OAR Editors Pick Their Favorite Poems

Sharnita Sanders – La mejor tinta is my all-time favorite Spanish poem (when it comes to English I have a whole different set of favorites). It was written by Armando Valladares

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when he was a prisoner in La Habana during Castro’s rule. He literally says in the first line: “me lo han quitado todo/la pluma/los lapices/ la tinta.” Translated to mean: “they have taken everything from me/the pen/the pencils/the ink.” Yet, what I love most is that they didn’t necessarily take “everything.” Valladares wrote this poem using la mejor tinta. His own blood, or as he says, “mi propia sangre.”

Camera Martin – My absolute favorite poem since high school has been To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell. In three stanzas, it packs in so many rich allusions of religion, metaphors to time, morality, and the death of desire, it can be a little dizzying to keep up with. Besides the scholarly appeal of the challenge it poses for interpretation, the subject matter makes me smile, and constantly reminds me that humanity has always been motivated by the libido.

Erin Norton-Lannen – [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by e.e. cummings. The sing-song tone and the word choice make me nostalgic for the Shel Silverstein poems I grew up with, but what I really love about this poem is the last four lines.

Paige Rowland – The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot. This is is my favorite poem of all time because of how purely pathetic Prufrock is as a character. He is beyond hopeless when it comes to interacting with people. He overthinks himself to death before he can even make eye contact with someone. He is so pathetic, but he is so very relateable. Every single person in the world has been melodramatic when it comes to someone they find attractive. People have felt like they were worthless and unworthy of anyone’s attention. It’s such a great representation of insecurity and feelings of inferiority, but it is also a great piece to look at to study some of the relationships that men have with power and the pressures that men do come under in society both back then and today. I love this poem a whole lot is what I’m trying to say I guess.

Haylie Armbruster – Zwei Manner (Two Men) by Wolfgang Borchert. Wolfgang Borchert was a humanist, and wrote poetry, screenplays, and short stories. He fought in World War II and was only 27 when he died. He is best known for writing in the German genre “Trümmerliteratur (rubble literature).” This genre evolved in Germany after WWII. This poem, I think, represents what Trümmerliteratur is about, but also reflects Borchert’s hatred of the war. The words are simple but evoke so much thought about wars and those that fight in them, as well as a war’s place in history. The melancholy of the piece, typical of Trümmerliteratur, sums up the experience of what happened to those affected by the war. The last line is so chilling!

Bethany Olson – Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. My favorite part of Wild Geese is the opening line, “You do not have to be good.” Throughout the poem, Oliver uses a casual tone to create an intimacy with the reader, but the opening line is especially comforting. For me, it feels more like chatting to a close friend than anything else. The entire poem serves as a reminder to let things go, and look at the bigger picture. To look, literally, at your place in the world at large. Whenever I have moments of anxiety or stress, I go back to this poem as a reminder to put things into perspective.

Happy National Poetry Month!

-Bethany Olson


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