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Poems for changing times: 30 poems for Shared Reading

Written by Rachael Norris, 3rd September 2020

So far, 2020 has been a year that none of us could have imagined or knew what would have been in store. What we do know is that literature, and in particular poetry, can help us deal with difficult situations, be they personal to ourselves or felt on a wider scale, providing comfort, reassurance, solace, a chance to reflect, laugh, cry and share in the spectrum of human emotion.

As summer days begin to shorten and we take the first steps into September, it feels like we’re on the cusp of more change to come – be that going back to work or seeing children off to school again, widening our comfort zone a little further or making other changes after what have been a turbulent few months for us all.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a bank of 30 poems which reflect the changing times we find ourselves in. The poems have been chosen to reflect three overarching themes that feel particularly pertinent in highlighting our collective experience of the year so far, while also looking ahead with hope and optimism.

All of the poems here can be found in The Reader Library, if you're a Reader Leader click on the volunteers area in the top right to log into the Online Community Hub and download these poems.


It’s been tough recently…

Composed During a Storm by William Wordsworth

Later Life (Sonnet 17) by Christina Rossetti

Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

My Own Heart by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Rain Was Ending and Light by Laurence Binyon

Affliction (extract) by Sir John Davies (this is also available in Bread and Roses: Part Two)

A Thing of Beauty by John Keats

Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough

Lost Time by Rabindranath Tagore (this is also available in Bread and Roses: Part Four)

The Call by Charlotte Mew


You Cannot Be Serious – in a year of crisis, it can be hard to find laughter

The Best Thing in the World by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Storm by Katherine Mansfield

Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson (this is also available in Bread and Roses: Part Four)

Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc

The Echoing Green by William Blake

The Village Schoolmaster by Oliver Goldsmith

When I Heard The Learned Astronomer by Walt Whitman

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Leisure by W.H. Davies

Repeat that, repeat by Gerard Manley Hopkins


Take Me Places – escaping to a faraway place might not feel possible right now, but these poems can take you across the borders of your imagination

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats

Lines Upon Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

The Lofty Sky by Edward Thomas (this is also available in Bread and Roses: Part One)

Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

Escape at Bedtime by Robert Louis Stevenson

Careless Rambles by John Clare

Beauty by Edward Thomas (this is also available in Bread and Roses: Part Three)

Often Rebuked (Stanzas) by Emily Bronte

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


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