Last year marked 100 years since Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea; just 39 years later, he would die in New York.

But in the years in between, the Welshman would also establish himself as one of the world’s most celebrated writers, his plays (like Under Milk Wood) and poems, such as Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, seeping deep into our national conscience.

And as we celebrate World Poetry Day, it is the perfect chance to reflect on the general brilliance of poetry; on its power, its comfort, and its frustrating ability to have you saying ‘the one that goes something like…’

To Autumn - John Keats

If ever there were a time to quote Keats, surely it’s the day after the clock change: ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…’

Jerusalem - William Blake

The anthem of rugby matches and weddings, don’t ever forget the stirring verses started out life as a poem. And what a poem it is…: ‘I will not cease from mental fight/Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand/Till we have built Jerusalem/In England's green and pleasant land.’

Funeral Blues/Stop All The Clocks - WH Auden

Not just the sad bit in Four Weddings And A Funeral, Auden’s ‘Stop All The Clocks’ is a heart-breaking ode to loss everywhere: ‘Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood/For nothing now can ever come to any good.’

If - Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling embed

There can’t be many people who can’t recite Kipling’s most famous poem, but don’t let its ubiquity put you off – it takes a cold heart not to be moved by ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it/And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!’

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud - William Wordsworth

It doesn’t matter if you mumble along with most of this and only properly say the ‘A host, of golden daffodils’ bit, just as long as you’re reading it: ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills/When all at once I saw a crowd/A host, of golden daffodils.’


It  seems only fair to give a man like Shakespeare a couple of ‘must-knows’: most specifically, Sonnets 18 and 116. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate…’ and ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments; love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds…’

Dulce Et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Everyone should always know this poem, but in the 100th anniversary year of World War One, we need to know it more than ever: ‘My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.’

Go To Bed With A Cheese And Pickle Sandwich – Mandy Coe

The mantra of singletons everywhere: ‘From a cheese and pickle sandwich/You do not expect flowers/Poems and acts of adoration/You expect what you get:/cheese... and pickle.’

This Be The Verse – Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin

‘They f*** you up, your mum and dad’ – possibly the greatest introduction to any poem, ever. And the rest is quite good too: ‘Get out as early as you can/And don’t have any kids yourself.’

Digging Seamus Heaney
Don’t let the fact it’s on every GCSE syllabus put you off – there’s a reason it needs to be taught to our children, and this is it: ‘But I’ve no spade to follow men like them/Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests/I’ll dig with it.’

What's your favourite poem of all time? Share your favourites in the Comments box below.