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The 333 Greatest (Short) Poems

Poetry comes in all shapes, styles and sizes, with no reigning definition of what even constitutes a poem. Less so what makes a great poem.

Most source material (including anthologies, critical volumes and reading lists) have traditionally focused on English poetry, especially British and American works. Typically only a smattering of poems created in other languages are considered. To overcome this we have consulted a wider range of critics, scholars, anthologies, curricula, readers and poets themselves from around the world—to highlight great poetry of diverse eras and origins.

We have also faced the length issue. It seems ludicrous to compare everything from single-line verses to book-long epic poetry for the same "greatest poetry" list. So we have separated long and short poems into separate lists, and have also distinguished collections of poems.

Of course, the categories often overlap. We have some rules of thumb to determine into which group a given work falls into. The poems listed below as "short" poems can generally be read and appreciated in a single sitting—from a minute to an hour or so. They tend to be under a dozen pages long. They usually present single moods or thoughts, and feature unitary themes with compact, cohesive storylines. However, the determination is not always not so clearcut and sometimes comes down to a subjective judgment.

The consensus about what is considered great is always changing of course as new works appear and older works undergo re-evaluation. This list is accordingly always under revision.

Latest update: March 27, 2024

BCE
c.2030
"A Love Song of Shu-Suen"
Anonymous
Sumer, poem
c.600
"Ode to Anactoria"
Sappho
Greece, poem
 
"Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite"
Anonymous
Greece, poem
c.250
"Hymn to Apollo"
Callimachus
Greece, poem
c.60
"Let us live, my Lesbia"
Catullus
Rome, poem
CE
c.740
"Deer Park"
Wang Wei
China, poem
 
"Drifting on the Lake"
Wang Wei
China, poem
 
"A Farewell"
Wang Wei
China, poem
c.750
"Jade Stairs Lament"
Li Bai
China, poem
 
"Quiet Night Thought"
Li Bai
China, poem
 
"Waking From Drunkenness on a Spring Day"
Li Bai
China, poem
c.1130
"A Quatrain in Summer"
Li Qingzhao
China, poem
1290
"Upon a day, came Sorrow into me"
Alighieri Dante
Italy, poem

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c.1535
"They Flee From Me That Sometimes Did Me Seek"
Thomas Wyatt
England, poem
1594
"A Fairy Song"
England, poem
1599
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"
Christopher Marlowe
England, poem
 
"All the World's a Stage"
England, poem
1600
"Adieu, Farewell Earth's Bliss"
Walter Raleigh
England, poem
 
"The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"
Walter Raleigh
England, poem
c.1600
"Lord Randall"
Anonymous
Scotland, poem
1603
"On My First Son"
Ben Jonson
England, poem
1609
"Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds"
England, poem
 
"My Mistress's Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun"
England, poem
 
"Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"
England, poem
 
"That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold"
England, poem
 
"When, in Disgrace With Fortune and Men's Eyes"
England, poem
 
"When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought"
England, poem
1616
"To Celia"
Ben Jonson
England, poem
1624
"No Man Is an Island"
John Donne
England, poem
1633
"Batter My Heart, Three Personed God"
John Donne
England, poem
 
"Death, Be Not Proud"
John Donne
England, poem
 
"Go and Catch a Falling Star"
John Donne
England, poem
 
"Good-Morrow, The"
John Donne
England, poem
 
"A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
John Donne
England, poem
 
"Love"
George Herbert
England, poem
1639
"Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?"
John Suckling
England, poem
1645
"Go, Lovely Rose"
Edmund Haller
England, poem
1648
"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"
Richard Lovelace
England, poem
1649
"Upon Julia's Clothes"
Robert Herrick
England, poem
 
"To Lucasta, Going to the Wars"
Richard Lovelace
England, poem
1650
"Delight in Disorder"
Robert Herrick
England, poem
 
"The Retreat"
Henry Vaughan
Wales, poem
1656
"The Twa Sisters"
Anonymous
England, poem
1673
"On His Blindness"
John Milton
England, poem
1675
"Lord Thomas and Fair Annet"
Anonymous
England, poem
1678
"To My Dear and Loving Husband"
Anne Bradstreet
United States, poem
c.1680
"The Fox and the Crow"
Jean de La Fontaine
France, poem
1681
"Absalom and Achitophel"
John Dryden
England, poem
 
