Types of Themes in Poems
The theme of a poem lies in the meaning of the story it tells. It is tempting to think of a theme as the subject of the poem, but this is not always the case. Many poems have more than one theme, and they are closely related to the feelings the poet is trying to convey. For this reason, themes in poetry are as varied as the ups and downs we experience in life.
Love and Attachment
Love may possibly be the most popular theme in poetry because love is a complex emotion that resonates with readers. Love is usually coupled with another theme of the poem, such as love lost, true love, the love of a parent or even the love of a certain type of food or animal. The love of nature is a theme seen in many of Henry David Thoreau's poems, including one titled "I am the Autumnal Sun": "Sometimes a mortal feels in himself Nature -- not his Father but his Mother stirs within him, and he becomes immortal with her immortality." Love is a topic that any aspiring or professional poet can write about because we all have experienced it in one form or another.
Tragedy and Loss
Poems sometimes tell a story, and they aren't always stories with happy endings. In fact, many are quite the opposite. Tragedy and loss are types of themes in poetry. The subjects of these poems may be war, divorce, heartbreak, a friend moving away or even death. One of the most famous poems about death is Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," in which she describes her grave: "We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground."
God and Spirituality
God, heaven and spirituality are common themes in poems. In fact, the Bible holds some of the world's most famous poems. Spirituality is a very personal thing, and that is why many poets find it a good theme for their poetry. Such themes may touch on what happens during or after death, the meaning of fate, free will versus destiny, and deities. In the first stanza of "Batter My Heart, Three Person'd God (Holy Sonnet 14)," John Donne makes a plea to God: "Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new."
Milestones and Memories
Some poems are about the events and memories that make life so poignant, such as a baby's first birthday, a special holiday, a favorite season or simply the passing of time. Other themes in this category type include lessons learned from historical events -- whether major world events or simply something in the poet's own history, like the time he hit a home run at the championship game, or even the time he lost one shoe. Poems are not always solemn, and humorous poems are always fun to analyze. Jack Prelutsky is an American writer known for his humorous children's poems. One of his most popular poems is about a nose: "Be glad your nose is on your face, not pasted on some other place, for if it were where it is not, you might dislike your nose a lot."
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College: Learning Lab Tips on Critical Analysis -- Poetry
- Australian Poetry Library: Poems
- Poem Hunter: I Am the Autumnal Sun
- Poets.org: Because I Could Not Stop for Death
- Poets.org: Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face
- Poets.org: Batter My Heart, Three Person'd God (Holy Sonnet 14)