8 Wonderful Poems about Fatherhood

We love celebrating those wonderful mothers in the world, and they certainly deserve the praise. However, while we all know how important fathers are in a child’s life, good fathers sometimes get a little less appreciation. In the world of poetry, fathers and fatherhood are celebrated with depth, reverence and truth.  Whether it’s Father’s Day, your dad’s birthday, or another of life’s milestones, here’s a list of 8 wonderful poems about fatherhood that capture the essence of what it means to be a dad.

1.   Walking with my Father (2014), by Linda Hogan

Linda  Hogan an American poet, storyteller, academic, playwright, novelist, environmentalist and writer of short stories. “Walking with my Father” is an excerpt from her book of poems, Dark. Sweet. which provides an intimate look at our connections to the natural world.  

In the dark evening, my father and I

walk down the road to the old house

where my grandmother lived,

and we see through the door an old woman’s feet

lifted up, tired, on a footstool,

still in her thick stockings,

the feet with legs and stockings

looking just like Grandma’s

after bearing nine children who lived,

standing, working all day,

the kind of woman who made stacks of toast, platters of eggs

for all of us each hot morning,

did laundry, then lunch,

supper, and worked with the animals

or cleaning fish

the rest of the day.

I want to go open that door as I did

so many times in the past, remembering

not to slam the screen, as everyone would yell

although I am now also older and finite,

the seams of myself coming apart.

How I wish I could go to that woman

with her legs up and rub her feet,

put liniment on her legs.

Years have passed through the doors

of that house, of memory, doors of the past

and my father’s eyes

are sad, looking in,

his own memories, not mine,

thinking maybe of his mother

and some of his old belongings,

the stolen Colt of his own father,

the bracelet he gave me with his R.A. number.

Her memories are unremembered,

as my grandfather’s,

as those before them,

I think of what this poem is about,

only partly about memory,

our many losses.

And walking with my father

I walk with my grandparents,

among the first to be numbered:

#1555.

#1556.


2.   My Father and Myself Facing the Sun (1993), by Lawson Fusao Inada

Lawson is a Japenese American poet. In this poem, he compares and contrasts himself with his father about personal history and world history. “My Father and Myself Facing the Sun” is from a collection of works published in Legends from Camp.

We are both strong, dark, bright men,

though perhaps you might not notice,

finding two figures flat against the landscape

like the shadowed backs of mountains.

Which would not be far from wrong,

for though we both have on Western clothes

and he is seated on a yellow spool

of emptied and forgotten telephone cable

and I recline on a green aluminum lounge,

we are both facing into the August sun

as august as Hiroshima and the autumn.

There are differences, however, if you care

to discover, coming close, respectfully.

You must discover the landscape as you go.

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.

After a while, there is time to go fishing,

both of us squatting on rocks in the dusk,

leaving peaks and tree line responsible for light.

There is a lake below, which both of us

acknowledge, by facing, forward, like the sun.

Ripples of fish, moon, luminous insects.

Frogs, owls, crickets at their sound.

Deer, raccoon, badger come down to drink.

At the water’s edge, the children are fishing,

casting shadows from the enormous shoreline.

Everything functions in the function of summer.

And gradually, and not by chance, the action

stops, the children hush back among rocks

and also watch, with nothing to capture but dusk.

There are four of us, together among others.

And I am not at all certain what all this means,

if it means anything, but feel with all my being

that I must write this down, if I write anything.

My father, his son, his grandsons, strong, serene.

Night, night, night, before the following morning.


3.   Little Father (2001), by Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee is an Asian American poet who was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents who eventually fled to America after wide-spread anti-Chinese sentiment swept Indonesia. Today he’s an influential voice in Asian American poetry. Upon first reading, many believe “Little Father” will be a sad poem (published in Book of my Nights), as it begins “I buried my father / in the sky”, but the poem is actually about how we carry people we love in our hearts.

I buried my father

in the sky.

Since then, the birds

clean and comb him every morning   

and pull the blanket up to his chin   

every night.

I buried my father underground.   

Since then, my ladders

only climb down,

and all the earth has become a house   

whose rooms are the hours, whose doors   

stand open at evening, receiving   

guest after guest.

Sometimes I see past them

to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.

Now he grows in me, my strange son,   

my little root who won’t drink milk,   

little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,   

little clock spring newly wet

in the fire, little grape, parent to the future   

wine, a son the fruit of his own son,   

little father I ransom with my life.


