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Top 10 Best And Most Famous Modern Poems. Photo KnowInsiders

Poetry continues to be an important force in the world in the twenty-first century, and is arguably reaching, and being enjoyed by, more readers than ever before, as the rise of Instagram poetry and prominent YouTubers demonstrates.

But what are some of the best poems of the modern time – the best poems of the century so far, anyway – which the poetry novice should read to get a sense of how poetry is being kept alive, and developed, in the present century?

Below is Knowinsiders's pick of ten of the best and most famous modern poems:

Top 10 Best And Most Famous Modern Poems

1.Home by Warsan Shire

2. Prayer by Ian Hamilton

3. Dunt: A Poem for a Dried-Up River by Alice Oswald

4. ‘Text’ by Carol Ann Duffy

5. From Riddance by Maria Negroni

6. On a New Year’s Eve by June Jordan

7. Rain by Don Paterson

8. The Garden Of Love by William Blake

9.My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold by William Wordsworth

10.The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth

***

What Are Best And Most Famous Modern Poems?

1.Home by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory

is holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

until the blade burnt threats into

your neck

and even then you carried the anthem under

your breath

only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet

sobbing as each mouthful of paper

made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences

no one wants to be beaten

pitied

no one chooses refugee camps

or strip searches where your

body is left aching

or prison,

because prison is safer

than a city of fire

and one prison guard

in the night

is better than a truckload

of men who look like your father

no one could take it

no one could stomach it

no one skin would be tough enough

the

go home blacks

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange

savage

messed up their country and now they want

to mess ours up

how do the words

the dirty looks

roll off your backs

maybe because the blow is softer

than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.

i want to go home,

but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home told you

to quicken your legs

leave your clothes behind

crawl through the desert

wade through the oceans

drown

save

be hunger

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

i dont know what i’ve become

but i know that anywhere

is safer than here

Warsan Shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and lives in London. She is a poet, writer, editor and teacher. In 2013-2014, she was the Young Poet Laureate for London. Shire wrote “Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)” in 2009, a piece inspired by a visit she made to the abandoned Somali Embassy in Rome which some young refugees had turned into their home. In an interview, she told the reporter that “The night before she visited, a young Somali had jumped to his death off the roof.” The encounter, she says, opened her eyes to the harsh reality of living as an undocumented refugee in Europe: “I wrote the poem for them, for my family and for anyone who has experienced or lived around grief and trauma in that way.” This poem became the basis for “Home,” printed below. “Home” has been shared widely across the media and has been read in a range of public spaces, including London’s Trafalgar Square. Commentators have noted that “Home” has touched a nerve among people, that it has offered a way to give voice to refugees and to provide some authentic understanding of the crisis.

2. Prayer by Ian Hamilton

Look sir, my hands are steady now,

My brain a cloudless day.

Is that the sound of breakfast down below?

To eat again seems possible.

To breathe?

No problem, Lord, I promise. I’m OK.

The British poet, critic, and editor Ian Hamilton (1938-2001) was not a prolific poet: he published only a handful of collections in his lifetime: The Visit (1970), the collection of Fifty Poems (1988) and Sixty Poems (1998; building on the earlier fifty).

