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25 Lines of Poetry I Think About Once a Day

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I spend most of my free time thinking about poetry. Whether it’s because I’ve just written my own poem or just read someone else’s, there is so much to mull over when it comes to form. What I love the most in a poem is its ability to surprise me, to turn a phrase, to flip the script, to say something that I didn’t see coming. In the way that if you guess the twist in a horror movie ruins the movie for you, the same can ruin a poem for me.

I read a lot of poetry, so there are probably hundreds of lines I could recall that strike me in one way or another. It’s National Poetry Month, so I become a poetry hound, sniffing out new books and revisiting old ones, finding solace, rage, love, and beauty in some of the words crafted by writers I truly admire.

These aren’t necessarily my top 25 lines, these are just the ones I could recall today. I hope they do something for you as they have brought me immense pleasure (and sometimes an understanding of pain) that I hadn’t experienced until I read these lines.

1. “as we both know,/if you worship/one god, you only need/One enemy—”
from Witchgrass by Louise Glück

I think about this line (I’m counting this as one line, sue me) so so much. Even the opening lines: “something comes into the world unwelcome, calling disorder, disorder” kind of haunt me. Any poet will tell you the first line has to have grip, and this poem doesn’t disappoint.

The thing about this specific line is that I’m not entirely sure what the exact meaning is. It makes sense, but my mind is grasping at something deeper that it cannot access when I read it. Maybe that’s why the line sticks with me, it resists a neat and definable meaning.

2. “I wash the silk and silt of her from my hands—/now who I come to, I come clean to, I come good to.”
from Grief Work by Natalie Diaz

“Grief Work” is one of my favorite Natalie Diaz poems, and I have written about these lines before. I think about coming to someone clean and good, and it takes my breath away because I have come to many people at my worst for many years. I like to think I am good now, but there is so much growth left in me.

3. “i’m hurt   that you would ever think/                                      i don’t glisten to you         i’m always glistening”
from You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm by Paige Lewis

This poem knocked me down when I first read it, especially this line. See my point about surprising the reader? You think the obvious word is coming and then it doesn’t. So stunning.

4. “I wished for a place big enough for grief/& all I got was more grief, plus People magazine.”
from How I Became Sagacious by Chen Chen

What I love about Chen Chen’s work but especially in this collection, When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, is the surprise and humor in it. It’s funny that People magazine shows up out of nowhere, it’s funny that when you want a way out of grief there is only more grief. Funny in a resigned sigh kind of way, not funny hahaha.

5. “I wake up & it breaks my heart”
from Meditations in an Emergency from Cameron Awkward-Rich

Truly incredible how this poem manages to break me open and put me back together in the same breath. I love this poem, and this is the opening line, making it a poem I come back to when I wake up and my heart is broken, which is often.

6. “Ickle, Ockle, Blue Bockle,/Fishes in the Sea./If You Want a Left Wife,/Please Choose Me.”
from Left-Wife Goose by Sharon Olds

Stag’s Leap is full of fucking bangers, but I think about this line the most. The lines “had a sow twin, had a reap twin/had a husband, could not keep him” are also so fucking gut punchy like jesus Sharon! I’ve never been divorced, but I feel like Left Wife when I read this poem.

7. “Show me one beast/ that loves itself as relentlessly/as even the most miserable man./ I’ll wait.”
from There Is No Such Thing As An Accident of the Spirit by Kaveh Akbar

If Kaveh Akbar has 1000 fans, I am one of them. If Kaveh Akbar has 0 fans, I am dead. This whole book (Pilgrim Bell, 2021) is a treasure but boyyyy this poem is so lovely. These lines are one I wish I would have written.

8. “She bites into a pear and every pearl/in the world releases its oyster”
from Frequently Asked Questions #4 by Camille T. Dungy

The power and imagery here is just beyond. BEYOND!

9. “I loved you before I was born/it doesn’t make sense, I know”
from I Loved You Before I Was Born by Li-Young Lee

Is there anything to be said here? Like oh my god. Okay, I will say this line reminds me of a lyric from one of my favorite songs, “Slow Show” by The National.

