Change can be thrilling, scary, happy, sad, or bittersweet. Whether it’s graduating college, beginning a new relationship, moving to a different city, or embarking on a personal project, each of these milestones has something in common: it’s important to stay in touch with your emotions, which includes celebrating, mourning, and lots of self-reflection.
Poetry provides the perfect vehicle for this, with words that seem to meet you right in the moment. There’s a poem for every life stage and experience, including:
Falling in Love
“When Love Arrives” by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye
This performance piece went viral years ago but remains one of my favorite poems about new love, namely because it explores how every relationship feels unique.
The poem begins with a cutesy look at first love in seventh grade, describing love as wearing a “hemp necklace” or a “tight French braid.” However, throughout the poem, this definition shifts, becoming an ode to a lover who is “terrible on the dance floor,” a lover that “looks great in lingerie, but still likes to wear her retainer,” and a lover that “leaves the cap off the toothpaste.”
The message behind this fluctuating, multifaceted character becomes a lesson for anyone falling in love, whether for the first time or the fifth: “Maybe Love is only there for a month. Maybe love is there for every firework. Every birthday party. Every hospital visit. Maybe Love stays. Maybe Love can’t. Maybe love shouldn’t… When Love arrives, say, ‘Welcome. Make yourself comfortable.’”
This poem encourages readers to greet a new beginning with openness, joy, and room to grow.
“Latch” by Hadara Bar-Nadav
Bar-Nadav says this poem stands out as the very first one she wrote about becoming a mother, specifically, the dream-like experience of breastfeeding her son. She calls this nuanced experience a “swelling of emotion,” combining “love, sadness, joy, and isolation.”
This poem’s lovely imagery illustrates the impact of breastfeeding. The speaker gazes upon her baby “obscured by / the lavender / gravity of the moon.” Bar-Nadav describes the new bond as “the god-hold,” a miracle she would “break [her] own neck to see.”
“How to Move Away” by Lynn Pederson
In this poem, Pederson honors the details of a place, and how a place becomes a part of those who inhabit it. She writes, “Here I smoked / candy cigarettes, my breath in winter passing / for smoke, pale green of my bedroom. I counted the number of intersections on the way to school (four). / I bundle memories together.”
This vivid, specific imagery and the diaristic nature of this poem invite readers to sit with the speaker and perform a goodbye ritual.
A New Year, Age, or Attitude
“I Am Running Into A New Year” by Lucille Clifton
While not as specific as the other poems, Clifton’s poem speaks to any new beginning with wild abandon and excitement. The poem serves as a kind of rhythmic, open-ended frenzy, with the speaker sprinting as “the old years blow back / like a wind / that [she] catches in her hair.”
This zealousness slows to a moment of reflection and self-forgiveness, as Clifton acknowledges, “It will be hard to let go / of what I said to myself / about myself … but… / I beg what I love and / I leave to forgive me.”
Let poetry help you welcome a new chapter!