Father's Day

father with his son on his shoulder
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Say Everything You've Always Wanted To Say With These 13 Father's Day Poems

Don’t be surprised if he cries.

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"Dear Dad." That’s the way most of us will begin our obligatory Father’s Day cards. But what if you decided to mix it up this year? What if you looked to some of the world’s greatest poets to tell dad just how much you care about him? You might be surprised how touched he’ll be. That’s why we pulled together this list of poems for Father’s Day.

Sure, a funny card about cracking open a beer and kicking back is a lighthearted way to say "I love you, Pop." But life is short and the important things often go unsaid... and sometimes, it's easier to say those things in a card than it is out loud. Each of these poems is, naturally, a little different, but all of them speak to the heart of the child/father relationship, a sacred bond that is hard to put into words. To communicate just how special this powerful love is and just how much a father’s care, support, and wisdom can mean to a developing child, we’ve turned to Kipling, Whitman, and even Stevie Wonder. Aren’t lyrics just poems set to music? Here are some of the verses we think best sum up the spirit of Father’s Day.

1

"If—" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling wrote these final stanzas of his poem "If—" in 1895. It's written as a letter to a son and gives advice on how to manage life. And, fun fact, the stanza "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same" are written on the wall of the players' entrance to the Centre Court where Wimbledon is held.

2

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” by Marcus Amaker

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Charleston, South Carolina's poet laureate Marcus Amaker recently became a father, and his poem "Sleep when the baby sleeps," is a touching tribute to his baby girl that also tackles all the new parent experiences of worry. For a new dad, this poem would certainly touch a chord with verses like:

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,”

they say.

As if sleeping is a switch easily turned on.

Especially when all of your mind’s power is being used for the electricity of fatherhood.

3

"Fathers Are Wonderful People" by Helen Steiner Rice

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This one's a tear-jerker if that's what you're after. Helen Steiner Rice opens with the words:

Fathers are wonderful peoplet

So little understood,

And we do not sing their praises

as often as we should…

The poem goes on to detail all the ways dads are wonderful and how easy it is for their families to overlook how sweet they can be.

4

"Father" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American Victorian poet; you're probably familiar with her words: "Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep, and you weep alone."

Her poem "Father" is perfect for this holiday:

He never made a fortune, or a noise

In the world where men are seeking after fame;

But he had a healthy brood of girls and boys

Who loved the very ground on which he trod.

They thought him just little short of God;

Oh you should have heard the way they said his name –‘Father.’

5

"As" by Stevie Wonder

From his 1976 album "Songs in the Key of Life," if this Stevie Wonder song doesn't make you think of the unconditional love between a father and his child, we don't know what will:

As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow

But in passing will grow older every day

Just as all is born is new

Do know what I say is true

That I'll be loving you always

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (always)

Until the ocean covers every mountain high (always)

Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (always)

Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

6

"On the Beach at Night" by Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman uses the stars in the sky to illustrate the bond between the father and his daughter in his poem "On the Beach at Night." When she cries he soothes her with these words:

Weep not, child, Weep not, my darling,

With these kisses let me remove your tears,

The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,

They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,

Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,

7

"Love Without End, Amen" by George Straight

Country music is full of songs about daddies and their kids, but you don't have to be a big country fan to appreciate the sentiment behind this tune that'll put a big lump in Dad's throat. It's George Straight's "Love Without End, Amen." Released in 1990, the song goes,

Let me tell you a secret about a father's love

A secret that my daddy said was just between us

He said daddies don't just love their children every now and then

It's a love without end, amen

8

"To Her Father With Some Verses" by Anne Bradstreet

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Anne Bradstreet was a prominent Puritan poet in the American colonies and so this poem has that flavor, but the devotion to her dad still rings true. She basically says that everything she has and has accomplished, she owes to him.

Most truly honored, and as truly dear

If worth in me or ought I do appear

Who can of right better demand the same

Than may your worthy self from whom it came?

9

“The Father” by Sir Ronald Ross

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Sir Ronald Ross, a British doctor, may have gained acclaim for discovering the malarial parasite carried by the mosquito while working in India in 1895, but in his spare time he dabbled in poetry. In this touching piece he writes of what a father and son give to one another.

Come with me then, my son;

Thine eyes are wide for truth:

And I will give thee memories,

And thou shalt give me youth.

The lake laps in silver,

The streamlet leaps her length:

And I will give thee wisdom,

And thou shalt give me strength.

10

“The Gift,” Li-Young Lee

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American poet Li-Young Lee in his piece “The Gift,” describes the tenderness of a Dad removing a splinter and the greater life lesson his care imparts to his son. For Dad’s who show their strength through gentle acts of kindness, this is a stirring choice to share on Father’s Day.

To pull the metal splinter from my palm

my father recited a story in a low voice.

I watched his lovely face and not the blade.

Before the story ended, he’d removed

the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,

but hear his voice still, a well

of dark water, a prayer.

And I recall his hands,

two measures of tenderness

he laid against my face,

the flames of discipline

he raised above my head.

11

“My Father and Myself Facing the Sun,” Lawson Fusao Inada

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Japanese American poet Lawson Fusao Inada was the fifth poet laureate of Oregon and a master of his craft. In his poem “My Father and Myself Facing the Sun” he expresses the differences between a man and his father but at the same time the legacy his Dad has created in himself and his own children and how that’s worth respecting and cherishing.

Come. It is in the eyes, the face, the way

we would greet you stumbling as you arrive.

He is much the smooth, grass-brown slopes

reaching knee-high around you as you walk;

I am the cracks of cliffs and gullies,

pieces of secret deep in the back of the eye.

But he is still my father, and I his son.

12

“my father moved through dooms of love,” E.E. Cummings

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In his poem “my father moved through dooms of love” the poet E.E. Cummings paints a picture of a man who faced his challenges headlong and managed to endure them to become a whole person. He’s not perfect but he’s an example of how to embrace one’s own humanity.

joy was his song and joy so pure

a heart of star by him could steer

and pure so now and now so yes

the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer’s keen beyond

conceiving mind of sun will stand,

so strictly (over utmost him

so hugely) stood my father’s dream

13

“Fifteen” by Leslie Monsour

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If your Dad was your protector (maybe even to a fault) then you might appreciate poet Leslie Monsour’s verses about her dad striking fear into the hearts of her potential suitors. Certainly Dad will appreciate the humor as well.

The boys who fled my father's house in fear

Of what his wrath would cost them if he found

Them nibbling slowly at his daughter's ear,

Would vanish out the back without a sound,

And glide just like the shadow of a crow,

To wait beside the elm tree in the snow.

Something quite deadly rumbled in his voice.

He sniffed the air as if he knew the scent

Of teenage boys, and asked, "What was that noise?"

Then I'd pretend to not know what he meant,

Stand mutely by, my heart immense with dread,

As Father set the traps and went to bed.

Whether you want something heartfelt or hearty-laugh inducing, these poems should get your started on your search for the just the write words to tell Dad how much you love him.