Occasional poems are meant for specific holidays and occurrences. Father’s Day usually brings about poems about fathers. Instead of offering the traditional expected fare, here are some poems that are about dads and fatherhood that kind of fall outside of the norm.
“Walking with My Father” by Linda Hogan from Dark Sweet
This poem begins “In the dark evening, my father and I / walk down the road to the old house / where my grandmother lived.” It’s a poem about family and memories.
“My Father and Myself Facing the Sun” by Lawsome Fusao Inada from Legends from Camp
Inada compares and contrasts himself with his father in a poem about personal history and world history. The speaker says, “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.”
“Little Father” by Li-Young Lee from Book of My Nights
This poem could seem sad because it begins “I buried my father / in the sky” but it’s really about how we carry the people we love in our hearts.
“Poem for My Father” by Quincy Troupe from Avalanche
Troupe’s poem has a dedication to Quincy T. Trouppe Sr. and is filled with admiration and pride. Here’s a particularly powerful verse: “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”
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden
Full disclosure—this simply is one of my favorite poems and it’s about dads and love and it’s just so simple but so powerful. Read it and that “blueblack cold” might stick with you, too.
“Early in the Morning” by Li-Young Lee from Rose
Lee makes this list twice because he writes a lot about family in unsuspecting ways. In this poem, the speaker notices how his father notices his mother: “My father watches, listens for / the music of comb / against hair.”
“Triple sonnet for My Aggressive Forehead” by Dorothy Chan from Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold
This poem reveals a very unique relationship between a daughter and her dad through a one-sided conversation about childhood toys and Chinese traditions. Here’s a snippet: “Dad, I think about all the ape toys / you bought me when I was a child, / because you never wanted me to be alone”.
“In the Airport” by Eleni Sikelianos from Make Yourself Happy
Dads and airports. That’s literally what this poem is about. “A man called Dad walks by /then another one does.” I’m thinking the deeper meaning is about a universality of dadness.
“Hesperus” by Shann Ray from Poetry (January 2013)
This is a pretty poem that starts with a card and ends with a moment of breathless wonder. Since I don’t want to ruin the end, here’s what the card says: “You’re my favorite Daddy in the stars.”
“In Eight Parts” by Paul Killebrew from Flowers
Within these eight parts lies a full story of a father. There’s something about a painting. There might also be something about sickness. The speaker says, “I used to think my dad was dull, / but his shaking hand gave rhythm to my body.” Get ready to read this one over and over to discover a new meaning each time.
“Backwards” by Warsan Shire from Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
Metapoetry is poetry about poetry. This poem begins by talking about how to begin a poem. “The poem can start with him walking backwards into a room.” Very meta! It’s also about dads.
“Fish Fry Daughter” by Sara Ries from Come In, We’re Open
This poem is about a dad and a daughter and the stories we tell some people but not others. The speaker proclaims, “I hope that when Dad first held me, / it was with haddock-scented hands”. Find out why from the rest of the poem.
“The Story of Ferdinand the Bull” by Matt Mason from The Baby That Ate Cincinnati
Somehow this poem reminds me of “Those Winter Sundays.” Listen: “Dad would come home after too long at work.” See how it’s got that same feel? It’s a quiet poem and very sweet.
“Walking with My Delaware Grandfather” by Denise Low from Mélange Block
Granddads are dads, too! This poem recalls, “In my first memories / / he is present, mostly wordless.” It goes on to show ideas about heritage.
“I Walk Into Every Room and Yell Where the Mexicans At” by Josẽ Olivarez from Citizen Illegal
This poem is about a whole lot of things: fathers, mothers, families, class, ethnicity. Like the title shows, it’s got a really great conversational sense: “i know we exist because of what we make. my dad works at a steel mill.” The easy flow makes for easy reading of this prose poem.
Maybe one of these will work for you more than your usual Dad’s day cards.