5. "Hurt Hawks" by Robinson Jeffers
Sure, it's a little melodramatic, a little over the top in its exultation of the rough, rugged, and arrogant; but with language like this, it's hard not to get caught up in the idea.
4. "Stella oft sees the very face of woe" by Sir Philip Sidney
Ever get disgusted with yourself when a stupid movie makes you cry, and real life stuff doesn't? You know a poem is great when it's as true today as it was in the 16th century -- and the last three lines get me every time.
3. "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright
If you grew up in a small industrial town where all the factories and plants and mills were shutting down one by one, and that town had a high school football team, then you will understand why I love this poem.
2. "The Snow Man" by Wallace Stevens
I still remember running into my friend, Dave Wheat, the day after we studied this poem in college:
Me: Dude! Wallace Stevens!
Dave: Dude, nothing that is not there!
Me: And the nothing that is!
Together: Hell yeah!
1. "Thirteen Ways of Being Looked At By a Possum" by Everette Maddox
Because the best poems aren't the ones that are trying to say big and important things in big and important ways. Reading this always makes me wish that more poets weren't terrified of being funny.