"To His Coy Mistress"
Andrew Marvell
England, poem
1680s
"Foolish Men"
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Mexico, poem
1692
"Dream"
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Mexico, poem
1747
"Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes"
Thomas Gray
England, poem
1749
"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray
England, poem
1765
"Sir Patrick Spens"
Anonymous
Scotland, poem
1773
"Phyllis Wheatley"
On Being Brought from Africa
United States, poem
1782
"Erlkönig"
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany, poem
1785
"To a Mouse"
Scotland, poem
1786
"Ode to Joy"
Friedrich Schiller
Germany, poem
1788
"Auld Lang Syne"
Robert Burns
Scotland, poem
1789
"The Lamb"
William Blake
England, poem
1790
"Tam O'Shanter"
Scotland, poem
1791
"Sweet Afton"
Scotland, poem
1794
"London"
William Blake
England, poem
 
"A Poison Tree"
William Blake
England, poem
 
"The Tyger"
William Blake
England, poem
 
"A Red, Red Rose"
Scotland, Song
1795
"A Man's a Man for a' That"
Scotland, poem
1798
"Frost at Midnight"
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Scotland, poem

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1800
"Michael"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"The Life Path"
Friedrich Hölderlin
Germany, poem
1805
"The Last Rose of Summer"
Thomas More
Ireland, poem
1805
"The Palace of Pleasure"
Leigh Hunt
England, poem
1807
"Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"Ode: Intimations of Mortality"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"Character of the Happy Warrior"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
 
"The World Is Too Much With Us"
William Wordsworth
England, poem
1808
"And did those feet in ancient time"
William Blake
England, poem
1814
"She Walks in Beauty"
George Gordon Byron
England, poem
1816
"Kubla Khan"
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
England, poem
 
"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"
John Keats
England, poem
 
"To a Waterfowl"
William Cullen Bryant
United States, poem
1817
"Thanatopsis"
William Cullen Bryant
United States, poem
1818
"Ozymandias"
Percy Byssche Shelley
England, poem
1819
"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
John Keats
England, poem
 
"Ode to a Nightingale"
John Keats
England, poem
 
"Love's Philosophy"
Percy Bysshe Shelley
England, poem
 
"The Infinite"
Giacomo Leopardi
Italy, poem
1820
"To Autumn"
John Keats
England, poem
 
"The Cloud"
Percy Byssche Shelley
England, poem
 
"Ode to the West Wind"
Percy Byssche Shelley
England, poem
 
"To a Skylark"
Percy Byssche Shelley
England, poem
 
"La Belle Dame Sans Mercie"
John Keats
England, poem
 
"The Lake"
Alphonse de Lamartine
France, poem
1825
"To ***"
Alexander Pushkin
Russia, poem
1829
"The Spider and the Fly"
Mary Howitt
England, poem
1830
"So, we'll go no more a-roving"
George Gordon Byron
England, poem
 
"Old Ironsides"
Oliver Wendell Holmes
United States, poem
1834
"Abou Ben Adhem"
Leigh Hunt
England, poem
 
"The Rhodora"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
United States, poem
1835
"The Hermit"
Joseph von Eichendorff
Germany, poem
1837
"Borodino"
Mikhail Lermontov
Russia, poem
 
"Death of the Poet"
Mikhail Lermontov
Russia, poem
1838
"Jenny Kiss'd Me"
Leigh Hunt
England, poem
 
"A Psalm of Life"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
United States, poem
 
"Concord Hymn"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
United States, poem
1842
"My Last Duchess"
Robert Browning
England, poem
 
" Break, Break, Breakl"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
 
"Locksley Hall"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
 
"The Lady of Shalott"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
 
"Ulysses"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
1844
"Night Thoughts"
Heinrich Heine
Germany, poem
1845
"Meeting at Night"
Robert Browing
England , poem
 
"Sweetheart, let’s see if the rose"
Pierre de Ronsard
France , poem
 
"The Raven"
United States, poem
1847
"The First Snowfall"
James Russell Lowell
United States, poem
1848
"Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth"
Arthur Hugh Clough
England, poem
 
"When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be"
John Keats
England, poem
1849
"A Dream Within a Dream"
United States, poem
 
"Annabel Lee"
United States, poem
1850
"How Do I Love Thee?"
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
England, poem
 
"The Blessed Damozel"
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
England, poem
1851
"O Soul, Remember"
Eduard Mörike
Germany, poem
1853
"The Scholar Gipsy"
Matthew Arnold
England, poem
1854
"Charge of the Light Brigade"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
1855
"Evelyn Hope"
Robert Browning
England, poem
 
"I Sing the Body Electric"
Walt Whitman
United States, poem
 
"Song of Myself"
Walt Whitman
United States, poem
1856
"Tomorrow, at Dawn"
Victor-Marie Hugo
France, poem
 
