October 26


Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

By Gordon Gaffney

October 26, 2021

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

Poems aren't just about making you daydream: they can also be a powerful tool when learning English. Poetry is known for making many lovers sigh and is often seen as something more “intellectual”.

Sometimes, yes, it can be like this.

But maybe you haven't realised that poetry can be an easy and fun way to learn English.

Short or long verses from a poem, about any topic you like, can teach you English in a new and interesting way.

You are probably wondering a few things, like:

But Why Learn English With Poems?

Being in the habit of reading poetry can bring many benefits to your life, the list is long, but I quote some of them here:

• At the University of Exeter, neuroscientists have discovered that poetry is able to activate areas of the human brain that no other type of reading can, and it also helps to sharpen our memory.

• An escape from our daily lives. With poetry, we can dream and see the world through different eyes. It can make us reflect on life in a unique way.

• Whether the text is long or short, the result can be a rewarding and educational experience.

Poetry produces more pleasure and relaxation than music, as a study by the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics points out.

• You will learn to communicate and express yourself better when you acquire a taste for reading poems, even if it is only a fewof them. 

How to Learn English With Poems?

Like all poems, including those in your native language, and no matter how many lines they have, you will need to interpret what the author is trying to tell you through those lines.

Poetic texts require you to pay extra attention when reading them. That's because just reading them once is not enough to understand the intention behind the poetry. 

To understand poems when learning English you will need some study methods and tips, such as: 

Read the poem out loud many times. Pay attention to the rhymes, if any, that happen in the poem which when pronounced incorrectly can completely destroy the rhythm.

• Try to imagine the poem in the voice of a native. Pay extra attention to the way words are pronounced and their intonations.

• You can even practice your writing by rewriting the poem read in your notebook. By doing this you will be able to memorise the correct way each word is written much faster.

Be alert for new words you find when reading the poem in English. What do you do when you find one you don't know? Look up the meaning and write it down in your notebook.

To look up is a very common phrasal verb. It means to research or to consult sources to find an answer. You can learn more in our Complete Book of Phrasal Verbs which will be on sale very soon for €6.99.

Try to fix the poem in your mind, start with shorter English poems and progress gradually to the longer ones.

Finally, try to write your own poem in English! Don’t worry about how many lines or what to talk about. Just enjoy it! It doesn’t matter if you think it is silly.

Here is a list of the best poets and poems to learn English that are easy to read. 

Spike Milligan

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

Spike MIlligan in "The Lat Late Show"

He had a natural talent for music, writing and acting, perhaps most famously on the radio show for the BBC, the famous classic The Goon Show.

He also drew cartoons for iconic Private Eye magazine, served in World War II where he received a serious injury to his leg.

The British-Irish Terence Alan "Spike" Milligan (1918-2002) had a lot to say in his poems.

Spike Milligan, as he liked to be called, could make entire audiences burst out laughing with just a few words, and with a few more, he moved them. Because of this, Milligan has poems for all tastes: from comedy to sentimentality, long or short.

Spike Milligan's father was born in my hometown of Sligo. The town hall placed this sign on the wall of the house where Spike's father was born on Holborn Street. 

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

On The Ning Nang Nong was one of the poems Milligan wrote for children, and that's why it was, and still is, a big hit among younger people.

It's a short and funny poem, and you can hear it in Milligan's own voice:

Or an animated version here: 

Another one that was successful among the little ones was The ABC. The way that Milligan manages to make us laugh at the alphabet and the clever way he creates a little intrigue between the letters.

Two other great and short poems to learn English that are easy to read are Pussy-cat and There Are Holes In The Sky.

Lastly, if you're a fan of satirical and mature humour then Have A Nice Day needs to be on your reading list. 

Roald Dahl

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

You may not know his poems, but you probably know or have heard of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Matilda", which are very popular among children.

The works of Roald Dahl (1916-1990) are present in the lives of many young people. As well as those 2 classic there are others such as "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "The Witches", "The BFG" (The Big Friendly Giant), and much more on his extensive CV.

He wrote children's literature, adult stories, poetry, scripts for feature film, such as James Bond - You Only Live Twice, and still managed to find time to help with charities in fields such as hematology and neurology.

Like Milligan, Roald Dahl also served during World War 2 flying planes. In 1940 his plane crashed in an accident and Dahl was seriously injured, he barely survived. After he recovered, he dedicated his life to writing.

