So here, in no particular order, are the 12 poems that I find running through my head most often. Understand, these are not my 'favourite' poems (whatever that means) they are simply the poems I find most useful, poems that have become an integral part of how I think.
1. Robert Browning 'A Toccata of Galuppi's'
Well, and it was graceful of them--they'd break talk off and afford2. Gerard Manley Hopkins 'No worst there is none'
--She, to bite her mask's black velvet--he, to finger on his sword,
While you sat and played Toccatas, stately at the clavichord?
What? Those lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh,
Told them something? Those suspensions, those solutions--"Must we die?"
Those commiserating sevenths--"Life might last! we can but try!
"Were you happy?"--"Yes."--"And are you still as happy?"--"Yes. And you?"
--"Then, more kisses!"--"Did I stop them, when a million seemed so few?"
Hark, the dominant's persistence till it must be answered to!
3. Pablo Neruda 'Poetry'
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
4. W. H. Auden 'In Memory of W.B. Yeats'
5. Percy Byshe Shelley 'Ode to the West Wind'
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:6. Robert Frost 'Desert Places'
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O, wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces7. John Donne 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning'
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,8. W.B. Yeats 'When you are old'
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
How many loved your moments of glad grace9. T.S. Eliot 'Portrait of a Lady'
And loved your beauty with love false or true
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
And I must borrow every changing shape10. W.H. Auden 'Lay your sleeping head my love'
To find expression ... dance, dance
Like a dancing bear,
Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.
But in my arms till break of day11. Emily Dickinson 'I cannot live with you'
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
I cannot live with you,
It would be life
And life is over there
Behind the shelf
12. Agha Shahid Ali, 'Beyond the Ash Rains'
I had still not learned the style of nomads:
to walk between the rain drops to keep dry.
Okay, okay, go ahead. Tell me what I've missed.