3. Dunt: A Poem for a Dried-Up River by Alice Oswald

Very small and damaged and quite dry,

a Roman water nymph made of bone

tries to summon a river out of limestone

very eroded faded

her left arm missing and both legs from the knee down

a Roman water nymph made of bone

tries to summon a river out of limestone

exhausted utterly worn down

a Roman water nymph made of bone

being the last known speaker of her language

she tries to summon a river out of limestone

little distant sound of dry grass try again

a Roman water nymph made of bone

very endangered now

in a largely unintelligible monotone

she tries to summon a river out of limestone

little distant sound as of dry grass try again

exquisite bone figurine with upturned urn

in her passionate self-esteem she smiles looking sideways

she seemingly has no voice but a throat-clearing rustle

as of dry grass try again

she tries leaning

pouring pure outwardness out of a grey urn

little slithering sounds as of a rabbit man in full night-gear,

who lies so low in the rickety willowherb

that a fox trots out of the woods

and over his back and away try again

she tries leaning

pouring pure outwardness out of a grey urn

little lapping sounds yes

as of dry grass secretly drinking try again

little lapping sounds yes

as of dry grass secretly drinking try again

Roman bone figurine

year after year in a sealed glass case

having lost the hearing of her surroundings

she struggles to summon a river out of limestone

little shuffling sound as of approaching slippers

year after year in a sealed glass case

a Roman water nymph made of bone

she struggles to summon a river out of limestone

little shuffling sound as of a nearly dried-up woman

not really moving through the fields

having had the gleam taken out of her

to the point where she resembles twilight try again

little shuffling clicking

she opens the door of the church

little distant sounds of shut-away singing try again

little whispering fidgeting of a shut-away congregation

wondering who to pray to

little patter of eyes closing try again

very small and damaged and quite dry

a Roman water nymph made of bone

she pleads she pleads a river out of limestone

little hobbling tripping of a nearly dried-up river

not really moving through the fields,

having had the gleam taken out of it

to the point where it resembles twilight.

little grumbling shivering last-ditch attempt at a river

more nettles than water try again

very speechless very broken old woman

her left arm missing and both legs from the knee down

she tries to summon a river out of limestone

little stoved-in sucked thin

low-burning glint of stones

rough-sleeping and trembling and clinging to its rights

victim of Swindon

puddle midden

slum of over-greened foot-churn and pats

whose crayfish are cheap tool-kits

made of the mud stirred up when a stone's lifted

it's a pitiable likeness of clear running

struggling to keep up with what's already gone

the boat the wheel the sluice gate

the two otters larricking along go on

and they say oh they say

in the days of better rainfall

it would flood through five valleys

there'd be cows and milking stools

washed over the garden walls

and when it froze you could skate for five miles yes go on

little loose end shorthand unrepresented

beautiful disused route to the sea

fish path with nearly no fish in

This 2016 poem by one of Britain’s greatest living poets (Oswald was born in Reading in 1966) is about a Gloucestershire river that has dried to a dribble, where it was once a freely flowing river. The poem is as much about poetic creation – the need for a poet to make their words ‘flow’ – as it is about the river itself, and displays Oswald’s technical mastery of form.

4. Text by Carol Ann Duffy

I tend the mobile now

like an injured bird

We text, text, text

our significant words.

I re-read your first,

your second, your third,

look for your small xx,

feeling absurd.

The codes we send

arrive with a broken chord.

I try to picture your hands,

their image is blurred.

Nothing my thumbs press

will ever be heard.

First published in Rapture (2005), Text eloquently explores one of the most twenty-first-century-esque activities: text messaging.

Presented in short, clipped lines, the poem replicates the impression of a text exchange, exploring how our communication has developed in an increasingly digital world.

5. From Riddance by Maria Negroni

Am I that woman in the dance

raising inexperience like light

addressing herself like a feather

to her most elusive whereness?

Strange flower growing soft

out of the frame of language

trying on sandals and flinging

into writing unscathed by writing.

Winding the body’s lexicon

it hit me in the takeaway

shown my treasure in nothing

I wavered: submit or escape

it’s a question of what is lost

in the beat of a voluptuous skirt

what battle is evaded what dire

endearing enemy abandoned.

Strange as if lit from within

with the indicative expounding

from neckline to poem curve

I learned to conjugate affairs

but for what if the nitty-gritty

of nothing like eternity

consisted in leaving me naked

doubtlessly an odd privilege.

What if time were lawless?

Where do you keep what wasn’t?

They go on like this and that

you never know what kills you

and January sun and you just came

just like a breath and worked me

to confine my body’s surrounds

to the exacting beauty of lack.

And I who’d thought to interject

geography as flamboyant sun

retrace my past in slip-ups

sweet-talking myself tough

and even pin on you a trinket

clinched knees sissy feet

which you’ll interpret as expertise

but is just a pretense for hurt.

If together where the belly bends

if I contracted and opened for you

if something like a sky disclosed

to what encloses inside blue

if you drew me so disposed

if I existed where you lost me

if a spasm and other orphandoms

if imperfection is a gift.

Contrary to the clock hands

too long in two voices unreleased

you walk me through my legs

to tumult with no predicate

while I angle for the occasional

avails of female cunning

tattooing the flipside of language

digits an animal won’t give up.

