Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: Birthday Poems

I set out this morning to find a poem about birthdays to share with my wife, whose birthday is today. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought.

When it comes to good birthday poems, it seems there have been a lot of them written from parent, to child. These don't suit the occasion at all, really.

There are also many poems that reference a specific age--15, 64, etc. These were a little too specific for my tastes.

There are also several birthday poems out there that are pretty good...but kind of dark. Yea, that won't do for me.

I did find this gem about birthdays by Stanley Kunitz, though. I like it a lot, but it might not make a good "gift:"

Passing Through

—on my seventy-ninth birthday
Nobody in the widow’s household   
ever celebrated anniversaries.   
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
that my friends were given parties.   
Before I left town for school
my birthday went up in smoke   
in a fire at City Hall that gutted   
the Department of Vital Statistics.   
If it weren’t for a census report   
of a five-year-old White Male   
sharing my mother’s address
at the Green Street tenement in Worcester   
I’d have no documentary proof   
that I exist. You are the first,   
my dear, to bully me
into these festive occasions.

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

I settled on a poem called "Crossroads" by Joyce Sutphen. It references "middle age," which doesn't apply to my wife, but I like what it's trying to say, so I think I'll share it with her...and you!


by Joyce Sutphen

The second half of my life will be black 
to the white rind of the old and fading moon. 
The second half of my life will be water 
over the cracked floor of these desert years. 
I will land on my feet this time, 
knowing at least two languages and who 
my friends are. I will dress for the 
occasion, and my hair shall be 
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old 
birthday, counting the years as usual, 
but I will count myself new from this 
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift, 
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder, 
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road. 
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed, 
fingers shifting through fine sands, 
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet. 
There will be new dreams every night, 
and the drapes will never be closed. 
I will toss my string of keys into a deep 
well and old letters into the grate.

Read the rest here.

Today's Poetry Roundup location, at the time of this posting, is difficult to determine. Check with Julie Larios, who posted that she's looking into it. See you next week!


  1. Hi Ben - my first time here, and glad I stopped by. "Crossroads" is so beautiful and strong, and pretty much perfect for where I am in life. I love the image of tossing the old letters into the grate, and the idea of others celebrating the old bday, while the narrator glides on alone in her newness. Fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  2. Unexpected change of plans: the roundup is at A Year of Reading Thanks for changing your link!

  3. Hi Ben! Happy birthday to your wife! I think I posted some of that Joyce Sutphen poem before myself. The only other birthday poem I can think of is A Birthday by Christina Rossetti.

  4. Ben, I like the poem you chose to give to your wife A LOT. It doesn't have to be about mid-life, I don't think. It can just be about a fresh start -- sort of, "from here on out." It makes me think about all the different times in our lives when we are "born."

    Thanks for sharing! You've given ME a gift today!!

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