Objectivist poetry recommendations


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Blackhorse: "I'm looking for suggestions on some excellent poetry to read that an Objectivist would appreciate. Preferably romantic and love poems, and poems that describe beautiful scenery or places."

So much beautiful poetry has been written that I don't know where to start with recommendations. And I don't know what poetry an Objectivist -- as opposed to any poetry-lover (I'm tempted to say: as opposed to a person) -- would particularly appreciate. I suggest you start by getting two poetry anthologies, one British and one American, and looking through them for poems and poetry you respond to. .

Off the top of my head, and in no special order, here are a few poets I love -- and for many different reasons:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Robert Browning


Edna St. Vincent Millay

Walt Whitman

Emily Dickinson

Matthew Arnold

Dylan Thomas



Rupert Brooke



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Barbara, first of all, it's a real honor. Second, thank you for the recommendations. Some of them I have read, the ones I haven't I will be sure to look into. What I love so much about poetry is so much beauty and meaning packed into a small space (usually small). Whereas a book or a novel draws out in length, a poem is much smaller in scale, yet its depth and breadth are incredible.

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One of my faves...


How Do I Love Thee?

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day's

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

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I love the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes in particular. Here is one of my favorite Langston Hughes poem:

Montage of a Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over--

like syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load

Or does it just explode?

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Blackhorse, have you ever read the poetry of Robert Service? He wrote of the gold-rush days in the Yukon, and his celebration of cold wild places would be familiar to someone from Montana. His poems are humorous in a gritty way.

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” is a favorite of mine.

-Ross Barlow.

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Here is my all-time favorite poem. Michael wrote it for me and it is the most beautiful poem ever written. It makes me purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr :D

Glimpses of you

by Michael Stuart Kelly

I’ve sensed you all my earthly years,

Don’t ask me how I knew,

I’ve watched the wide world spinning

With countless signs of you.

I’ve loved you as an angel

Who never could be true.

I’ve seen so many glimpses

And countless signs of you.

Harsh plights have caused me heartaches

And often I withdrew.

That angel then would call me back

By countless signs of you.

In wars where I’ve surrendered,

When shame would have to do,

I’ve charged back into battle

Bearing countless signs of you.

And when my soul’s been weary

And love had turned taboo

I’ve overcome my apathy

Through countless signs of you.

You’re part of all I treasure,

And I’ll live my whole life through

With gratitude for finding joy

In those countless signs of you.

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Oooh... Barbara likes Emerson! :D

Her list is wonderful.

Here's one that I just read that really moved me, esp. on the romantic side:

Etcetera: The Unpublished Works of EE Cummings

This is one of the loveliest collections I've ever read.

This isn't in there, I think, but since there's a good amount of romance in the air, shall we revisit? It's all over the 'net so I'm not concerned with infraction... His love poetry has always knocked me flat:

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skillfully, mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and

my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility: whose texture

compels me with the colour of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands

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> Leonard Peikoff has a recorded lecture he gave about poetry he liked. [Chris]

My favorites: I sent the first 8 on this list to Peikoff in response to his request in the email from the his radio show in '99: He was asking for recommendations or poems his listeners liked. (I never heard his talk. Chris: Did he include any of these poems? What was HIS list?)



How do I Love Thee? from Sonnets From the Portuguese--Browning

Barbara Frietchie--Whittier

Sea Fever--Masefield


The Highwayman--Alfred Noyes

St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V--Shakespeare



Casey at the Bat--Thayer

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Poems do many things: capture a mood, persuade, tell a story, capture a particular emotion, describe a scene. Here's a poem from my list above which does several of these:

Sea Fever

I MUST go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,

And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield

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Tooting horn to announce shameless self promotion...

A lot of Objectivists like my poems, a fair number of which are love poems, like this one:

There are so many enemies of love -

Suspicion, hurt, embarrassment, and fear

Begin the dusty list.

Yet somehow men and women rise above

Hostilities to hold each other dear,

All obstacles dismissed.

It may seem soft and dumb, like some sweet dove,

But underneath its eagle claws appear -

Difficult to resist.

I have a new book of poems available, and the download version is free here.

Also, I came across an ancient Egyptian love poem today, 3000 years old, it starts like this:

She is one girl, there is no one like her.

She is more beautiful than any other.

Look, she is like a star goddess arising

at the beginning of a happy new year;

The rest is here.

