More poems like Millay's Recuerdo?
June 11, 2013 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend poems like "Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

I really like "Recuerdo."

I would like to read more poems that

* rhyme
* are celebratory, not painful or depressing

Bonus points if

* it's relatively modern (the "subway fares" sets the poem in the 20th Century)
* it's short enough to memorize
* it's written by a woman

(In case it's not obvious, I'm open to poems by anyone, not just Millay.)

posted by kristi to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh! Ooh! This poem by Craig Raine!


Heaven on Earth

Now that it is night,
you fetch in the washing
from outer space,

from the frozen garden
filmed like a kidney,
with a ghost in your mouth,

and everything you hold,
two floating shirts, a sheet,
ignores the law of gravity.

Only this morning,
the wren at her millinery,
making a baby's soft bonnet,

as we stopped by the spring,
watching the water
well up in the grass,

as if the world were teething.
It was heaven on earth
and it was only the morning.


It's the title piece in the slim but stellar anthology Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems, edited by Wendy Cope. What with all the lending and gifting, I've bought four copies so far.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:54 AM on June 11, 2013

On preview, I see you asked for poems that rhyme. This one doesn't, obvs, but there are plenty in the anthology that do.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:54 AM on June 11, 2013

Or this sonnet by George Szirtes:


So he lay naked on the bed and she drew him
in coloured crayons and her own skin shone
in the light of the low window and they were alone
in the house, so when the current passed through him

he slipped her out of her top, a moment’s work,
and skin met skin in the soft heat, her back
sliding down to the point where the rough track
of bone swells into plump flesh where lurk

the demons they were hoping to invite
so they should turn the body inside out
into that central universe where a shout
is enough to bring on rain, or sun, or night

or the end of breath like an answering cry,
with the landlady’s knock, since she was passing by.

posted by stuck on an island at 9:57 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

John Whitworth,
‘Under-Age Drinking at the Adelphi Hotel in Edinburgh – 1963’:
Snug in that austere Lounge in the Old Town,
New-shaved and after-shaved, two Beatlecuts
Over two bottles of Newcastle Brown,
Two shortie-coats, two ties in Windsor knots
On wide-striped shirts with button-down collars, trousers
The twelve-inch bottom, charcoal grey ballcrushers,
And Chelsea Boots with shiny chisel toes, as
Exquisite as the Tsars of All the Russias,

Home on a brace of out-of-town wee hairies,
Bumming the chat, relaxed and debonair,
‘Two o’ these Jimmie, and two Bloody Maries.’
‘Fancy our chances, pal?’ ‘We’re well in there.’
Prop up the bar and plan out the attack:

Kiss on the doorstep and a long walk back.
posted by pont at 10:08 AM on June 11, 2013

Not to thread-sit, but:

For this question, I definitely prefer things that rhyme, but if you have a great poem that doesn't rhyme, feel free to post it.

Thanks for both of yours, stuck on an island!
posted by kristi at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2013

It seems to me you'd like a lot of Elizabeth Bishop.
posted by RogerB at 12:11 PM on June 11, 2013

Rhyming poetry is difficult to do without sounding old-fashioned and anything but modern, but I think this one by Virginia Hamilton Adair succeeds:

Buckroe, After the Season, 1942

Past the fourth cloverleaf, by dwindling roads
At last we came into the unleashed wind;
The Chesapeake rose to meet us at a dead end
Beyond the carnival wheels and gingerbread.

Forsaken by summer, the wharf. The oil-green waves
Flung yellow foam and sucked at disheveled sand.
Small fish stank in the sun, and nervous droves
Of cloud hastened their shadows over bay and land.

Beyond the NO DUMPING sign in its surf of cans
And the rotting boat with nettles to the rails,
The horse dung garlanded with jeweling flies
And papers blown like a fleet of shipless sails,

We pushed into an overworld of wind and light
Where sky unfettered ran wild from earth to noon,
And the tethered heart broke loose and rose like a kite
From sands that borrowed diamonds from the sun.

We were empty and pure as shells that air-drenched hour,
Heedless as waves that swell at the shore and fall,
Pliant as sea-grass, the rapt inheritors
Of a land without memory, where tide erases all.
posted by drlith at 1:09 PM on June 11, 2013

I love Wendy Cope. Two favourites that I sort of accidentally memorised at some point and still know parts of:

Summer Villanelle

You know exactly what to do—
Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh—
I think of little else but you.

It's bliss to have a lover who,
Touching one shoulder, makes me sigh—
You know exactly what to do.

You make me happy through and through,
The way the sun lights up the sky—
I think of little else but you.

I hardly sleep-an hour or two;
I can't eat much and this is why—
You know exactly what to do.

The movie in my mind is blue—
As June runs into warm July
I think of little else but you.

But is it love? And is it true?
Who cares? This much I can't deny:
You know exactly what to do;
I think of little else but you.
The Reading

In crumpled, bardic corduroy,
The poet took the stage
And read aloud his deathless verse,
Page by deathless page.

I gazed at him as though intent
On every word he said.
From time to time I’d close my eyes
And smile and nod my head.

He may have thought his every phrase
Sent shivers down my spine.
Perhaps I helped encourage him
To read till half past nine.

Don’t ask what it was all about—
I haven’t got a clue.
I spent a blissful evening, lost
In carnal thoughts of you.
which are 3 and 4 in 'From June to December' in Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis.
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:31 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cynddylan on a Tractor by R S Thomas
posted by BenPens at 1:13 AM on June 12, 2013

I love Recuerdo too. Many of Frank O'Hara's poems have this quality for me - the little happy city snapshot moments. They tend not to rhyme, but some have similar lilting rhythms and sense of delight.
posted by judith at 10:29 AM on June 12, 2013

Thanks for all the great answers!

Extra special thanks to you must supply a verb for the Wendy Cope. I actually have that volume sitting on my shelf (and I've read all of it) and I'd completely forgotten about Summer Villanelle. (Probably I was reading too many of the poems at a sitting and didn't fully notice it at the time.) That's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Thanks!
posted by kristi at 1:02 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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