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Poems to Keep You Inspired in the New Year

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Has the resolution behind your New Year's resolution worn off with your champagne headache? Has it sunk in just how hard it is to really change your life? I've collected a few poems that might help.

Rudyard Kipling was a man's man's poet if there ever was one, and "If--" is a powerful pep talk that stays grounded in reason.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master;
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run--
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Now, if that doesn't make you want to stand up and (not) yell about how awesome your year is going to be (because you don't need to), I don't know what will. Moving on [composing myself], Sara Teasdale's poem "Barter" is written with a lighter touch. In the wake of all the noise about the fiscal cliff, she offers a different perspective on the value of things.

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Finally, here's an excerpt from Stephen Mitchell's gorgeous translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo." The poem is a meditation on a statue's sublimity, one that seems "suffused with brilliance from inside. Rilke is so moved that he concludes the poem: Otherwise this stone...

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke succeeds in translating the power he felt in viewing the broken image of the old god onto the page. Thus, his poem, like the statue itself, can serve as a reminder and an inspiration to us. May it inspire you in the new year.