

A whole series of echoing poems inspired by Christopher Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd to His Love, including The Nymph's Reply by Sir Walter Ralegh, The Bait by John Donne, Come Down O Maid by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
posted by woodway at 5:10 PM on August 12, 2009

"Thou still unravished bride of quietness..." One of Keats's best.
posted by languagehat at 5:40 PM on August 12, 2009

Sad Song

You open your eyes on a lonely light.
Something not there you'd dreamed would be.
Utterly lost from all company you
yield to an absence from long ago
looking for pencil-tracings out on the
waiting wash of the lonely light.

Margaret Avison
posted by languagehat at 5:45 PM on August 12, 2009

I mentioned this in another thread, but Distressed Haiku, by Donald Hall is fantastic. It's addressed to his late wife, Jane Kenyon. Heartbreaking.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:24 PM on August 12, 2009

A whole lot of the stuff in Ted Hughes' 'Birthday Letters' is a direct address.

Lots of Roger McGough is direct address - I'll look some out when I get home, but 'Cake', 'Soil', 'You and I' are some easily available ones.
posted by andraste at 6:51 PM on August 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, everybody! This is a wonderful treasury!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:49 AM on August 13, 2009

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