Social & Political Philosophy Poems

All poems are either linked to or cited from a particular book that is listed in the Resources section.  If you are having trouble tracking down a copy of a particular poem, comment below for help and I’ll get back to you ASAP. These poem lists are not full modules, but suggestions of poems that could be good to work with, with some jumping off points for philosophical inquiry. If you would like me to write up more suggested questions and activities for an Example Module for a specific poem below, feel free to request! If you would like to write a module, please contact me at madeleinebella@gmail.com for guidelines for submission, and I would be delighted to feature your work on the site. List in progress. Please feel free to suggest poems using the Comment box below! Thank you!

Amichai, Yehuda. “Wildpeace.”

Amichai, Yehuda. “Jerusalem,” translated by Stephen Mitchell.

A poignant perspective on Israeli-Palestinian conflict that sees two human beings just trying to get through the day.

Blanco, Alberto. “The Parakeets.” Also filed under Animal Ethics Poems.

Niazi, Muneer. “A Dream of Paradise in the Shadow of War.” Pakistan, This Same Sky p. 54. translated by Kamal, Daud. (see Resource List)

“The houses and their inmates/Stand amazed.” This stunning poem examines the inhumanity of war and the humanity that remains within war. I reserve too much discussion of this poem until I have heard the wisdom of a child. If any of my blog readers have the privilege of hearing a child’s perspective on this poem, please share their thoughts below!

Silverstein, Shel. “Colors.” Where the Sidewalk Ends, p. 24 (see Resource List)

The speaker of the poem uses blends of red, orange, yellow, green, blue blond, brown, pink, and silver to describe different aspects of their body (including four colours in their skin alone). Also filed under Metaphysics Poems.

Silverstein, Shel. “Smart.” Where the Sidewalk Ends, p. 35 (see Resource List)

This funny rhyming poem makes us wonder: Is it better to have lots of things or more expensive things? If you had to choose, is it better to be rich and/or save for the future or to have fun now? Why do you think so?

Silverstein, Shel. “I’m Making a List.” Where the Sidewalk Ends, p. 37 (see Resource List)

Where the Sidewalk EndsThis tongue-in-cheek poem presents a speaker a bit fed up with all of the formalities that society expects us to say simply “for politeness.” Why do we say please and thank you? Why do we tell each other “Bless you” and “Gesundheit?” Is it mean not to say “thank you?” Why or why not? What about “I’m sorry” if you’ve heard someone’s feelings? Have you ever said something you didn’t really mean because you felt you had to? Would you do it again? Why or why not?

Note: Check out this interesting poem written by a teenage poet inspired by “I’m Making a List,” published on Teen Ink. 

Stevenson, Sharon. “Industrial Childhood.” Canada. This Same Sky, p. 67. (see Resource List)

Walker, Alice. Why War is Never a Good Idea, illustrated by Stefano Vitale

Is war always wrong? Why or why not? Does it make a difference if you were attacked first? Why or why not?

The speaker of this poem says “War has a mind of its own.” What does this mean? Can war think for itself? Do people do things during war that they wouldn’t do otherwise? Can you think of some examples?

Stefano Vitale’s illustrations bring new life to Alice Walker’s already vividly alive poem in a whirlwind of brightly-coloured scenery. We see the personification of war “Dressed in/Green & Brown/Imitating/Their fields,” preying on the vulnerable and destroying everything and everyone in its path. The illustrations work with the timeless words that more visually-minded or restless children might not listen to on their own to show us the juxtaposition of “the forest/With its/Rivers/& rocks/Its pumas/&/Its/Parakeets” and war as a “a white cloud/Trailing/An/Airplane/That/Dusts/Everything/Below/With/A powder/That/Kills.” We are introduced to the individuals touched by war, like the small boy and the donkey who is “Peacefull/Sniffing a pile/Of straw,” and the mother sitting beside a window whose baby “twirls/A lock of her/Dark hair/Suckles/For all/It is/Worth.”

“Now, suppose You/Become War,” says the speaker at the end. “It happens/To some of/The nicest/People/On earth.” What would it mean to become war? Can you be a nice person and also be part of a war?

Click here for a free web sampler from Harper Collins of the inside of this stunning book. 

Why War is Never a Good Idea