5 Poems for the New Year

5 Poems for the New Year #poetry #poems

Of the many things poetry is good for, marking occasions is one of them. Lauren F. Winner calls it “decorating a life-cycle event,” noting how people whose “last encounter with a poem was tenth-grade British Lit, grasp for a poem when their child marries, or dies.” Jim Morrison—The Doors late frontman, and poet—wrote “If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.”

He’s right about that. Poetry provides access to emotions we cannot express, new perspectives, and as I often say, brings meaning to the mundane. It’s why I read “The Bight” by Elizabeth Bishop on my birthday every year—to center myself in the “awful but cheerful” routines of the day.

In January, I read poems for the new year. In Pablo Neruda’s ode on the subject, he reminds us that the day does not know the difference. We are the ones who give such prominence to the occasion.

even though
a day
a poor
human day
your halo
over so many
and you are
oh new
oh forthcoming cloud,
bread unseen before,
permanent tower!”

—Pablo Neruda, from “Ode to the First Day of the Year”

On January 1—this “poor human day”—we mark the passage of time by staying up late, drinking champagne, resolving to do better, to grow and change. We want to start fresh, clean, like the unblemished layer of snow that covers the ground each January.

To usher in a brand new year (and all the possibilities sure to unfold), here are five poems worthy of a read.

5 quiet, reflective poems to celebrate the new year #poetry #winterpoems #poem #eatthispoem

1 | “To The New Year” by W.S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

Read the rest of the poem here

2 | “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nyes

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
orange swirling flame of days
so little is a stone.

Read the rest of the poem here

OF NOTE: "BURNING THE OLD YEAR" is featured inside the Eat This Poem Cookbook alongside a recipe for the short ribs and celery root puree I make every New Year’s Eve. Get your copy!

3 | “Snowfall” By Ravi Shankar

Particulate as ash, new year’s first snow falls
upon peaked roofs, car hoods, undulant hills,
in imitation of motion that moves the way
static cascades down screens when the cable
zaps out, persistent & granular with a flicker
of legibility that dissipates before it can be
Interpolated into any succession of imagery.

Read the rest of the poem here

4 | From “New Year’s Day”by Kim Addonizio

The rain this morning falls
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.

Read the rest of the poem here

5 | “The Passing of the Year” by Robert W. Service

My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,
     My den is all a cosy glow;
And snug before the fire I sit,
     And wait to feel the old year go.

Read the rest of the poem here

What are your favorite poems for the new year? Share them in the comments!