D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) may be best known for his novels, but he also wrote almost 800 poems, many of them quite short as in the tweet-sized selection below. His best-known poems are probably those dealing with nature such as the entrancing “Snake“, which displays some of his most frequent concerns; modern man’s distance from nature and subtle hints at religious and social themes. My own favourite poem of his is “Piano“, a masterpiece of effective nostalgia.
He called one collection of poems Pansies, partly for the simple ephemeral nature of the verse, but also as a pun on the French word panser, to dress or bandage a wound. The first paragraph of his introduction is worth quoting from:
These poems are called ‘Pansies’ because they are rather ‘Pensées’ than anything else. Pascal or La Bruyère wrote their ‘Pensées’ in prose, but it has always seemed to me that a real thought, a single thought, not an argument, can only exist easily in verse, or in some poetic form. There is a didactic element about prose thoughts which makes them repellent, slightly bullying…
Two of the poems in the book, “The Noble Englishman” and “Don’t Look at Me”, were removed from the official edition of Pansies on the grounds of obscenity, which wounded him. (His problems with censors are legendary.) And some of the poems are worth a second glance. As Mark Granier puts it in his essay What One Note Holds: Writing the Short Poem: The weaker poems in Pansies (and in Lawrence’s Complete Poems) are probably true enough to their time, though hardly less didactic or bullying than equivalent prose thoughts. But the best of Lawrence’s short poems, just a couple of handfuls, are more than casual thoughts; these are perpetually fresh, classics of the genre.
Brief Poems by D. H. Lawrence
Where sanity is
there God is.
And the sane can still recognize sanity
so they can still recognize God.
yet forever felt in the soul.
THE WHITE HORSE
The youth walks up to the white horse, to put its halter on
and the horse looks at him in silence.
They are so silent, they are in another world.
NOTHING TO SAVE
There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
TELL ME A WORD
Tell me a word
That you’ve often heard
Yet it makes you squint
If you see it in print!
I can’t stand Willy Wet-Leg,
Can’t stand him at any price.
He’s resigned, and when you hit him
he lets you hit him twice.
The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence on Google Books.
The Poetry Foundation List of Poems by D. H. Lawrence.
The Wikipedia Page on D. H. Lawrence.