What’s Your Line?

To kick off National Poetry Month, we thought we would pay homage to the building blocks of poetry: really great lines.

Within each of us live words that we might not even realize are there, stored within us, ready at hand. When we connect deeply with a poem or a line, barriers are broken within us and the words become a sense memory that is meaningful. The rhythm syncs with us internally, and the meaning of impactful lines often seem to translate our own experiences.These lines can be the best type of haunting – coming to us in times of happiness, struggle…or even seemingly without any trigger at all. They can become mantras, small comforts, philosophies, themes. Most importantly – they can be shared.

Please share with us your most impactful lines from poetry; you may have them committed to memory, or you may feel compelled by them whenever you read them. These vital lines may be just what someone else needs too.

Post these favorite lines in the box below marked “Share your thoughts.”


In the spirit of National Poetry Month, please consider a donation to the Dodge Poetry Program. Your generosity will help us continue to bring poets to schools around New Jersey, and to offer opportunities and materials for teachers.

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23 Responses to What’s Your Line?

  1. Frank Volenik says:

    Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
    You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…. there are millions of suns left,
    You shall no longer take things at second or third hand…. nor look through the eyes of the dead…. nor feed on the spectres in books,
    You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
    You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
    …- Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass

  2. ink says:

    “l(a)” by e. e. cummings, a poem that is one line

  3. ink says:

    “but this ain’t for the underground / this here is for the sun / a seed a Stranger gave to me / and planted on my tongue” — Saul Williams —

  4. clem says:

    Walt Whitman
    Leaves of Grass. 1900.

    86. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
    It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not; 20
    I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence;
    I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is.

    Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
    Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
    Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d; 25
    Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;
    Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

  5. Elizabeth Reeves says:

    “though I am old with wandering
    through hollow lands and hilly lands
    I will find out where she has gone
    and kiss her lips and take her hand

    And walk through long green dappled grass
    And pluck till time and times are done
    The silver apples of the moon
    The golden apples of the sun”

    Last two lines of a much loved poem.
    Several names for this I believe one is Golden apples of the sun by, I think, Yeats? Another name is Song of the wandering Aengus(sp?) Funny how I can remember the whole poem, but not the details of author and correct name. I hope I’ve inspired some to read the whole poem. It is lovely.


  6. Jenn Dickinson says:

    You are neither here nor there,
    A hurry through which known and strange things pass
    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
    And catch the heart off guard and blow it open
    — from “Postscript,” Seamus Heaney

  7. Liz says:

    In her bottled up is a woman peppery as curry,
    a yam of a woman of butter and brass,
    compounded of acid and sweet like a pineapple,
    like a hand-grenade set to explode,
    like goldenrod ready to bloom.

  8. Sherrie Lee says:

    I need More than a man with street smarts and street pharmaceuticals.
    I need love and life and things that are beautiful.
    I need More than a regular 9 to 5.
    I need a Career that makes me happy upbeat and alive.
    I need More than a friend who’s in competition with what I have.
    I need a friend through thick and thin when I’m sad and to make me laugh.

  9. Michele says:

    “Trust me
    my happiness bears
    no relation to happiness.”

    Taha Muhammad Ali

  10. I love the line “so much depends on a red wheelbarrow” by the poet, William Carlos Williams. It encompasses the world.
    There is not a life situation in which one specific act or event is the fulcrum of an
    idea, or of creative expression; a piece of music, a sculpture, a canvas, a poem, a short story, a dance, an invention, a marriage proposal, conception, a celebration,
    and so on into the whirlpool of human events.
    All of those occurrences grew because they depended in some manner on a seed that the red wheelbarrow was carrying. It is the plainess of the phrase, it is the daily basics in the phrase, it si the necessities in the phrase, because therein lie the seeds of love, tragedy, creativity, joy, everything in life that we choose to choose.

  11. Rebecca says:

    “Come, play poker with me,
    I want to be taken to the cleaners.
    I’ve had it with all stingy-hearted sons of bitches.
    A heart is to be spent.”

    –Stephen Dunn, “Sixty”

  12. Trish Emerson says:

    An excerpt from How Beautiful the Beloved by Gregory Orr

    This is what was bequeathed us:
    This earth the beloved left
    And, leaving,
    Left to us.