John Enright

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Great poetry recommendations, everyone. Thanks to all.

Phil, *Sea Fever* blew me away. It has been many years since I read it, and it almost made me go right out the door and away on an adventure.


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JRR Tolkien is most famous for his novels, but he considered his poetry to be an important part of his works. Shorter excerpts are often sprinkled throughout his books. E.g.:

“The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way,

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.”

Many Tolkien fans are impatient when longer poems “interrupt” the flow of his novels. But, when these are taken in their context and relished over time, they shine like polished treasure.

“Far over the Misty Mountains cold,

To dungeons deep and caverns old,

We must away, ere break of day,

To seek our pale enchanted gold.”

When Phil posted *Sea Fever* by Masefield, the spirit of wandering adventure reminded me of Bilbo Baggins.


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Thanks, Ross. I'm glad you liked it! I use many of the poems I listed on the occasions when I am paid to teach literature (which for me, when I'm allowed to design my own curriculum, is not the conventional definition of 'literature' but a combination of: Poetry, myths and legends, short stories, drama, novels, non-fiction essays, quotations, debates, songs, language puzzles...and anything else that involves the beauty, clarity, and power of the English language).

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It will be a while before I have time to look further, but I just glanced at your poem "Ayn Rand's Arrival" in your new book: "Does anyone guess...that someday she will write / A tale to shake the shoulders of the world."

What a beautiful, vivid, original and striking metaphor!

In my literature class this year, I will be often pointing the students to effective metaphors...I think I will find a place to use this one (giving you proper credit of course...and the one million dollar royalty check is in the mail) - I will ask them what it means, give them hints if necessary, etc.


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I just read "Evangeline; A Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Wow. Such beauy and imagery and chivalry. Has anyone one else here this poem? Amazing stuff. Very uplifting and epic.

Blackhorse; I have the feeling Longfellow has lost the reputation he once had. I have never read Evangeline in the orginial but I am famaliar with the story. It is a great unrequited love story.

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I only write prose. I studied poetry in college, actually with a poet-in-residence. But it just ain't me. I like free-writes, obviously.

But, I am in love. So, I took a stab, like all good writers do once they have found love. Soul-bearing time, I guess... but I got confidence because two other folks here posted their stuff. Here's a piece I wrote for my honey. Be gentle on me, folks...


You are


I use this word with great care

and consideration

And still you remain


I say so since I noticed

my breath be gone and that my words

are now few and short

On most days I light our candles

and incense, and I sift through our pictures,

pictures gazed at many times over

I stare deeply into them

like I know you stare deeply into yours

Only some few small things I ken;

You said this-

“Every time you hear those train whistles, think of me.”

I do

Lately there are nothing but trains passing our window

and your fragrance on my pillow comes to me stronger

with these train-comings

You are


with your dazzling,, golden soul that shines

on the temple of my heart

Edited by Rich Engle
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Here's one I found recently that's not likely to turn up too often. It's a translation from Spanish, by Octavio Paz (English translation by Muriel Rukeyser), so I'll include the original Spanish after the translation, in case anyone reads Spanish and would like to read the original.




Night with the eyes of a horse that trembles in the night,

night with eyes of water in the field asleep

is in your eyes, a horse that trembles,

is in your eyes of secret water.

Eyes of shadow-water,

eyes of well-water,

eyes of dream-water.

Silence and solitude,

two little animals moon-led,

drink in your eyes,

drink in those waters.

If you open your eyes,

night opens, doors of musk,

the secret kingdom of the water opens

flowing from the center of night.

And if you close your eyes,

a river fills you from within,

flows forward, darkens you:

night brings its wetness to beaches in your soul.



Le noche de ojos de caballo que tiemblan en la noche,

la noche de ojos de agua en el campo dormido,

esta en tus ojos de caballo que tiembla,

esta en tus ojos de agua secreta.

Ojos de agua de sombra,

omos de agua de pozo,

ojos de agua de sueno.

El silencio y la soledad,

como dos pequenos animales a quienes guia la luna,

behen en esos ojos,

behen en esas aguas.

Si abres los ojos,

se abre la noche de puertas de musgo,

se abre el reino secreto del agua

que mana del centro de la noche.

Y si los cierras,

un riote inuda por dentro,

avanza, te hare oscura:

la noche moja riberas en tu alma.

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