Submit a Poem
Get Your Premium Membership
spacer

Best Famous Depression Poems


Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Depression poems. This is a select list of the best famous Depression poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Depression poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of depression poems.

Search for the best famous Depression poems, articles about Depression poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Depression poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also: Best Member Poems

Go Back




by Erin Belieu |

For Catherine: Juana Infanta of Navarre

 Ferdinand was systematic when
he drove his daughter mad.

With a Casanova's careful art,
he moved slowly,
stole only one child at a time
through tunnels specially dug
behind the walls of her royal
chamber, then paid the Duenna
well to remember nothing
but his appreciation.

Imagine how quietly
the servants must have worked,

loosening the dirt, the muffled
ring of pick-ends against
the castle stone. The Duenna,
one eye gauging the drugged girl's
sleep, each night handing over
another light parcel, another
small body vanished
through the mouth of a hole.

Once you were a daughter, too,
then a wife and now the mother
of a baby with a Spanish name.

Paloma, you call her, little dove;
she sleeps in a room beyond you.

Your husband, too, works late,
drinks too much at night, comes
home lit, wanting sex and dinner.
You feign sleep, shrunk
in the corner of the queen-sized bed.

You've confessed, you can't feel things
when they touch you;

take Prozac for depression, Ativan
for the buzz. Drunk, you call your father
who doesn't want to claim
a ha!fsand-niggergrandkid.
He says he never loved your mother.

No one remembers Juana; almost
everything's forgotten in time,

and if I tell her story,
it's only when guessing
what she loved, what she dreamed
about, the lost details of a life
that barely survives history.

God and Latin, I suppose, what she loved.
And dreams of mice pouring out
from a hole. The Duenna, in spite
of her black, widow's veil, leaning
to kiss her, saying Juana, don't listen...


by Charles Bukowski |

We Aint Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain

 call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the 
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
nights
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
water
and the rain came down THICK and 
MEAN and
STEADY
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
big ROCKS OF ICE
bombing
exploding smashing into things
and the rain 
just wouldn't
STOP
and all the roofs leaked-
dishpans,
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
again.
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the 
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a 
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
pets.
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in 
strange places.
the jobless men went mad 
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible 
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
screams
until they
seperated.
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under 
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
average.
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against 
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out 
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
Ark
and I thought, it has come
again.
we all thought
that.
and then, at once, it would 
stop.
and it always seemed to 
stop
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
drip
 drip
 drip


and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of 
water
began to expand in the warmth:
PANG!PANG!PANG!
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
be
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently 
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of 
berries
and
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them 
up
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
due.
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
there
to look for that job
that probably wasn't 
there, to start that car 
that probably wouldn't
start.
and the once beautiful
wives
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for 
breakfast.
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
open.
and
soon
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the 
street,
the sun like a new
world,
my parents back in that
house,
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds 
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys 
went.
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
fun!"
well, we all wondered
what that would
be
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
lessons.
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so 
pretty and clean and
alert,
they sat still and
straight
and their hair was 
beautiful
in the California
sunshine.
the the recess bells rang 
and we all waited for the 
fun.
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did 
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some 
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
here!
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
aren't!"
so we had to tell our 
stories and they were
stories.
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
came 
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
fish
and fed it to his
cat.
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was 
over.
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
nice.
and tomorrow the grounds 
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
again."
most of the boys
cheered
and the little girls 
sat very straight and
still,
looking so pretty and 
clean and
alert,
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that 
the world might never see 
again.
and


by Anne Sexton |

The Fury Of Rainstorms

 The rain drums down like red ants, 
each bouncing off my window. 
The ants are in great pain 
and they cry out as they hit 
as if their little legs were only 
stitche don and their heads pasted. 
And oh they bring to mind the grave, 
so humble, so willing to be beat upon 
with its awful lettering and 
the body lying underneath 
without an umbrella. 
Depression is boring, I think 
and I would do better to make 
some soup and light up the cave.


by Alexander Pushkin |

The Wish

 I shed my tears; my tears – my consolation;
And I am silent; my murmur is dead,
My soul, sunk in a depression’s shade,
Hides in its depths the bitter exultation.
I don’t deplore my passing dream of life --
Vanish in dark, the empty apparition!
I care only for my love’s infliction,
And let me die, but only die in love!


by Barry Tebb |

MARGINALIA

 Here is a silence I had not hoped for

This side of paradise, I am an old believer

In nature’s bounty as God’s grace

To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming

At frustrated lust or the scent of fame 

Coming too late to make a difference

Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms

Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars

Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn 

With the heather beginning to bud blue

Before September purple, yellow ragwort

Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums

And a lazy bee bumbles by.

A day in Brenda’s flat, mostly play with Eydie,

My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better

Than Diazepan for panic

Seroxat for grief

Zopiclone to make me sleep.

I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea

Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back

To talk to my son’s key nurse when she comes on

For the night shift. Always there are things to sort,

Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher,

Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards

And team meetings to attend, ‘Mental Health Monthly’

To peruse, funds for my press to raise – the only one 

I ever got will leave me out of pocket.

A couple sat on the next bench

Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages,

Failed affairs, social service interventions – 

Even here I cannot escape complexity

"I should never have slept with her once we split" 

"The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line"

"Is he poisoning their minds against me?" 


Part of me nags to offer help but I’ve too much

On already and the clock keeps ticking.

"It’s a pity she won’t turn round and clip his ear"

But better not to interfere. Damn my bloody superego

Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging 

About my pipe and my loud voice on buses –

No doubt she’s right – smoking’s not good 

And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections

Isn’t what people are on buses for.



I long for a girl in summer, pubescent

With a twinkle in her eye to come and say

"Come on, let’s do it!" 

I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire

To find a decent whore and learn to score

And now I’m probably impotent with depression

So I’d better forget sex and read more of Andr? Green

On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium

At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery

I’ll not unravel if I live to ninety.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss

From jumped-up SHO’s and locums who’d miss vital side effects

And think all’s needed is a mother’s kiss.



I’ll wait till the heather’s purple and bring nail scissors

To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks

Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.

Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks 

On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores

Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair

Than in the century before.

"Shop your neighbours. Prove it. Bring birth certificates to A&E

If you want NHS treatment free. Be careful not to bleed to death

While finding the certificate. Blunkett wants us all to have ID

Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot – 

And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom we’ve got"

"At the end of the day she shopped me and all I’d done

Was take a few pound from the till ’cos Jenny was ill

And I didn’t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done" 

To-morrow I’ll be back in the Great Wen,

Two days of manic catching up and then

Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass,

The mass of beckoning hills I’d love to make

A poet’s map of but never will.

"Oh to break loose" Lowell’s magic lines

Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will

And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone

Isn’t tin foil as Lowell thought. James you are a dreadful bore,

A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages

Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks?

A thousand or two I’d guess, they couldn’t pay you less

For churning out such a king-size mess

But not even you can spoil this afternoon

Of watching Haworth heather bloom.


by Barry Tebb |

INFAMOUS POET

 I never did fit in – at six or sixty one –

I stand out in a crowd, too young or old

And gather pity like a shroud. "Is that real silk?"

A teenager inquired. "As real as Oxfam ever is

For one pound fifty." The vast ballroom was growing misty

And blurred with alcohol I’ve never had the taste for.

"Fuck off" a forty-plus dyed blonde said half in jest.

So I chose the only Asian girl in Squares with hair like jet

And danced with her five minutes centre stage –

I’ve lost all inhibitions in old age. A Malaysian architecture

Student invited me to sit and get my breath back

"Le Corbusier described a house as a machine for living in,"

I quipped; she slipped a smile and sipped her drink and said

"I love Leeds and its people; in seven years I’ve never 

Heard a single racist comment, whatever the papers say"

Malaysian girls are rightly known for their sensual beauty

But I made my pitiful excuses and slipped away.

I knew I couldn’t make it, couldn’t even fake it

With all this damned depression in the way.

Leeds boys are always friendlier than the girls,

They see themselves grown older in my years

And push the girls towards me with a glance

"Go and give the poor old man a dance!"

And dance I do and show my poems around

Like calling cards and jot lines on my palms.

Reading Lacan into the night I thought things through

But somehow none of them was half as good as you.


by Barry Tebb |

FOR JAMES SIMMONS

 Sitting in outpatients

With my own minor ills

Dawn’s depression lifts

To the lilt of amitryptilene,

A double dose for a day’s journey

To a distant ward.



The word was out that Simmons

Had died eighteen months after

An aneurism at sixty seven.



The meeting he proposed in his second letter

Could never happen: a few days later

A Christmas card in Gaelic - Nollaig Shona -

Then silence, an unbearable chasm

Of wondering if I’d inadvertently offended.



A year later a second card explained the silence:

I joined the queue of mourners:

It was August when I saw the Guardian obituary

Behind glass in the Poetry Library.



How astonishing the colour photo,

The mane of white hair,

The proud mien, the wry smile,

Perfect for a bust by Epstein

Or Gaudier Brjeska a century earlier.



I stood by the shelves

Leafing through your books

With their worn covers,

Remarking the paucity

Of recent borrowings

And the ommisions

From the anthologies.

“I’m a bit out of fashion

But still bringing out books

Armitage didn’t put me in at all

The egregarious Silkin

Tried to get off with my wife -

May he rest in peace.





I can’t remember what angered me

About Geoffrey Hill, quite funny

In a nervous, melancholic way,

A mask you wouldn’t get behind.



Harrison and I were close for years

But it sort of faded when he wrote

He wanted to hear no more

Of my personal life.

I went to his reading in Galway

Where he walked in his cosy regalia

Crossed the length of the bar

To embrace me, manic about the necessity

Of doing big shows in the Balkans.

