Reflections on our fathers: Celebrate Father’s Day with free poems

In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, June 17th, we’ve granted access to the following poems for free for an entire month — five popular poems in which the author is addressing or reflecting upon their father. And, if you’re still in need of some last-minute gift ideas for your dad this weekend, check out Bessie Gergely’s post on the CengageBrainiac blog, “Honor your dad with these Father’s Day gift ideas he’s sure to love!

  1. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night: Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was born in 1914, and penned this poem during a time of sadness. “Do not go gentle into that good night” speaks to Thomas’ elderly father, pleading with him not to give in to his imminent death. The phrases “do not go gentle into that good night” and “rage, rage against the dying light” are repeated throughout, as the poet begs his father to stay strong, despite the fact that “wise men at their end know dark is right” (Cecil and Tate 596). [Cecil, David, and Allen Tate, eds. Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950. New York: Macmillan, 1958. Questia. Web.]
  1. My Papa’s Waltz: Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, Theodore Roethke, “My Papa’s Waltz” tells a common story of a small child’s devotion to their parent. Roethke describes trying to dance around the kitchen with his drunken father, his worn, dirty hands tapping a rhythm on the small boy’s head as he tries to avoid getting scraped by his father’s belt buckle with each misstep since he’s so short. Despite the fact that they’re knocking pans off the shelves in the kitchen and his mother is unhappy, Roethke clings to his father’s shirt and he’s “waltzed…off to bed” (Roethke 27). [Roethke, Theodore. The Lost Son, and Other Poems. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948.Questia. Web.]
  1. Only a Dad: Poet Edgar Guest wrote this homage to his hardworking father, praising him for his long days spent working without complaints to make a better life for his family. “Plodding along in the daily strife/ Bearing the whips and scorns of life. With never a whimper of pain or hate/ For the sake of those who at home await” (Guest 42). Guest thanks his father, who is an average man, for remaining strong and courageous “to smooth the way for his children small” (Guest 42). [Guest, Edgar A. A Heap O' Livin'. Chicago: The Reilly & Lee Co., 1916. Questia. Web.]
  1. The Hospital Window: In “The Hospital Window,” poet James Dickey is leaving this hospital after visiting his dying father. After he has left the building, he goes outside and waves to what he hopes is his father’s room when he is overcome by emotion. “All the deep-dyed windowpanes flash / And, behind them, all the white rooms / They turn to the color of Heaven. / Ceremoniously, gravely, and weakly, / Dozens of pale hands are waving / Back, from inside their flames” (Dickey 75). Dickey notes, though, that among the waving hands, there is one “pure pane” where he can see no hand waving, and he knows his father is there. This moment of reflection outside the hospital proves to be a pivotal moment in Dickey’s understanding of life and death.  [Dickey, James. Drowning with Others: Poems. 1st ed. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1962. Questia. Web.] 
  1. My Father’s Neckties: Written by Maxine Kumin, “My Father’s Neckties” delves into Kumin’s feelings towards her deceased “color-blind chain smoking father” (Lyman 98) who she sees in her dreams leaving a basement tie shop, though he does not recognize her. She describes his tie with blue and yellow lightning bolts, one that he coughs ashes onto as he puffs on his cigarette, and imagines that her brothers dream of their late father wearing “rep ties or polka dots clumsily knotted” as well (Lyman 98). Kumin alludes to the fact that her father “wore hard colors recklessly” as a way to hide from his feelings, and when she and her siblings pass away in the future, “the designs will fall off like face masks” (Lyman 98). [Lyman, Henry, ed. After Frost: An Anthology of Poetry from New England. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996. Questia. Web.]

Celebrate by sharing these free poems with your loved ones. Visit our topic page on poetry to discover even more poems like these.

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