The longest, and sometimes one of the hottest, days of the year marks the beginning of summer: the summer solstice. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice will occur on Saturday, June 20, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. With equal parts science and wonder involved, the summer solstice is the source of many holidays, festivals, and rituals all over the world. To celebrate the way the summer solstice (along with many other planetary events) can make us feel both large and small, infinite and temporary, we’ve selected these six warm and pensive poems.
“Summer Stars” by Carl Sandburg
Warm summer nights take center stage in this short and sweet poem by Carl Sandburg. In just seven quick lines, “Summer Stars” captures how it feels to lie beneath the stars on a lazy summer night. For a moment, it seems the stars could be close enough to pluck from the sky with your own hands. “So near you are, summer stars,” he writes, “So lazy and hum strumming.”
“Solstice Walk” by Loren Broaddus
From his collection, Joe DiMaggio Moves Like Liquid Light, poet and high school history teacher Loren Broaddus describes spending this long summer day with his son. A note of admiration, or perhaps envy, peeks through as he watches his young son lean over the stroller, “Not thinking of shorter days…nor fretting the slipperiness of time.” The poem leaves us with a longing for the naïevete of childhood, against the backdrop of the longest day of the year.
“The Seasons Moralized” by Philip Freneau
Personification is at its best in “The Seasons Moralized” gives human characteristics to all four seasons. Beginning with spring and ending with winter, this poem takes us on a journey through the year and all the symbolism each season has to offer, leaving us with the hope that spring will return again—even after the most brutal winters.
“A Summer Invocation” by Walt Whitman
Long known as the grandfather of transcendentalism, Walt Whitman is a go-to for a poem that shows appreciation for the earth, sun, and summertime. “A Summer Invocation” evokes the familiar warmth of the sun and its shimmer from the earth during summertime. “I understand them—I know those flames, those perturbations well,” he writes in this joyous ode.
“Summer in Winter in Summer” by Noah Eli Gordon
Colorado-based poet Noah Eli Gordon lets summer show its teeth in this rhythmic, well-woven poem. With playful punctuation and alliteration, “Summer in Winter in Summer” splices together snippets of familiar life images—pink cake, a glass of water, dust on a chair—which hold together a larger narrative. “Here, the kids are grown,” he writes. “The day is long. The bed, wide as a battleship, waits in its buoyancy.”
“Solstice” by Emery George
Originally published in the 1977 edition of Poetry magazine, “Solstice” lets the light, colors, and winds of the summer carry readers away. George’s rolling rhythm lulls us into comfort and wonderment as we watch the seasons unfold, grow, die, and grow again in this pensive poem.