Some of his best-known poems often revolve around famous fairy tales, but in a way we've never seen before. Like The Three Little Pigs, which brings the well-known story of the Three Little Pigs and also adds the problem of wolves of the famous little girl Little Red Riding Hood.

Another one that involves little pigs as protagonists, or main characters, and has a totally unexpected ending, is The Pig, which has sharp satirical humor.

In Cinderella, Dahl delivers a completely new and unexpected ending to the fairy tale known to many.

Now, if you are looking for something shorter to read, then you can look at poems such as Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and I Had A Little Nut-tree.

Roald Dahl has also written some excellent books that are easy to read. 

Robert Frost

Due to his talent and passion for poetry, Robert Frost (1874-1963) always maintained his status among famous poets of the time, such as WB Yeats and Ezra Pound. Even now many years after his death, he can be regarded as one of the world’s greatest poets in English.

His poems are read and cited all over the world, in schools, universities and even in films like Dead Poets Society. If you're looking for a shorter poem to read, the famous Fire And Ice (with audio option) and Fireflies In The Garden are excellent.

The Road Not Taken (with audio option) is recommended reading for students or poetry lovers. 

William Butler Yeats (W.B. Yeats)

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

Son of artist John Butler Yeats, W.B. and his family surrounded themselves with the painters and writers of the time and this influenced many of his family to become artists themselves.

Many of his poems were written or were about my hometown and county of Sligo, for example "The Lake Isle of Innisfree".

He is buried in Drumcliffe Church about 7 km north of Sligo town. 

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

In 1885, the Dublin University Review published the first poems, and an essay, by WB Yeats. Yeats' poetry often revolved around legends and myths, but due to the influence of some artists of the time, his last works began to describe the contemporary problems suffered by Irish people during that difficult time in Irish history.

He was one of the founders, along with Lady Gregory, of the Abbey Theatre and Irish Literary Theatre. He also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

The poem by Yeats that I recommend is the very famous Leda and the Swan.

In addition to others like When You Are Old (with audio option).

Another famous one is Sailing to Byzantium, the first line of which is “That is no country for old men”. Yeats was a huge influence on the writer Cormac McCarthy who wrote the 2005 book “No Country for Old Men” which was made into the famous Oscar-winning film in 2007.

Walt Whitman

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

In 1863 and 1864, this American poet worked voluntarily for the army in military hospitals during the American Civil War. He was also a world-renowned essayist, journalist and poet.

He was considered the “father of free verse” and, like Robert Frost, he was also mentioned in the film Dead Poets Society and also by poet Fernando Pessoa.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) achieved incredible feats, his poetry book entitled Leaves of Grass (In Brazil, “Folhas de Relva”, and in Portugal, “Folhas de Erva”), is regarded as “the bible for the American poets”.

In Leaves of Grass, because of the vast amount of poems, you will surely find ones that you like.

Whitman embraced and celebrated human nature and a heavenly vision of the Self, represented in poems such as Kosmos and O Me! The Life!.

Even more, The Father of Free Verse was passionate about his country and the idea of growth and advancement that America could have is represented in I Hear America Singing. 

Seamus Heaney

Poems To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

Robert Lowell, an American poet, described him as "the most important poet since Yeats". And no wonder: with nine major awards to his name, two of being the Nobel Prize for Literature and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.

Seamus Heaney is known worldwide for his poems in English. But, in addition to being a poet, Heaney (1939-2013) was also a playwright and translator. His output contained a more naturalistic streak, which was heavily influenced by his life on his parents' farm in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland.

Some of his most famous works are his poetry book Door Into the Dark and the poem Death of a Naturalist.

I learned Mid-Term Break in elementary/primary school, a powerful poem about the death of Heaney's younger brother when he was in high/secondary school.

Other great recommendations are the poems in English Diggin (with audio option), Follower and North.

There may be a lot of English words in these poems that you don't understand, read about some great free online translation tools here and also my tips on how to study English in here.

If you want to speak more like a native, then our eBook "Eliminate the 63 Most Common Mistakes Portuguese Speakers Make in English" will help you. 

You might also be interested in our video course on sale on Udemy for €29.99/69.99R$ "Eliminate the Mistakes that Portuguese Speakers Make in English". 4 hours of video exclusively for people that speak Portuguese. You can read more about it and watch free videos here.

You can learn 10 tips to read in English in here or read about how to learn English with movies here.

Do you have any favorite poems in English? You can leave in the comment below!

Gordon Gaffney

About the author

Gordon is The Irish English Teacher, creator of this blog and many products to help all students learning English as a second language, but with a focus on Portuguese speakers.

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