Poems to Read in an Existential Crisis and Other Unnecessarily Specific Recommendations
Even if poetry isn’t generally your reading of choice, there’s something pretty magical about finding the perfect poem to read at the perfect time. They can amplify your mood or change it, help you solve a problem or validate one, or even just reframe whatever’s currently spinning in your head.
But how do you know which poem will hit the spot at any given moment? Introducing fifteen unnecessarily specific scenarios that I found the answers for. (You’re on your own for the rest. Kidding, kind of. Need something specific? Meet me in the comments.) I've only shared poems I could find for free online. Enjoy!
Read This When You’ve Had a Long-Ass Day and Need to Mellow Out Before Bed
“The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
Read This When You Want to Chuckle and Maybe Cry a Little Without Understanding Why
“Litany” Billy Collins
Read This When You’re Trying to Convince Yourself It’s Okay to Skip Work and Binge Read
“Rain” by Raymond Carver
Read This When You Want Your Heart Ripped Out and Dropped on the Floor
“First Hour” by Sharon Olds
Read This When You’re in the Phase of Grief that Feels Like No One Else Gets It
“Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden
Read This When You’ve Got it Bad
“Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda
Read This When You’re Feeling Emo in the Best Way
“Inland” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Read This When You’re in an Existential Crisis and Want Out
“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
Read This When You’re in an Existential Crisis and Kind of Digging It, TBH
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot
Read This When You Need Help Not Giving Up but Don’t Want to be Pandered To
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
Read This When You’re a Writer in Need of Inspiration
“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur
Read This When You Want Something Ominous to Read Out Loud
“The Bells” Edgar Allan Poe
Read This When You Want Something Silly to Read Out Loud (to Undo That Last One)
“The Walrus and The Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll
Read This When You Have a Hankering to be Violated
(i.e.: When You Want to Read Your Friendly Neighborhood LitReactor Columnist)
“Naked” by Annie Neugebauer
Read This When You Need Some Freaking Girl Power <3
“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou
There are infinite moods and situations in this life, but there are also way more great poems out there than most people realize. If you’re genuinely looking for the perfect poem for wherever you might be at the moment, feel free to share in the comments. I will do my best to help you find one—and other commenters are welcome to jump in as well.
Or create your own unnecessarily specific recommendations based on some of your favorite poems. Who knows the perfect poem to read to start a revolution? To lead one? To stop one? What’s the poem to read to inspire a classroom full of kids? To read when you’re feeling salty about your messed-up family? To suffer through a family reunion with said family? To celebrate that you’re, like, the only person in the world who doesn’t actually have a messed-up family? How about a poem to seduce your significant other? Hell, how about a poem to seduce a stranger?
When was the last time you stumbled on the perfect poem exactly when you needed it? Let’s share.
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