The choice of Father's Day poems may not be as wide as those that honor mothers or romantic love.
But the narrow band of verse that pays tribute to dads attests to the often-complicated nature of the father-child relationship while also enumerating the joys of fatherhood.
The selection of poems below recall fathers who saved the day by removing a splinter as well as fathers whose physical capacity for hard work inspired their sons.
Here are five poems about fathers:
1.”My Father Moved Through Dooms of Love” – by e.e. cummings
Cummings (1894 - 1962) is perhaps best known to modern readers as a poet who eschewed the standard rules of capitalization. He is considered one of the best avant-garde poets of the 20th century, and someone who, despite his unique and unorthodox style, managed to bring wide audiences to his poetry and poetry in general.
In his signature style, he celebrates his father in this particularly evocative stanza:
joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice
2. “Digging” by Seamus Heaney
Heaney (b. 1939) is perhaps the best-known living Irish poet. Born in Northern Ireland, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. He frequently writes about the world he knew as a child – rural life in Ireland. In this poem, he pays tribute to his father and grandfather by describing their skill at tending to potato plants. One particular verse stands out:
“By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.”
3. “The Hospital Window” By James L. Dickey
Dickey (1923 – 1997) is now perhaps best known as the author of the acclaimed 1970 novel “Deliverance,” which tells the story of a trip into the wilderness gone awry. But he had a distinguished career not only as a poet but also as an adman. In this poem, Dickey recalls a visit with his father while he’s dying in the hospital. The crux of the poem is the poet’s efforts to wring one last wave from his father.
4. “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee
The poet was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957. His parents had been exiled from China, and came from powerful families there, according to the Poetry Foundation. Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Tse-tsung. In this poem, Lee tells the story of his father patiently removing a splinter from his young son’s hand while distracting him with a story.
Here’s a moving excerpt from the poem:
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
5. “Men at My Father’s Funeral” by William Matthews
According to the Poetry Foundation, Matthews (1942 – 1997) is sometimes grouped with other poets such as Robert Bly as a member of the “deep image” movement in poetry. Such poets typically rely on one strong image to evoke feelings and associations in a poem. The poem “Men at My Father’s Funeral” appeared in Matthews’ 1995 collection, “Time & Money: New Poems.” Here it is in its entirety:
The ones his age who shook my hand
on their way out sent fear along
my arm like heroin. These weren’t
men mute about their feelings,
or what’s a body language for?
And I, the glib one, who’d stood
with my back to my father’s body
and praised the heart that attacked him?
I’d made my stab at elegy,
the flesh made word: the very spit
in my mouth was sour with ruth
and eloquence. What could be worse?
Silence, the anthem of my father’s
new country. And thus this babble,
like a dial tone, from our bodies.
Do you know additional Father’s Day poems? Leave a comment below and describe your favorite poems about fathers and fatherhood.