4.   Poem for My Father (1996), by Quincy Troupe

Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr. is an American poet, editor, journalist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California. In “Poem for My Father” (published in Avalanche), Troupe’s poem has a dedication to his father, Quincy T. Trouppe Sr., and is filled with admiration and pride.

for Quincy T. Trouppe Sr.

father, it was an honor to be there, in the dugout

with you, the glory of great black men swinging their lives

as bats, at tiny white balls

burning in at unbelievable speeds, riding up & in & out

a curve breaking down wicked, like a ball falling off a table

moving away, snaking down, screwing its stitched magic

into chitlin circuit air, its comma seams spinning

toward breakdown, dipping, like a hipster

bebopping a knee-dip stride, in the charlie parker forties

wrist curling, like a swan’s neck

behind a slick black back

cupping an invisible ball of dreams

& you there, father, regal, as an african, obeah man

sculpted out of wood, from a sacred tree, of no name, no place, origin

thick branches branching down, into cherokee & someplace else lost

way back in africa, the sap running dry

crossing from north carolina into georgia, inside grandmother mary’s

womb, where your mother had you in the violence of that red soil

ink blotter news, gone now, into blood graves

of american blues, sponging rococo

truth long gone as dinosaurs

the agent-oranged landscape of former names

absent of african polysyllables, dry husk, consonants there

now, in their place, names, flat, as polluted rivers

& that guitar string smile always snaking across

some virulent, american, redneck’s face

scorching, like atomic heat, mushrooming over nagasaki

& hiroshima, the fever blistered shadows of it all

inked, as etchings, into sizzled concrete

but you, there, father, through it all, a yardbird solo

riffing on bat & ball glory, breaking down the fabricated myths

of white major league legends, of who was better than who

beating them at their own crap

game, with killer bats, as bud powell swung his silence into beauty

of a josh gibson home run, skittering across piano keys of bleachers

shattering all manufactured legends up there in lights

struck out white knights, on the risky edge of amazement

awe, the miraculous truth sluicing through

steeped & disguised in the blues

confluencing, like the point at the cross

when a fastball hides itself up in a slider, curve

breaking down & away in a wicked, sly grin

curved & posed as an ass-scratching uncle tom, who

like old sachel paige delivering his famed hesitation pitch

before coming back with a hard, high, fast one, is slicker

sliding, & quicker than a professional hitman—

the deadliness of it all, the sudden strike

like that of the “brown bomber’s” crossing right

of sugar ray robinson’s, lightning, cobra bite

& you, there, father, through it all, catching rhythms

of chono pozo balls, drumming, like conga beats into your catcher’s mitt

hard & fast as “cool papa” bell jumping into bed

before the lights went out

of the old, negro baseball league, a promise, you were

father, a harbinger, of shock waves, soon come


5.   Those Winter Sundays (1966), by Robert Hayden

Robert Hayden was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and was the first African-American writer to hold the office. “Those Winter Sundays” (published in Collected Poems of Robert Hayden), he’s brevity makes his words about dads and love that much more powerful.

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?


6.   Heperus (2013), by Shann Ray

Shann Ray is an American poet, short story writer, novelist, psychologist, and social scientist, who writes poetry and literary fiction under the name Shann Ray in honor of his mother Saundra Rae, and social science as Shann Ray Ferch. “Heperus” is a unique poem with a sentimental twist at the end that will tug at your heartstrings.

My four-year-old daughter handed me a card.

To Daddy written on the front

and inside a rough field

of  five-pointed lights, and the words

You’re my favorite Daddy in the stars.

In this western night we all light the sky

like Vega, Deneb, Altair, Albireo,

the Summer Triangle,

Cygnus the Swan, our hair

tangled with wood and gravel,

our eyes like vacant docks

that beckon every boat.

Tell me about the word

stars, I said.

Oh, she said. Sorry.

I didn’t know

how to spell world.


7.   To Her Father with Some Verses (1678), by Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was the first published poet in North America. She arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630, and was one of the many Puritans seeking refuge in the New World. She was passionate about her faith and family, which can be seen in this poem which honors her father.

Most truly honoured, 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?

The principal might yield a greater sum,

Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;

My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,

My bond remains in force unto this day;

Yet for part payment take this simple mite,

Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.

Such is my debt I may not say forgive,

But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;

Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,

Yet paying is not paid until I die.


8.   The Story of Ferdinand the Bull (2013), by Matt Mason

Matt Mason is an Americna poet whose written about fatherhood, relationships, religion and the Bible, and themes of Midwest and Great Plains life. Mason’s early work gave him a reputation as a humorous poet, but he has since written comedy, drama, and tragedy. This poem (published in The Baby That Ate Cincinnati) is quiet and sweet, and will leave you with similar feelings as “Those Winter Sundays”.

Dad would come home after too long at work

and I’d sit on his lap to hear

the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,

me handing him the red book until I knew

every word, couldn’t read,

just recite along with drawings

of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,

the all-important bee, and flowers—

flowers in meadows and flowers

thrown by the Spanish ladies.

Its lesson, really,

about not being what you’re born into

but what you’re born to be,

even if that means

not caring about the capes they wave in your face

or the spears they cut into your shoulders.

And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home

after too long at work

and read to me

the same story every night

until I knew every word, couldn’t read,

                                                                              just recite.

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