Epiphanies in Poetry

Is there a poem you’ve read that has prompted a visceral response? Something that touched you so deeply that it changed your outlook on life? If so, post your favorite poem and explain how it impacted you, changed you, affected you.

I have two poems that I can think of right off that have deeply affected me. As for changing my life, I don’t know if they’ve done that, but I do love the way they make me feel reading them. Incidentally, my daughter, #HeidiParton, has said that her love of writing came partly from the reaction I had as I read “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath to her when she was younger. She said it was exciting to see how the written word could elicit such a powerful response.  So below is  #Daddy by #SylviaPlath, followed by my reaction to it and then #DylanThomas’s #DoNotGoGentleIntoThatGoodNight.


You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You– 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

My reaction:

I think “Daddy” is a very powerful poem. I can see Plath’s anger at her father for dying when she was young. I also see that those feelings for her father translate into how she consequently sees other men in her life, particularly her husband, Ted Hughes. I think growing up without a father that she alternately adored and abhorred, skewed her view of men. She seems to be so angry yet pleading in this poem. And  isn’t Plath’s resignation in the last line, heartbreaking? Especially considering her subsequent suicide.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My reaction:

To me, it’s as if he’s begging, pleading, imploring his father not to “follow the light” and give in to death. It is so powerfully written. The words alone expose the raw emotion he feels, without even considering its poetic form. It was written as a villanelle (villanelles are required to have an intricate rhyme scheme and two lines that are refrains). I think the refrains are especially powerful. “Rage” is such a forceful word, it perfectly emphasizes how he feels about his father’s imminent death.