06/19/2010 09:50 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Father's Day Poetry: The Best Poetry, Old And New, To Celebrate Dad

Father's Day Poems
Becca Klaver
The Poetry Foundation

Whether you're looking for a poem to send to your dad, pausing to remember a father figure who has passed away, or meditating on literary influence, this selection of poems, articles, blog posts, and podcasts presents fathers larger than life (James Tate's "crazy / orbiting" pilot), down-earth (Albert Goldbarth's would "give you the cheap shirt off his back"), or both at once (Countee Cullen's "no heritage / Without travail").

Martín Espada, Sylvia Plath, and Naomi Shihab Nye struggle to come to terms with personal and national identity through fathers; Sharon Olds, Anne Carson, and Li-Young Lee ponder the reversals that render fathers somehow younger than their children; Mary Ruefle, May Swenson, and Christopher Chambers try to make sense of fathers' cryptic statements and antics; and Kenneth Koch and Jan Beatty portray the artist child's need to leave Dad's workaday world. When James Wright--whose son is poet Franz Wright--remarks that his own father's "song remains secret," he sums up the basic aim of all of the poets: to let the father speak, again or at last, through the poem.


"Father's Old Blue Cardigan" by Anne Carson

"To My Father's Business" by Kenneth Koch

"My Father Teaches Me to Dream" by Jan Beatty

"Feel Me" by May Swenson

"Lines to My Father" by Countee Cullen

"My Father's Diary" by Sharon Olds

"The Sign in My Father's Hands" by Martín Espada

"My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono" by Christopher Chambers

"Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

"Blood" by Naomi Shihab Nye

"The Lost Pilot" by James Tate

"Rarefied" by Albert Goldbarth

"Blood Soup" by Mary Ruefle

"Youth" by James Wright

"Little Father" by Li-Young Lee


Silent Fathers, Noisy Sons: Poems for Father's Day
Donald Hall reads his poem "Christmas Eve in Whitneyville," and Alfred Molina reads David Ignatow's "For My Daughter in Reply to a Question."

Honor Thy Father's Day
Robert Hayden and Terrance Hayes take the Hallmark out of the holiday.


"Father's Day" by Kwame Dawes

"A Toast for the Fathers" by Annie Finch

"A few words about 'The Lost Pilot' by James Tate" by Jeffrey McDaniel


"My Father Was White but Not Quite" by Fanny Howe
During her father's legal battles in the civil-rights and McCarthy eras in Boston, poet Fanny Howe found her life's work studying the self, the natural world, and the "fist of survival."

"Beat America" by Aram Saroyan
What did we learn from Ted Berrigan, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg?

"What Can Poetry Do for Parents?" by Elliott Vanskike
Poetry offers plenty of benefits for the beleaguered parent.


"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
A short history of one of the most anthologized poems in English.

Read more at the Poetry Foundation.