Illustration for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Here a few favorites of the poems I have memorized. I hear people say “I want to read poetry, but It’s hard to know what is worth reading.” If these were worth my memorizing, they’re worth your reading.

I sit in one of the dives on 52nd street (“September 1, 1939” by W. H. Auden)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone (“Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden)

You are the town and we are the clock (“The Two/The Witnesses” by W. H. Auden)

I couldn’t touch a step and turn a screw (“Thirty Bob A Week” by John Davidson)

I had been hungry all the years (“I had been hungry all the years” by Emily Dickinson)

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains (“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats)

Wake, for the sun who scattered into flight (“Rubaiyat” by Omar Khayyam)

(This last, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, is my favorite poem, 404 lines long, a brilliant meditation on the meaning of life, death, wine, the universe, and everything. This was written in Persian by one of the smartest guys in the world around the year 1120, then superbly translated by Edward Fitzgerald into English in 1889. Rubaiyat means verses.)