    No other world
    But this one:
    Willows and the factory
    With its black smokestacks.

    No other shore, only this bank
    On which the living gather.

    No meaning but what we find here.
    No purpose but what we make.

    That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
    Turn me into song; sing me awake.

  13. Scott Thompson says:

    . . . Rain
    will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
    long aisles–you never heard so deep a sound,
    moss on rock, and years. You turn your head–
    that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
    The whole wide world pours down.

    — William Stafford from his poem “Assurance”

  14. Lisa says:

    big rain
    big snow
    big sun
    big moon

    enter us

    e.e. cummings

  15. tom gowan says:

    “one man loved the gypsy soul in you’–Yeats

  16. Peter Murphy says:

    ” So here I am, so here I am,
    fake mammy to God’s mistakes.
    And that’s the beauty part,
    I mean, ain’t that the beauty part.”

    from “Aunt Jemima of the Ocean Waves” by Robert Hayden

    I mean, that IS the beauty part!

  17. Cheryl Soback says:

    Do you love this world?
    Do you cherish your humble and silky life?

    Mary Oliver

  18. jeanne sutton says:

    ‘I do believe the most of me
    floats under water, and men see
    above the waves a jagged, small
    mountain of ice, and that is all.
    Only the depths of other peaks
    may know my substance when it speaks
    and, steadfast through the grinding jam
    remain aware of who i am.
    Myself, i think, shall never know
    how far beneath the waves i go.”

    I found this poem of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s not long after i’d read her famous couplet
    “My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night;
    but ah my foes, and oh my friends, it gives a lovely light’

    and a less-famous couplet i liked even more:
    ‘Safe upon their solid rock the ugly houses stand;
    come and see my shining palace built upon the sand.’

    All this from someone who produced a pulitzer prizewinner [‘Renascence’] at nineteen.
    i was nineteen then, too – am more than triple that now – but i didn’t have to look anything up. Impactful? i’ll say. Yesterday, in Philadelphia, i was one of nearly 150 poets at the 15th annual poetry ink marathon reading. thank you to the moonstone arts center and robin’s bookstore!

  19. Erik Mollenhauer says:

    Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies –
    Hold you here, root and all, in my hand.
    Little flower – but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all,
    I should know what God and man is.
    — Alfred [Lord] Tennyson

  20. Kristina Mollenhauer says:

    To live in this world

    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.
    — Mary Oliver

  21. I know this doesn’t count but my all time favorite is ‘Remember the only time you fail is when you do not try’. I don’t have a poetic mind but this phrase helps me achieve impossible.

  22. cici pennington says:

    gerard manley hopkins: the windhover

    i caught this morning morning’s minion
    kingdom of daylight’s dauphin
    dapple dawn drawn falcon
    in his riding of the rolling level underneath him steady air
    and striding high there,
    how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing in his ECTASY!
    then off, off forth on swing
    as a skate’s heel sweeps smooth the bowbend,
    my heart in hiding stirred for a bird, the achieve of
    the mastery of the thing!
    brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here BUCKLE!
    and the fire that breaks from thee then,
    a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous, oh my chevalier!!

    No wonder of it…. sheer plod makes plough down sillion shine
    and blue-bleak embers, Ah! my dear, fall-gall themselves
    and gash …gold-vermillion!

    sorry, i rattled that off, not correct line breaks, i know, it’s just the sheer beauty of those lines, I run with them, I soar and plummet with them and once I think of them, I have to just let them all fly free……

    oh, and I won’t print the whole poem here, but the last line !!! it’s like a light comes on in the darkest recesses of my soul. from James Wright’s A Blessing —– i heard somewhere that tho a genius, he could be quite a stinker in the way he treated people…so these last two lines are all the more a miracle to me, someone who could be so cruel and yet say this:

    Suddenly I realize that if I stepped out of my body
    I would break into blossom.

    and if I don’t stop right now, I’m going to go into delirious joy and keep typing and typing and typing…. ain’t poetry grand!!!!!

    No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion

    Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

    the hurl and gliding rebuffed the big wind

  23. cici pennington says:

    edit: there were accents…this is the correct way it was written:

    No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion

    Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

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