"Poet and Citizen"
Nikolai Nekrasov
Russia, poem
 
"The Snow-Storm"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
United States, poem
 
"Maud Muller"
John Greenleaf Whittier
United States, poem
1857
"The Song of Exile"
Gonçalves Dias
Brazil, poem
1858
"The Chambered Nautilus"
Oliver Wendell Holmes
United States, poem
 
"The Deacon's Masterpiece"
Oliver Wendell Holmes
United States, poem
1860
"Paul Revere's Ride"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
United States, poem
 
"The Children's Hour"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
United States, poem
1861
"The Albatross"
Charles Baudelaire
France, poem
1862
"Remember"
Christina Rossetti
England, poem
1863
"Auguries of Innocence"
William Blake
England, poem
 
"Sudden Light"
Christina Rossetti
England, poem
1864
"Success is counted sweetest"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
1865
"O Captain! My Captain!"
Walt Whitman
United States, poem
1866
"You Will Not Grasp Her With Your Mind"
Fyodor Tyutchev
Russia, poem
1867
"Dover Beach"
Matthew Arnold
England, poem
 
"Neutral Tones"
England, poem
1869
"Clair de Lune"
Paul Verlaine
France, poem
 
"A Noiseless Patient Spider"
Walt Whitman
United States, poem
1870
"The Sleeper in the Valley"
Arthur Rimbaud
France, poem
1871
"Jabberwocky"
Lewis Carroll
England, poem
 
"The Drunken Boat"
Arthur Rimbaud
France, poem
1873
"Red Cotton Night-Cap Country "
Robert Browning
England, poem
1874
"The Afternoon of a Faun"
Stéphane Mallarmé
France, poem
1881
"Requiescat"
Oscar Wilde
Ireland, poem
1883
"The New Colossus"
Emma Lazarus
United States, poem
 
"Solitude"
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
United States, poem
1887
"To Be Born a Man"
Adela Zamudio
Bolivia , poem
 
"Low Tide on Grand Pré"
Bliss Carmen
Canada , poem
 
"Requiem"
Robert Louis Stevenson
Scotland , poem
1888
"Invictus"
William Ernest Henley
England, poem
1889
"Crossing the Bar"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
England, poem
1890
"London Snow"
Robert Bridges
England, poem
 
"Gunga Din"
Rudyard Kipling
England, poem
 
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
W.B. Yeats
Ireland, poem
 
"Because I could not stop for Death"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
1891
"A Sincere Man Am I"
José Marti
Cuba, poem
 
"'Hope' Is the Thing With Feathers"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
 
"I'm Nobody! Who Are You?"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
 
"A Narrow Fellow in the Grass"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
1892
"Vitai Lampada"
Henry Newbolt
England, poem
1896
"Vitae Summa Brevis"
Ernest Dowson
England, poem
 
"Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae"
Ernest Dowson
England, poem
 
missing graphic
"To an Athlete, Dying Young"
A.E. Housman
England, poem
 
"I Heard a Fly Buzz—When I Died"
Emily Dickinson
United States, poem
 
"We Wear the Mask"
Paul Lawrence Dunbar
United States, poem
1897
"Recessional"
Rudyard Kipling
England, poem
 
"Richard Cory"
Edwin Arlington Robinson
United States, poem
1899
"Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven"
W.B. Yeats
Ireland, poem
 
"The Man With the Hoe"
Edwin Markham
United States, poem
1900
"The Darkling Thrush"
England, poem

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1902
"The Man He Killed"
England, poem
1904
"Waiting for the Babarians"
Constantine Cavafy
Greece, poem
1905
"The Girl Was Singing In a Church Choir"
Alexander Blok
Russia, poem
1906
"The Highwayman"
Alfred de Noyes
, poem
1907
"The Cremation of Sam McGee"
Robert W. Service
Canada, poem
 
"The Shooting of Dan McGrew"
Robert W. Service
Canada, poem
1908
"Torso of an Archaic Apollo"
Rainer Maria Rilke
Germany, poem
1909
"My Country"
Ricardo Miro
Panama, poem
1910
"If"
Rudyard Kipling
England, poem
 
"Miniver Cheevy"
Edwin Arlington Robinson
United States, poem
1911
"The Little Car"
Guillaume Apollinaire
France, poem
1911
"Dusky Veil Shades Her Hands Clenching"
Anna Akhmatova
Russia, poem
1912
"The Listeners"
Walter de la Mare
England, poem
 
"Renascence"
Edna St. Vincent Millay
United States, poem
1913
"Zone"
Guillaume Apollinaire
France, poem
 
