Filled with brilliant colors, heartwarming traditions, and evidence of the cycle of life, fall has been a longtime source of inspiration for poets and writers. As the leaves change and the weather cools, get ready to cozy-up and embrace the season with these eight poems for the first day of fall.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
Let’s kick off this list with this short, salient staple. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” reminds us of the cycle of life, touching on the brevity of youth, growing grief, death, and new beginnings. While the poem is most directly about nature, its metaphor extends to fleeting moments, short phases, life, and beyond.
“To Autumn” by John Keats
One of the last poems by Keats, “To Autumn” provides an almost-ode to the season. He praises its fruitfulness, flowers, birdsongs, and beauty. This calm and gentle description of the season provides rich imagery without forgoing meditations on temporality and change that come with the brink of winter.
“November for Beginners” by Rita Dove
Dove places her readers on the edge of their seats in this anticipatory meditation on fall. “November for Beginners” describes how it feels to stack up twigs to burn and wait for the coming winter. “…We sit down / in the smell of the past / and rise in a light / that is already leaving,” she writes. But this poem isn’t all gloom and doom; it also gives us hope and remembrance of spring.
“For the Chipmunk in My Yard” by Robert Gibb
As the title suggests, this easy-to-love poem brings us down to eye-level with the chipmunk in Gibb’s yard. The chipmunk gathers walnut shells and twigs to prepare for winter, and through watching the animal, Gibb describes the wild and beautiful, yet harsh realities of fall and winter.
“Final Autumn” by Anie Finch
This haunting poem forgoes the feel-good autumn spirit and gives the season a bit of an edge. “Final Autumn” alludes to the end—blackening leaves, shadows, and snow. Finch’s cold tone lets in just enough warmth to remind us that, though winter can feel final, spring is always just around the corner.
“Song of the Witches” by William Shakespeare
Did you think we’d get through this list without a nod to the rhyme-wild witches of Macbeth? Whether you love or hate Halloween, we’ll never have an autumn without it. The iconic “double, double toil and trouble,” is a go-to line for any witch, and you’re sure to hear it at least once this fall.
“Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg
Another Halloween-themed poem, “Theme in Yellow” brings the colors of autumn to life. Yellow, gold, and orange hues open the poem as easily as a sunrise. But things go dark when the sun goes down, as Sandburg describes the harvest moon and a jack-o-lantern with terrible teeth.
“September Tomatoes” by Karina Borowicz
The speaker must come to grips with the end of summer in this longing poem. “September Tomatoes” describes the loss of the speaker’s tomato plants. “It feels cruel,” writes Borowicz. “Something in me isn’t ready / to let go of summer so easily.” She then recalls a memory of her grandmother, bringing the cycle of life full circle.