Poetry for Life
March 13, 2013 1:31 AM   Subscribe

I am turning 27 in two days. Inspired by this, I want to ask for your help in compiling a list of poems that celebrate turning older each year.

For example:

38 - In the Winter of My Thirty-Eighth Year by W.S. Merwin
44 - 44th Birthday Evening, at Harris’s by Ted Berrigan
60 - Halleluiah by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be a 'birthday' poem. I just want something to read and reflect on for that certain year—to think about what matters, or what are our (or most people's) concerns once we/they reach that age.

I realise that it may be quite a hard reach, so I would also appreciate suggestions that generally talk about one's late twenties, early thirties, midlife, growing old, etc. Thanks.
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Now We Are Six.
posted by londongeezer at 1:47 AM on March 13, 2013

(It's not a birthday coming up, but...)

20 - Loveliest of trees by A.E. Housman
posted by thetortoise at 1:57 AM on March 13, 2013

"It was a very good year" composed by Ervin Drake and made famous by Frank Sinatra.

"When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stair
With all that perfumed hair
And it came undone
When I was twenty-one"
posted by three blind mice at 2:04 AM on March 13, 2013

A song and a poem: the song "Trains Across The Sea" by The Silver Jews might fit the bill for 27.

No troubles
On the line

And I can't stand to see you
I can't stand to see you
when you're crying at home

Scotch and penicillin
Please try carlton
A cold, black maple hanger
And husbands on the run

I just got back from a dream attack
That took me by surprise
And in there I met a lady
Her name was Shady Sides
And she said:

It's been evening all day long
It's been evening all day long and
How can something so old be so wrong

Sin and gravity
Drag me down to sleep
To dream of trains across the sea
Trains across the sea

Half hours on earth
What are they worth
I don't know

In twenty-seven years
I drunk fifty thousand beers
And they just wash against me
Like the sea into a pier
posted by degoao at 2:04 AM on March 13, 2013

Dylan Thomas’ Poem in October concerns his 30th birthday, and Poem on his Birthday his 35th.
posted by misteraitch at 2:05 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
posted by rmmcclay at 3:06 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh sorry, didn't notice that you wanted poems that reference a specific year. In that case: Dishes, by Pulp.

A man told me to beware of 33.
He said, "It was not an easy time for me" but I'll get through even though
I've got no miracles to show you.

posted by empath at 3:37 AM on March 13, 2013

misteraitch beat me to Poem in October. But it's lovely, so I'll link it again.
posted by libraritarian at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2013

"On Turning Ten," Billy Collins
"A Birthday Candle," Donald Justice (turning 30)
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:45 AM on March 13, 2013

For 40, Joseph Brodsky's "May 24, 1980."
posted by figgy_finicky at 6:48 AM on March 13, 2013

Search here--it's got many good things.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:54 AM on March 13, 2013

A.S.J. Tessimond, Nursery Rhyme for a Twenty-First Birthday
Dylan Thomas, Poem in October (30th birthday)
Jonathan Swift, On Stella's Birth-Day 1719 (34)
Donald Justice, Men at Thirty
Dorothy Parker, Ballade at Thirty-Five
Robert Service, At Thirty-Five
Dylan Thomas, Poem on His Birthday (35)
Lord Byron, On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year
Donald Justice, Men at Forty
Shakespeare, Sonnet 2, When Forty Winters Shall Besiege Thy Brow
Charles Bukowski, Poem For My 43rd Birthday
William Butler Yeats, Lines Written in Dejection
John Berryman, Dream Song 104: Welcome, grinned Henry, welcome, fifty-one!
Robert Service, A Song of Sixty-Five
Robert Service, Beachcomber (70)
Robinson Jeffers, Birthday (Autobiography) (70th)
Hayden Carruth, At Seventy-Five, Rereading an Old Book
Anthony Hecht, Sarabande on Attaining the Age of Seventy-Seven
Thomas Hardy, He Never Expected Much (Reflections on His Eighty-Sixth Birthday)
R.S. Thomas, Ninetieth Birthday
posted by drlith at 6:58 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ogden Nash, A Lady Who Thinks She is Thirty

(Oh, and here's a short one from Richard Brautigan, Heroine of the Time Machine - When she was fifteen if you'd told her /
that when she was twenty she'd be going / to bed with bald-headed men and liking it /
she would have thought you very abstract. )
posted by 2or3things at 7:16 AM on March 13, 2013

But wait! There's more!

Kenneth Koch, Poem for My Twentieth Birthday
A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad
Amy Fleury, At Twenty-Eight
Michael Ryan, Poem at Thirty
Charlotte Smith. Thirty-eight. To Mrs. _____y.
Jennifer Tonge, Self Portrait at 38
Eugene Field, Thirty-Nine
Jonathan Galassi, Turning Forty
Kevin Griffith, Turning Forty
Howard Nemerov, The Author to His Body on Their Fiftieth Birthday
Thomas Lynch, Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets
Jim Moore, Almost Sixty
Doug Anderson, Sixty-One
Walter Savage Landor, On His Seventy-Fifth Birthday
Stanley Kunitz, Passing Through (on my seventy-ninth birthday)
Walter Savage Landor, On His Eightieth Birthday
Maxine Kumin, Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year
posted by drlith at 8:01 AM on March 13, 2013

a favorite for your final year:

posted by bobdow at 8:53 AM on March 13, 2013

"A Birthday Card," Ted Kooser (44)

(at this point, I'm posting this just as much for me so I can remember it and make a list too)
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:37 AM on April 25, 2013

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