Edwin Arlington Robinson for Poetry Friday

It seems to me that there's not that much attention being paid to poems for the 8th grade type kid (perhaps there is, and I am just missing something, which wouldn't surprise me). So here's my suggestion for that age group--the poems of Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935).

When I was twelve, my mother read me some of his poems, and, that being the eighties, I was, like, wow. Even thought the punches that Robinson packs may be obvious to the adult, I think that for a 12 year old, it's a pretty powerful moment when the point of one of his poems is realized. And because the messages aren't wrapped in a lot of metaphor and literary allusion, getting the point is fairly straightforward.

Here's one of my favorites:

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

And perhaps as a reaction to my fascination with Dungeons and Dragons, my mother read me this one several times:

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would send him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing:
He missed the medieval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Oh well. I still think the Medici are rather romantic...

For more great poems, visit today's edition of Poetry Friday at Wild Rose Reader!


  1. I loved *both* those poems in just about 8th grade, though I read them in school, not from my mom. Thank you for reminding me of them!

    Also, Edna St. Vincent Millay. All that heartache! I still love that line about how in the midst of one's misery April comes "like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

    Another author I like for that age (and liked at that age--and still, for that matter) is don marquis, of "archy and mehitabel" fame.

    Oh--and e e cummings! Truly, all-lower-case-letters never has so much appeal as when one is thirteen.

  2. The Richard Cory poem is so accessible that Paul McCartney made a song out of it.

    Made a big impression on me when I was a Wings fan in 7th grade!

  3. That wasn't Paul McCartney, it was Simon and Garfunkel. Look it up.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles