Discover our guide with inspiring poets from around the world; delve into our list of poems about life to gain a newfound gratitude for the world around you.
Self-expression is often underrated, and many poets find peace through emotive writing that allows them to delve into the meaning of life. Reading and writing poetry that questions life, our purpose, and the world around us can greatly improve our quality of life.
Emotional well-being is so important today, and by using poetry as a creative outlet, we can connect with others while working through our thoughts. You can even get paid to write poetry and turn a creative hobby into a lucrative side hustle.
Take a look at some of the best life poems below and become inspired by the lyrical poetry, vivid imagery, and symbolism showing the true meaning of life. If you’re a budding poet, enter some upcoming poetry contests. Take a chance and throw your hat in the ring; you might become a published poet by next year! You might also be interested in our guide on the best Mary Oliver poems.
- 1. “The Room of My Life” by Anne Sexton
- 2. “Each Life Converges To Some Centre” by Emily Dickinson
- 3. “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou
- 4. “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann
- 5. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
- 6. “If” by Rudyard Kipling
- 7. “O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman
- 8. “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- 9. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
- 10. “What Is Our Life?” by Sir Walter Raleigh
- 11. “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson
- 12. “The Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost
- 13. “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
- 14. “The Guest House” by Rumi
- 15. “One” by Shawnee Kellie
- 16. “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
- 17. “Love” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- 18. #34 from “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
- 19. “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry
- 20. “I Took My Power in My Hand” by Emily Dickinson
- 21. “Opportunity” by Berton Braley
- 22. “Risk” by Anaïs Nin
- 23. “Leisure” by W. H. Davies
- FAQs About Poems About Life
1. “The Room of My Life” by Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton is one of the most famous poets of all time. Even though she is frequently eclipsed by other poets, such as Sylvia Plath, Sexton often wrote about complex topics. Many of her poems scream of despair, and you will probably pick up on it yourself as soon as you start reading one of her works. In this poem, “Room of Life,” we get a window into her troubled life.
“Here,“The Room of My Life” by Anne Sexton
in the room of my Life
the objects keep changing.
Ashtrays to cry into,
the suffering brother of the wood walls,
the forty-eight keys of the typewriter
each an eyeball that is never shut,”
2. “Each Life Converges To Some Centre” by Emily Dickinson
This is a beautiful poem about life by Emily Dickinson, and it encourages people to take a positive approach to life. You need to live your life with a goal in mind, and it is okay if your goals are not the same as someone else’s. Sometimes, we may not even be aware of those goals, but they exist elsewhere. Remember to live your life with a purpose every day. If you do everything you can to accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you will have lived a full life. Read Dickinson’s poetry on Amazon; click here.
“Each Life Converges to some Centre —“Each Life Converges To Some Centre” by Emily Disckinson
Expressed — or still —
Exists in every Human Nature
A Goal —”
3. “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou
Everyone gets afraid sometimes, but it is important for people to remember to keep fighting. This poem, titled “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” was written by Maya Angelou. She is one of the most famous poets of all time, and this poem is all about controlling your emotions and not allowing them to dominate your life. Even though there is nothing wrong with being scared occasionally, you need to use those emotions to fuel you. Read Angelou’s poetry on Amazon; click here.
“Shadows on the wall“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all”
4. “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann
Even though Max Ehrmann might not be as well-known as some of the other names on this list, his poem, “Desiderata,” should be. This poem about life encourages you to live with compassion and integrity for those around you. It touches on everything from careers to relationships and even our mental health, which are incredibly important today. Read “Desiderata” on Amazon; click here.
“Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
If you are looking for a road map for how to live your life, this poem might be exactly that.”“Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann
5. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
Life is nothing more than a series of choices, which Robert Frost, an exceptional American poet, understood. One of his most famous poems about life is “The Road Not Taken.” This poem can be interpreted differently, but it starts on a wooded path, and the character has to choose which path they will take. The only thing you can do is to make the best decisions possible, and you will never truly know what might have happened if you had chosen to do something different. Read Robert Frost’s poetry on Amazon; click here.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
6. “If” by Rudyard Kipling
Life is not always a cakewalk, and there are plenty of times when you will be challenged in various ways. This poem, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling, encourages you to keep going even when the going gets tough. You need to rise above the adversity you will face and always strive to put your best foot forward. It should motivate you to do something more. Read Kipling’s poetry on Amazon; click here.
“If you can keep your head when all about you“If” by Rudyard Kipling
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,”
7. “O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman
Even though “O Me O Life” is a very short poem, it highlights almost every exceptional feature of poems written by Walt Whitman. He wrote the vast majority of his poems using free verse. The poems frequently alternate between short and long lines. Just about all of his poems focus on the main character, encouraging the reader to put themselves in the narrator’s shoes. Of course, the poem also features a lot of rhetorical questions.
“Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,“O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O Life?”
8. “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This is one of the top inspirational poems ever written. After hearing this poem, you should be inspired to take action, whatever that might be for you. You may want to change the world, apply for a new job, go on a date, or travel somewhere new. The beautiful thing about poems is that they can inspire different people to do different things.
“Tell me not, in mournful numbers,“A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.”
9. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
Death is as much a part of life as life itself, and this poem focuses on that fact. Even though we will all die eventually, do not give in to death too easily. Instead, you need to fight until your last breath, and you can fight by living life to the fullest every day.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dyland Thomas
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
10. “What Is Our Life?” by Sir Walter Raleigh
This is a very short poem, but it reminds us all not to take life too seriously. Remember that there are moments in life that should be viewed as a comedy, and the Earth should be considered our stage.
Therefore, try to live your life by making other people laugh. Play your part in the world until you leave, and you will have lived a great life. Even though there are moments in life that should be taken seriously, life should be about smiling and laughing. Let this poem act as your guide.
“What is our Life? The play of passion.“What Is Our Life?” by Sir Walter Raleigh
Our mirth? The music of division:
Our mothers’ wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for Life’s short comedy.
The Earth the stage; Heaven the spectator is,
Who sits and views whosoe’er doth act amiss. “
11. “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson
Hope keeps us going through difficult times, and Emily Dickinson beautifully captures the feeling of hope by comparing it to a bird. Hope is light. Hope is musical. Hope is constantly fluttering around us – much like a beautiful bird. Ponder the meaning of this poem line by line, and you’ll begin to feel the hope that Dickinson so delicately describes.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –”Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –”
12. “The Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost
Find joy in even the darkest moments by reflecting on this thoughtful poem. The imagery of the dust-covered crow shaking off its dust gives the reader hope that even the darkest memories can be shaken. In this impactful poem, the crow symbolizes sadness, while the dust could be said to represent what is holding it in these negative spaces. As the crow shakes the dust off, the reader can also shake off their past negative experiences.
“The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart“The Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.”
13. “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Sometimes, all we need to do is appreciate life again by gazing at the beauty of our world. Reflect on the birds, the bees, the trees, and the land that stands before us and ponder how it was created. By appreciating the wonder of existence, we can gain deep and emotional gratitude for being alive and living in harmony with nature. “The Summer Day” perfectly captures this feeling through thought-provoking verse.
“Who made the world?“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
this grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.”
14. “The Guest House” by Rumi
Rumi’s poetry often offers insight into how to cope with human emotion. “The Guest House” encourages the reader to not resist the human experience and to embrace all emotions — the good and the bad. The comparison of being human to a guest house symbolizes that each day, we have a new opportunity to welcome someone new ( a new experience or emotion) into our lives. Read Rumi’s poetry on Amazon; click here.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.”“The Guest House” by Rumi
15. “One” by Shawnee Kellie
“One” by Shawnee Kellie tells us that we have the power to make positive changes in the world. The inspirational verse speaks to us as we take in the flowing beat of poetry calling us to create greatness. As the poem says, one small action can lead to a happier world, create human connection, and unite people.
“One word can spark a moment,“One” by Shawnee Kellie
One flower can wake the dream;
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald Spring.”
16. “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
“Wild Geese” is a famous poem that speaks directly to the reader, offering advice on how to live a good and fulfilling life. Oliver encourages the reader not to worry about being good but rather to be true to nature and appreciate the beauty of the world around them. Comparing the call of nature to being as loud as the call of wild geese, Oliver seamlessly blends imagery and emotive language to create an inspiring poem about living life to the fullest. Read it on Amazon; click here.
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
17. “Love” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Love is one of the great joys of being alive. “Love” speaks about the all-consuming and heartwarming passion of love. Elizabeth Barrett Browning speaks to the reader through poetic verse describing the spiritual connection to love and how it encompasses all we do in life.
“But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth“Love” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both
Make mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature’s magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.”
18. #34 from “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur is a famous modern poet who creates stunning poetic verse that resonates with readers. #34 from “Milk and Honey” emphasizes the true meaning of life — love and human connection. Kaur sends the message that all that matters is how deeply you love and how you help the people around you, and when it all comes to an end, this is what we will remember. Read it on Amazon; click here.
“nothing even matters“Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them”
19. “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry
Nature can provide a place of quiet amongst the chaos of modern life, and “The Peace of Wild Things” captures this feeling in words. Wendell Berry speaks about the feeling of unimaginable peace and freedom that can be found when we immerse ourselves in nature and step away from the busyness of the everyday.
“I come into the peace of wild things“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
20. “I Took My Power in My Hand” by Emily Dickinson
Becoming fearless can be seen as one of the keys to unlocking true happiness in life. Emily Dickinson speaks to the reader directly in “I Took My Power in My Hand” by describing how she faces her fears head-on, even when failure was inevitable. This emotive poem inspires readers to take a chance and take their life into their own hands.
“I aimed by Pebble—but Myself“I Took My Power in My Hand” by Emily Dickinson
Was all the one that fell—
Was it Goliath—was too large—
Or was myself—too small”
21. “Opportunity” by Berton Braley
“Opportunity” is about exactly what the title suggests — taking opportunities in life and following the path that scares us because it might lead us to happiness. Berton Braley speaks to the reader, encouraging them that the best is yet to come and there is plenty of time to achieve their dreams in life. All we have to do is take the chance and never miss an opportunity for happiness.
“With doubt and dismay you are smitten“Opportunity” by Berton Braley
You think there’s no chance for you, son?
Why, the best books haven’t been written
The best race hasn’t been run,
The best score hasn’t been made yet,
The best song hasn’t been sung,
The best tune hasn’t been played yet,
Cheer up, for the world is young!”
22. “Risk” by Anaïs Nin
Risk is a short poem containing a single sentence broken into eight small lines of poetry. The poem uses a flower as a metaphor to remind the reader that there will be a day when the pain of complacency will overcome the pain of making change. The poem acts as a call to action for readers to make positive changes in their lives now, not to wait. It encourages us all to face challenges head-on and step into our bravery.
“And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
to blossom.”“Risk” by Anaïs Nin
23. “Leisure” by W. H. Davies
“Leisure” speaks to the reader and reminds them to care for their mind and soul. The poem touches on the fleeting nature of material things and encourages the reader to invest in their mental and spiritual well-being. Davies’s belief in the power of nature to heal us is clear as he insists that we spend time gazing at the beauty around us.
“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.”“Leisure” by W. H. Davies
FAQs About Poems About Life
What are some uplifting poems?
There are many uplifting poems to choose from. Some of the best include “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, and “The Sun Rising” by John Donne.
What is the most beautiful short poem ever written?
“The Road Not Taken” is one of the most famous short poems. It inspires the reader to make individual choices and to take the path less traveled. It’s a lyrical poem that encourages the reader to take a chance in life and embrace uncertainty.
Looking for more? Discover our guide with famous inspirational poems!