"These My Poems, Written So Early"
Marina Tsvetaeva
Russia, poem
 
"Trees"
Joyce Kilmer
United States, poem
 
"Sacred Emily"
Gertrude Stein
United States, poem
1914
"Grodek"
Georg Trakl
Austria, poem
 
"For the Fallen"
Laurence Binyon
England, poem
 
"Listen"
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Russia, poem
 
"Mending Wall"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
 
"The Death of the Hired Man"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
 
"Chicago"
Carl Sandburg
United States, poem
1915
"In Flanders Fields"
John McCrae
Canada, poem
 
"The Soldier"
Rupert Brooke
England, poem
 
"The Dead"
Rupert Brooke
England, poem
 
missing graphic
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
England, poem
 
"The Pool"
Hilda Doolittle
United States, poem
 
"The Road Not Taken"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
 
"Ann Rutledge"
Edgar Lee Masters
United States, poem
 
"The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter"
Ezra Pound
United States, poem
1916
"Sea-Fever"
John Masefield
England, poem
 
"Cargoes"
John Masefield
England, poem
 
"Fog"
Carl Sandburg
United States, poem
 
"I Have a Rendezvous with Death"
Alan Seeger
United States, poem
1917
"Preludes"
England, poem
 
"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
Wallace Stevens
United States, poem
1918
"Suicide in the Trenches"
Siegfried Sassoon
England, poem
 
"God's Grandeur"
Gerard Manley Hopkins
England, poem
 
"Pied Beauty"
Gerard Manley Hopkins
England, poem
 
"Spring and Fall"
Gerard Manley Hopkins
England, poem
 
"The Windhover"
Gerard Manley Hopkins
England, poem
 
"The Fish"
Marianne Moore
United States, poem
 
"There Will Come Soft Rains"
Sara Teasdale
United States, poem
1919
"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death"
W.B. Yeats
Ireland, poem
 
"Black Messengers"
César Vallejo
Peru, poem
 
"If We Must Die"
Claude McKay
United States, poem
1920
"Anthem for Doomed Youth"
Wilfred Owen
England, poem
 
"Dulce et Decorum Est"
Wilfred Owen
England, poem
 
"The Second Coming"
W.B. Yeats
Ireland, poem
 
"Mr. Flood's Party"
Edwin Arlington Robinson
United States, poem
1922
"Mother to Son"
Langston Hughes
United States, poem
 
"The Emperor of Ice Cream"
Wallace Stevens
United States, poem
1923
"Snake"
D.H. Lawrence
England, poem
 
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
 
"Fire and Ice"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
 
"The Red Wheelbarrow"
William Carlos Williams
United States, poem
1924
"Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines"
Pablo Neruda
Chile, poem
 
"Letter to a Woman"
Sergei Esenin
Russia, poem
1925
England, poem
 
"The Weary Blues"
Langston Hughes
United States, poem
1928
"Sailing to Byzantium"
W.B. Yeats
United States, poem
1930
"In the Middle of the Road"
Carlos Drummond De Andrade
Brazil, poem
1931
"Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat nor Drink"
Edna St. Vincent Millay
United States, poem
1932
"Bavarian Gentians"
D.H. Lawrence
England, poem
1934
"Immortality"
Clare Harner
United States, poem
 
"This Is Just to Say"
William Carlos Williams
United States, poem
 
"The Idea of Order at Key West"
Wallace Stevens
United States, poem
1935
"Words From Confinement"
Cesare Pavese
Italy, poem
 
"Proletarian Portrait"
William Carlos Williams
United States, poem
 
"To a Poor Old Woman"
William Carlos Williams
United States, poem
1936
"Funeral Blues"
W.H. Auden
England, poem
1938
"To Those Born After"
Bertolt Brecht
Germany, poem
1939
"Musée des Beaux Arts"
W.H. Auden
England, poem
1940
"David"
Earle Birney
Canada, poem
 
"Song of Negroes in Cuba"
Federico García Lorca
Cuba, poem
 
"The Unknown Citizen"
W.H. Auden
England, poem
1942
"Liberty"
Paul Eluard
France, poem
1944
"Day and Night"
Dorothy Livesay
Canada, poem
1945
"Family Portrait"
Carlos Drummond De Andrade
Brazil, poem
 
"Autumn Leaves"
Jacques Prévert
France , poem
 
"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"
Randall Jarrell
United States, poem
 