“You know I dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you”

This is art! There is poetry in everything! What a world!

10. “And in the aftermath the brother simply—flourished. The trees simply—bloomed.”
from Untitled by Diana Khoi Nyugen (Ghost of, 2018)

I’m listing the collection this poem appears in because the poem doesn’t have a title. And wow, this poem. If it’s possible to spoil the premise of a book of poems, I won’t do that here, but when you read this book, when you get to these lines, it’s going to hurt.

11. “You loved and were loved/said the bee to the lily/before it buzzed off.”
from A New Dawn by Mary Ruefle

This poem appears in Dunce, and if you can, you should get this book. I love this poem so much, and these lines that state a simple truth for many of us, as played out by a bee and a lily. Poets, man.

12. “What if I want to go devil instead?”
from Late Summer After a Panic Attack by Ada Limón

Whomst among us has not wanted to devil from time to time? I, a Scorpio, can certainly relate.

13. “when it is too late to pray the end of the flood/we pray instead to survive it.”
from Child’s Pose by Brionne Janae

Janae’s recognize Janae’s and so I like this poem a lot on that front, but this line? Woo. Wipe the sweat off your brow kind of pressure. It really made me ache in a new way when I first read it.

14. “Christ bore what suffering he could and died/a young man, but you waited years to learn/how to heal.”
from Pity by Camille T. Dungy

Please come get me off this floor.

15. “whatever/returns from oblivion returns/to find a voice”
from The Wild Iris by Louise Glück

This line has come to me at some of the worst times in my life and spurred me forward. That’s the power of Glück.

16. “Tonight I think/no poetry/will serve”
from Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

Is it cheating to choose the titular line? I don’t know, but I think about this line a lot when I’m in love and down bad and longing for someone. Because even at its best moments sometimes even poetry isn’t enough.

17. “I am less of myself and more of the sun”
from Flash by Hazel Hall

I think this was once Poem-a-day at poets dot org and one day I had a really big rough time at therapy so stopped to get an almond butter brownie at the cafe/bookstore next door, and a book of poems by Hazel Hall nearly lept off the shelf at me. Sometimes the world gives you just what you need.

18. “Be a dream, a mezzanine/sesame seeds at the bottom of the package,”
from Presence by Nikola Madzirov

Because, why not be sesame seeds? Life can be that simple if we let it.

19. “I will bear him wherever I am taken/and no one will kill him and he will not die.”
from Self-Portrait as a Door by Donika Kelly

Has the end of a poem ever made you burst into tears, because this one did it for me. This whole book is achy and devastating but this? This is another level.

20. “for the full lips swelled, a dark/fruit bloomed under my/fingers”
from When I Touched Her by Toi Derricotte

I’m sure there are a few dykes reading this so I know y’all know, but the way this poem takes me back to the first time should be studied. It so effortlessly and beautifully captures the feeling of being with someone new.

21. “Goodest grief is an orchard you know. But you have not been killed/Once. Angel, put that on everything. Self. Country. Stone. Bride.”
from Ghazal for Becoming Your Own Country by Angel Nafis

Something about “goodest grief.” Something about poems about grieving. Something about the ghazal. The title of this poem also just speaks to me and fills me up and makes me feel like not being my own country anymore.

22. “I want to buy you/a cobalt velvet couch/all your haters’ teeth/strung up like pearls”
from Want Could Kill Me by Xan Forest Phillips

As the owner of a green velvet couch and a Scorpio (not to rehash this point), but this speaks to me. I wanna wear my hater’s teeth something serious.

23. “I’m/the Vice President of panic and the President is/missing”
from On the train, a man snatches my book by Paige Lewis

There are so many things to panic about at any given moment living in America, and this line so expertly captures that feeling that many of us have succumbed to.

24. “In the age of loss there is/the dream of loss/in which, of course, I/am alive at the center—”
from About the Bees by Justin Phillip Reed

All I can think of when I read this poem is swarm, something alive at the center, maybe not for long at the center of a swarm. It’s so vivid and makes my skin crawl and I shove my shoulders up to my ears imagining it, but in like a cool way.