Night is a house to wander

with Spanish moss poison

I mean, to look for looseness

beyond your foremost failure

maybe that was the attraction

out of all you gave me and got

how you tossed me into boleos

heart antsy the secret clear.

6. On a New Year’s Eve by June Jordan

Infinity doesn't interest me

not altogether

anymore

I crawl and kneel and grub about

I beg and listen for

what can go away

(as easily as love)

or perish

like the children

running

hard on oneway streets/infinity

doesn't interest me

not anymore

not even

repetition your/my/eye-

lid or the colorings of sunrise

or all the sky excitement

added up

is not enough

to satisfy this lusting admiration that I feel

for

your brown arm before it

moves

MOVES

CHANGES UP

the temporary sacred

tales ago

first bikeride round the house

when you first saw a squat

opossum

carry babies on her back

opossum up

in the persimmon tree

you reeling toward

that natural

first

absurdity

with so much wonder still

it shakes your voice

the temporary is the sacred

takes me out

and even the stars and even the snow and even

the rain

do not amount to much unless these things submit to some disturbance

some derangement such

as when I yield myself/belonging

to your unmistaken

body

and let the powerful lock up the canyon/mountain

peaks the

hidden rivers/waterfalls the

deepdown minerals/the coalfields/goldfields

diamond mines close by the whoring ore

hot

at the center of the earth

spinning fast as numbers

I cannot imagine

let the world blot

obliterate remove so-

called

magnificence

so-called

almighty/fathomless and everlasting

treasures/

wealth

(whatever that may be)

it is this time

that matters

it is this history

I care about

the one we make together

awkward

inconsistent

as a lame cat on the loose

or quick as kids freed by the bell

or else as strictly

once

as only life must mean

a once upon a time

I have rejected propaganda teaching me

about the beautiful

the truly rare

(supposedly

the soft push of the ocean at the hushpoint of the shore

supposedly

the soft push of the ocean at the hushpoint of the shore

is beautiful

for instance)

but

the truly rare can stay out there

I have rejected that

abstraction that enormity

unless I see a dog walk on the beach/

a bird seize sandflies

or yourself

approach me

laughing out a sound to spoil

the pretty picture

make an uncontrolled

heartbeating memory

instead

I read the papers preaching on

that oil and oxygen

that redwoods and the evergreens

that trees the waters and the atmosphere

compile a final listing of the world in

short supply

but all alive and all the lives

persist perpetual

in jeopardy

persist

as scarce as every one of us

as difficult to find

or keep

as irreplaceable

as frail

as every one of us

and

as I watch your arm/your

brown arm

just before it moves

I know

all things are dear

that disappear

all things are dear

that disappear

Published in Directed Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (2005), this piece expertly conveys how small moments and observations can lead to a sense of ‘infinity’.

Children running on the pavement outside, the stretch of a lover’s arm; snatches of moments.

7. Rain by Don Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:

rain, braiding a windowpane

or darkening a hung-out dress

or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour

right through the empty script and score

before the act, before the blame,

before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone

beside a silent telephone

or the dress lies ruined on the grass

or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source

along their fatal watercourse.

However bad or overlong

such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through

or when the boom dips into view

or when her speech starts to betray

its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold

on a starlit gutter, running gold

with the neon drugstore sign

and I'd read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—

all was washed clean with the flood

we rose up from the falling waters

the fallen rain's own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.

Published in the New Yorker in 2008 and written by one of Britain’s leading contemporary poets, this poem is a meditation on the various uses of rain in films, written in rhyming (and half-rhyming) tetrameters. Paterson has expressed the opinion that the more complex an idea or emotion is, the more onus there is on the poet to express themselves clearly.

8. The Garden Of Love by William Blake

I laid me down upon a bank,

Where Love lay sleeping;

I heard among the rushes dank

Weeping, weeping.

Then I went to the heath and the wild,

To the thistles and thorns of the waste;

And they told me how they were beguiled,

Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.

I went to the Garden of Love,

And saw what I never had seen;

A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut

And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;

So I turned to the Garden of Love

That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tombstones where flowers should be;

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars my joys and desires.

9.My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the Man;

I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

10.The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

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