"Elegy Just in Case"
John Ciardi
United States, poem
1945–1962
"Middle Passage"
Robert Hayden
United States, poem
1946
"Fern Hill"
Dylan Thomas
Wales, poem
1947
"The Key of Water"
Octavio Paz
Mexico, poem
 
"Directive"
Robert Frost
United States, poem
1948
"If You Forget Me"
Pablo Neruda
Chile, poem
 
"Death Fugue"
Paul Celan
Romania, poem
1950
"Death will come and will have your eyes"
Cesare Pavese
Italy, poem
1951
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"
Dylan Thomas
Wales, poem
1952
"I carry your heart with me"
e.e. cummings
United States, poem
1953
"Deferred Time"
Ingeborg Bachmann
Austria, poem
 
"The Waking"
Theodore Roethke
United States, poem
1954
"The Birth of Tragedy"
Irving Layton
Canada, poem
 
"Meditations in an Emergency"
Frank O'Hara
United States, poem
1956
"A Ballad of Going Down to the Store"
Miron Białoszewski
Poland, poem
1957
"Elegy of Fortinbras"
Zbigniew Herberti
Poland, poem
1958
"I Am Waiting"
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
United States, poem
 
"Junkman's Obbligato"
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
United States, poem
1959
"I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You"
Pablo Neruda
Chile, poem
 
"We Real Cool"
Gwendolyn Brooks
United States, poem
 
"Memories of West Street and Lepke"
Robert Lowell
United States, poem
1961
"Babi Yar"
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Russia, poem
1962
"Warning"
Jenny Joseph
England, poem
 
"Those Winter Sundays"
Robert Hayden
United States, poem
1963
"Sylvia's Death"
Anne Sexton
United States, poem
1965
"Daddy"
Sylvia Plath
United States, poem
 
"Lady Lazarus"
Sylvia Plath
United States, poem
1966
"Digging"
Seamus Heaney
Northern Ireland, poem
 
"The Express"
Stephen Spender
England, poem
 
"Tracks"
Tomas Tranströmer
Sweden, poem
1967
"Pièta"
Wisława Szymborska
Poland, poem
 
"Face the Animal"
Jean Follain
France, poem
1968
"The Poor"
Roberto Sosa
Honduras, poem
1969
"Draft of a Modern Love Poem"
Tadeusz Różewicz
Poland, poem
1970
"Don’t Leave the Room"
Joseph Brodsky
Russia, poem
1972
"Under a Certain Little Star"
Wisława Szymborska
Poland, poem
1973
"Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)"
Nikki Giovanni
United States, poem
 
"Diving Into the Wreck"
Adrienne Rich
United States, poem
1974
"This Be the Verse"
Philip Larkin
England, poem
1975
"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror"
John Ashbery
United States, poem
1976
"In Praise of My Sister"
Wisława Szymborska
Poland, poem
 
"One Art"
Elizabeth Bishop
United States, poem
1977
"Calderoniana"
Efraín Huerta
Mexico, poem
 
"And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name"
John Ashbery
United States, poem
1978
"Death of a Lady's Man"
Canada, poem
 
"Still I Rise"
Maya Angelou
United States, poem
 
"Power"
Audre Lorde
United States, poem
1980
"Homage to My Hips"
Lucille Clifton
United States, poem
1981
"The Colonel"
Carolyn Forché
United States, poem
1982
"Heroics"
Julia Alvarez
United States, poem
1983
"A Smile to Remember"
Charles Bukowski
United States, poem
1984
"Hallelujah"
Canada, poem
1985
"Mock Orange"
Louise Glück
United States, poem
1986
"Love After Love"
Derek Walcott
St. Lucia, poem
1987
"To Live in the Borderlands"
Gloria Anzaldua
United States, poem
 
"Ancestor"
Jimmy Santiago Baco
United States, poem
1989
"From the Bridge"
Claribel Alegría
Nicaragua, poem
1992
"The Man With the Night Sweats"
Thom Gunn
United States, poem
1994
"Blood"
Carmen Boullosa
Mexico, poem
1995
"In the Secular Night"
Margaret Atwood
Canada, poem
2003
"Rain"
Claribel Alegria
Nicaragua, poem
 
"Errata"
Kevin Young
United States, poem
2005
"Text"
Carol Ann Duffy
England, poem
2008
"Rain"
Don Paterson
Scotland, poem
2010
"The Golden Shovel"
Terrance Hayes
United States, poem
2011
"Moving"
Luis Chaves
Costa Rica, poem
 
"Home"
Warsan Shire
Costa England, poem
2012
"Balas Chonas"
Cherríe Morago
United States, poem
2013
"Rape Joke"
Patricia Lockwood
United States, poem

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