Here we are suddenly in November, the old age of the year. The world around us is slowing down; daylight hours diminish, the night expands; the crisp fall air turns towards the biting chill of winter. We humans often try to fight this trend: we keep bustling, keep the lights on, rush around doing and seeing things. But we are part of nature, and our circadian rhythms are slowing down with the world around us. While we don’t hibernate like bears or fly south like geese, we too have a natural response to this shift in the seasons: the world around us drives us inward—into our homes and into ourselves.

In this season so naturally disposed to self-examination and contemplation, poetry can be an invaluable aid. We may have to keep “doing” for our jobs, for our families, for our communities, but poetry offers us a brief respite from the frenzy of daily life. Poetry provides a space within which we can close out the business of the world and contemplate the wholeness of things and of our place within that whole. The fruit of such moments is a sense of both time and timelessness, of nature and of eternity, a sense of peace and of “deep delight,” as you’ll find it put in the Robert Penn Warren poem below.

Last month I offered a collection of poems suitable for October, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”; here you’ll find a contemplative set on the lovely melancholy of November, the month of “Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!”

01. From Sunset to Star Rise // Christina Rosetti

 Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not:

I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,

A silly sheep benighted from the fold,

A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.

Read the full poem here.

02. November Night // Adelaide Crapsey

Listen…

With faint dry sound,

Like steps of passing ghosts...

Read the full poem here.

03. The Thrush // Edward Thomas

When Winter's ahead,

What can you read in November

That you read in April

When Winter's dead?

Read the full poem here.

04. November for Beginners // Rita Dove

We stack twigs for burning

in glistening patches

but the rain won’t give.

Read the full poem here.

05. Beyond the Red River // Thomas McGrath

The birds have flown their summer skies to the south,

And the flower-money is drying in the banks of bent grass

Which the bumble bee has abandoned. We wait for a winter lion,

Body of ice-crystals and sombrero of dead leaves.

Read the full poem here.

06. The Death of Autumn // Edna St. Vincent Millay

When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,

And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind

Like agèd warriors westward, tragic, thinned...

Read the full poem here.

07. After Apple-Picking // Robert Frost

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

Read the full poem here

08. An Autumn Evening // Lucy Maud Montgomery

Dark hills against a hollow crocus sky

Scarfed with its crimson pennons, and below

The dome of sunset long, hushed valleys lie

Cradling the twilight...

Read the full poem here.

09. Tell Me a Story // Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood

By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard

The great geese hoot northward.

Read the full poem here.

10. Autumn // Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,

as if orchards were dying high in space.

Each leaf falls as if it were motioning "no."

Read the full poem here.