25. “For hunger is to give/the body what it knows/it cannot keep.”
from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Poets have so much to say about hunger, but I like this best.

What are your favorite lines from poems this National Poetry Month?

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Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 157 articles for us.


  1. okay I promise I will scroll back up and read everything because I LOVE poetry
    but here are some of my favourite lines

    – “a terrible beauty is born” (from “Easter 1916” by W.B. Yeats, I want to get this tattooed on my arm)
    – “caminante no hay camino” (from “Cantares” by Antonio Machado)
    “I was all hers as she peeled potatoes” (from “Clearances” by Seamus Heaney)
    and, not from a poem but still poetry:

    – Mama here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws
    Must be the big star about to fall (from the song Farewell Transmission by Jason Molina)

    also, Mary Oliver never misses and always gives me hope.
    and some lines from the novel “Everything is illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer are burning in my heart.

      • right?? I love it so much! it’s also so interesting how many different meanings people attach to that song. I was so certain that it was about one specific thing and then other people had completely different interpretations. the beauty of poetry.
        I forgot one of my favourites in my previous comment, can’t find an English translation, so I’ll do it myself:
        “I will never be made of stone. I will cry when it is necessary.” (by Rafael Alberti, “Canto, río, con tus aguas”)

  2. OMG this might be my favourite Autostraddle post ever! I read the first two poems and then realised that THIS NEEDS more time so I’ll probably return and engage with the lines in context.

    The second line you quoted for #6 really struck as a line heavy with meaning. It hit like a KO and reminded me of this line in Sam Sax’s poem ‘On Alcohol’ where he says…

    “my grandfather died with a bottle in one hand/& flowers in the other./ he called his drink his medicine/ he called his woman/ she locked the door”.

    Here are some of my other fav lines from queer poems/poets…

    – “my swishiness is hebraic / is inherited / it’s semantic / no
    matter what was sacrificed” (LISP by Sam Sax)

    – “Even after some time, I am still the weeping wound in the houseplant,
    tearing easily” (GRAVITATIONAL CONSTANT by Alicia Mountain)

    – “I am eating a plum, your whole mouth leaks, I am kissing you, choking on the seed and the slain are hanging just outside the window” (VOYEUR by Zora Howard. I don’t know Zora’s sexuality but will fight anyone who tells me this poem is not about WLW sexual intimacy. Seeing her perform it is also just😍)

    – “It is the images of women, kind and cruel, that lead me home” (ZAMI by Audre Lorde. And yes, it’s not a poem but I read that prologue like it’s prose poetry).

    – “Before my mother knew I was a lesbian, she prepared me to be some man’s wife” (Momma Said Dyke at the Kitchen Table by Jasmine Mans)

    Also: you’re totally right about that line in Natalie Diaz’s poem. First time reading it, I could’ve sworn that first line was the hit or the river line or the one that says “my melancholy is hoofed” but that last line though… Thanks for introducing us to new voices!

  3. So many of these lines are so exuberant and deep but the line from Toi Derricotte floored me.
    Dani you’re one of the reasons I’ve been trying to get into more poetry and I really do have to thank you for compiling this great list. I still have “On earth we’re birefly gorgeous” on my to read stack but this made me want to get to it as soon as possible.

  4. I really love Li-Young Lee (“Arise, Go Down” is one of my favorites of his) but I hadn’t ever read “I Loved You Before I Was Born” and it absolutely knocked me flat. Thank you!

  5. “you do not have to be good” Mary Oliver, Wild Geese.

    I drink the lines from this poem up daily, and the opening line has become my mantra when I start to get panicky about making the “right” choice.

  6. A poem that has affected me deeply recently is “A Prayer to St Bridget in her most pagan incarnation” by Sarah Clancy, which deals with themes that include sexual assault and institutional, medical and judicial abuse, and has the devastating final line:

    “Women / we have lost our tongues in battle
    and it’s high time we took them back.”

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