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13 Daughter Poems From Moms, Dads, and Daughters

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Christina M. Rau

Staff Writer

Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), and the chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). In her non-writing life, she teaches yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions.

You might be familiar with the saying, “A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend.” Daughter poems reveal how daughters grow and learn between the years of newborn to adulthood. All the while, parents witness and watch, sometimes with fear and sometimes with wonder. Here are some daughter poems about these dynamic relationships.

Let’s kick it old school first, taking you all back to 1919 with William Butler Yeats’s “A Prayer For My Daughter.” This rhyming poem has ten numbered stanzas that send out prayerful thoughts from dad to daughter from crib to marriage. Find this in his collection Michael Robartes and the Dancer.

And now for some more contemporary daughter poems.

mother daughter city chic child feature

Moon for Our Daughters” by Annie Finch reveals connections between mothers and daughters symbolized through the moon. The speaker says “These are our bodies’ own voices, / Powers of each of our bodies, / Threading, unbroken, begetting, / Flowers from each of our bodies.” This particular published version has short commentary from Finch about the poem. Read more from Finch in Spells: New and Selected Poems.

For A Daughter” by Janice Mirikitani begins with the 8th Century Lady Otomo’s quote, “More than gems in my comb box…I prize you, my daughter.”

Another daughter poem from a mother’s perspective is the prose poem “Tiger” by Kim Young, author of Night Radio.

Rebecca Foust’s “Abeyance” is dedicated as a “letter to my transgender daughter.” Foust’s collection Paradise Drive has more moving verses.

Spoken-word poet Sarah Kay presented “If I Should Have A Daughter”  at TED2011, and the words still resonate.

Read more in her book B.

Carmen Giménez Smith’s “The Daughter” alludes to the poet Pablo Neruda while describing a daughter’s eyes. A third generation also appears with the line “She and I are the gradual ebb of my mother’s darkness.” Read more in Odalisque in Pieces.

Another poem that speaks of generations is “When America Cuts My Daughter’s Hair” by Jenny Browne, who authored Dear Stranger.

Shann Ray’s daughter poem “Hesperus” shows innocence and joy between dad and daughter. (This is a poem that strikes me so much that I’ve written about it before). Here’s a little something from Ray’s YouTube channel for some more joy.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Morning Star” by Craig Santos Perez was written “in collaboration with [his] wife…and [their] one-year old daughter.”  How sweet! From Unincorporated Territory has more by Perez.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter” by Jan Steckel offers up a striking legacy of strength from father to daughter. Read more by Steckel in The Horizontal Poet.

Tamam Kahn is the author of Fatima’s Touch: Poems and Stories of The Prophet’s Daughter.  “Standing Tall” relates a tale of Zaynab and Umm Kulthum, Fatima’s two daughters.

Sokunthary Svay’s “Daughter-in-Waiting” appears from a daughter’s perspective.  The poem reveals how a daughter learns from her mother, not only through asking for advice but simply by watching. Here’s Svay reading another mother-daughter poem from her collection Apsara in New York.

Warsan Shire’s poetry appears in her collections like Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth but also all across social media. [“Give your daughters difficult names”]  is quick and powerful.

Here’s more from Shire:

Finally, here’s an interesting nonfiction piece by Betsy MacWhinney about her daughter and her faith in poetry from The New York Times Modern Love column: “Bringing a Daughter Back From the Brink With Poems

Want more poetry? Here are some poems about family and here are simply all the lists of all the poems.

Please share your favorite daughter poems with us.

[Ed.’s Note: A poem by Raquel Salas Rivera was removed from this list as it was incorrectly categorized as a daughter poem.]