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Learning English Through Poetry

Poetry can often be daunting for readers in any language, especially a foreign one—if you find poetry to be scary or intimidating, you’re not alone! However, reading or listening to poems can be a wonderful way to examine language through a cultural and literary standpoint. In this article, we will introduce poetry resources, popular English-language poems, and tips on easily incorporating poetry into your language-learning routine. Before you know it, reading poetry in English will be “a breeze”!


The Benefits of Learning Poetry

Studying poetry is a great way to learn new vocabulary that you might not otherwise come across. By reading aloud or listening to poems being recited, you can master the rhythms and pronunciations of words and phrases. Plus, you can learn all about art and literature from different cultures through their poems.

7 Tips and Tricks for Studying Poems

  1. Each week, try picking a short poem to read for a quick and easy way to incorporate English-language learning into your busy schedule. Poetry can be a fun addition to your routine and soon you’ll be looking forward to choosing a new poem to learn about!

  2. If you’re low on free time, you can easily listen to poetry podcasts on your morning commute or watch animated videos of poems as you eat breakfast. (Be sure to check out the links to podcasts and videos in the Poetry Resources section below!)

  3. After reading the poem for a first time, look up any words or phrases you don’t know before rereading the piece in order to improve your vocabulary.

  4. Try reading the poem aloud to improve your oral language skills.

  5. For a fun reading comprehension exercise, try illustrating the poem you’re reading. You can draw one picture or create a “storyboard” by drawing a series of images that match up with lines in the poem!

  6. Try memorizing your favorite poem. Memorizing a poem you will help improve your sense of rhythm and pronunciation when learning a new language.

  7. Start a poetry group with friends or fellow poetry-lovers! Each month, you can choose a poem or a short collection of poems to read and discuss. As a group, try reading aloud before discussing themes, imagery, and vocabulary. Creating a poetry group is a fun and social way to chat about your passions and share new ideas.

Where Should I Start?

Are you unsure of what poems to begin with? Below is an assortment of five short and sweet poems by American poets that are sure to “get you hooked”!

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Harlem (Dream Deferred)” is a poem by Langston Hughes. Hughes was a renowned writer of the Harlem Renaissance, which was an artistic and cultural African-American movement in New York during the 1920s.


Openin’ Night” is a poem by Shel Silverstein, a beloved poet, writer, songwriter, and cartoonist from Chicago. He is best known for his darkly humorous children’s poems and books.


This Is the Season” is a lovely poem by Joyce Carol Oates, a contemporary poet and professor known for the prolific amount of writing and poetry she has published.


One Art” is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. While in her lifetime she published only 101 poems, she has later become a popular American poet and artist, known for using precise descriptions in her works.


Annabel Lee” is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer famous for his mysteries and spooky stories.


 Poetry Resources

The New Yorker Poetry Podcast: Do you have little free time and are trying to learn English while on the go? Listening to a poetry podcast is a wonderful option for those interested in improving their auditory skills! Each month, the renowned Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon sits down with a notable guest poet to discuss a favorite poem from the New Yorker’s archive. The guest performs a reading of the poem in question, as well as a reading of one of their own works. You can easily listen to this series by downloading or streaming episodes from the New Yorker’s website, or by using phone apps like iTunes and Stitcher.

Motion Poems: Do you feel that you learn best by looking at pictures and watching videos? Perhaps you are a visual learner! Motion Poems has produced seven seasons of short animation films that accompany and help explain poems from a wide variety of poets. Each season has a distinct theme, such as poetry by women, making this resource great for exploring American culture.

Poem-A-Day: Would you love to read a new poem each day, but aren’t sure where to start or which poems to read? You can sign up for this daily email newsletter with! On weekdays you will receive previously unpublished poems. On weekends, you will receive classic poems to read.

Poetry International Web: Are you looking for side-by-side Ukrainian and English translations of poetry? This page on Poetry International Web has links to thirteen Ukrainian poets who have written works with English translations. Once you click on any poet, you can find a list of poems on the right side of each page with versions in both languages.

Poetry Foundation and are also both wonderful websites that contain archives of English-language poems and poets.

What is your favorite poem or poet? Let us know in the comments below!

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Anna Deen is a student at Washington University in St. Louis studying English Literature, American Culture Studies, and Communication Design. In her free time, she enjoys hiking in the mountains, going to art museums, and eating ice cream.

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