I taught him all he knows, says aging poet!

And he’s forgotten the best bits,

He knows my work, how quickly

vanity will undo a man.



Tom Blackburn was Gregory Fellow

In my day, a bit mad

But a good and kind poet.”



I read your last book

The Company of Children,

You sent me to review -

Your best by so far

It seemed an angel

Had stolen your pen -

The solitary aging singer

Whispering his last song.


by Les Murray |

Travels With John Hunter

 We who travel between worlds 
lose our muscle and bone. 
I was wheeling a barrow of earth 
when agony bayoneted me. 

I could not sit, or lie down, 
or stand, in Casualty. 
Stomach-calming clay caked my lips, 
I turned yellow as the moon 

and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel 
in a hospital where I met no one 
so much was my liver now my dire 
preoccupation. I was sped down a road. 

of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles 
towards the three persons of God 
and the three persons of John Hunter 
Hospital. Who said We might lose this one. 

Twenty days or to the heat-death 
of the Universe have the same duration: 
vaguely half a hour. I awoke 
giggling over a joke 

about Paul Kruger in Johannesburg 
and missed the white court stockings 
I half remembered from my prone 
still voyage beyond flesh and bone. 

I asked my friend who got new lungs 
How long were you crazy, coming back? 
Five days, he said. Violent and mad. 
Fictive Afrikaner police were at him, 

not unworldly Oom Paul Kruger. 
Valerie, who had sat the twenty days 
beside me, now gently told me tales 
of my time-warp. The operative canyon 

stretched, stapled, with dry roseate walls 
down my belly. Seaweed gel 
plugged views of my pluck and offal. 
The only poet whose liver 

damage hadn't been self-inflicted, 
grinned my agent. A momentarily 
holed bowel had released flora 
who live in us and will eat us 

when we stop feeding them the earth. 
I had, it did seem, rehearsed 
the private office of the grave, 
ceased excreting, made corpse gases 

all while liana'd in tubes 
and overseen by cockpit instruments 
that beeped or struck up Beethoven's 
Fifth at behests of fluid. 

I also hear when I lay lipless 
and far away I was anointed 
first by a mild metaphoric church 
then by the Church of no metaphors. 

Now I said, signing a Dutch contract 
in a hand I couldn't recognise, 
let's go and eat Chinese soup 
and drive to Lake Macquarie. Was I 

not renewed as we are in Heaven? 
In fact I could hardly endure 
Earth gravity, and stayed weak and cranky 
till the soup came, squid and vegetables, 

pure Yang. And was sane thereafter. 
It seemed I'd also travelled 
in a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, 
of flowers and phone calls and letters, 

concern I'd never dreamed was there 
when black kelp boiled in my head. 
I'd awoken amid my State funeral, 
nevermore to eat my liver 

or feed it to the Black Dog, depression 
which the three Johns Hunter seem 
to have killed with their scalpels: 
it hasn't found its way home, 

where I now dodder and mend 
in thanks for devotion, for the ambulance 
this time, for the hospital fork lift, 
for pethidine, and this face of deity: 

not the foreknowledge of death 
but the project of seeing conscious life 
rescued from death defines and will 
atone for the human.


by Philip Levine |

On The Meeting Of García Lorca And Hart Crane

 Brooklyn, 1929. Of course Crane's
been drinking and has no idea who
this curious Andalusian is, unable
even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them
together knows both Spanish and English,
but he has a headache from jumping
back and forth from one language
to another. For a moment's relief
he goes to the window to look
down on the East River, darkening
below as the early light comes on.
Something flashes across his sight,
a double vision of such horror
he has to slap both his hands across
his mouth to keep from screaming.
Let's not be frivolous, let's
not pretend the two poets gave
each other wisdom or love or
even a good time, let's not
invent a dialogue of such eloquence
that even the ants in your own
house won't forget it. The two
greatest poetic geniuses alive
meet, and what happens? A vision
comes to an ordinary man staring
at a filthy river. Have you ever
had a vision? Have you ever shaken
your head to pieces and jerked back
at the image of your young son
falling through open space, not
from the stern of a ship bound
from Vera Cruz to New York but from
the roof of the building he works on?
Have you risen from bed to pace
until dawn to beg a merciless God
to take these pictures away? Oh, yes,
let's bless the imagination. It gives
us the myths we live by. Let's bless
the visionary power of the human—
the only animal that's got it—,
bless the exact image of your father
dead and mine dead, bless the images
that stalk the corners of our sight
and will not let go. The young man
was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman,
then a language student at Columbia,
who told me all this before he died
quietly in his sleep in 1983
in a hotel in Perugia. A good man,
Arthur, he survived graduate school,
later came home to Detroit and sold
pianos right through the Depression.
He loaned my brother a used one
to compose his hideous songs on,
which Arthur thought were genius.
What an imagination Arthur had!


by Donald Justice |

Pantoum Of The Great Depression

 Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the actual world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.