Poems About Family

Poems About Family – Discover the 15 Most Famous Examples

When it comes to the wide realm of poetic expression, there are poems about every topic under the sun. There are poems about love, poems about hate, and poems about grief. In addition to all of these kinds of poems, there are also poems about family. This will be the area we affix our eyes to throughout this article. We will have a look at 15 different family poems to see how they all approach the concept of family in vastly different ways. If you’re also into such things, keep reading!



A Few Poems About Family

Below, we are going to have a look at 15 poems about family, but it should first be mentioned that the whole concept of “family” is a rather nebulous one. What all does and does not count as family? If there is a poem about a spouse, is that a family poem? If there is a poem about having children, is that a family poem? If there is a poem about a marriage crumbling, is that a family poem? For this article, we will take all of these as potential poems about family.

The reason that this has been decided is because the family as a concept is not something inherently good or bad. Family can be a fantastic thing for some, but it can be terrible for others. Furthermore, different parts of a family can be the focus. A poem about a parent, a sibling, childhood around family, and so on can all be considered poems about family, or at least they will be considered as such for the purposes of this list.

Family Poems

We could even see the more modern concept of friends as family that you choose as a possible means of examining the family in a new poetic way. There are no real limits to this. And this is also why we will be having a look at these 15 poems about family and showing how they can be quite varied from one to the next. Some of them are also relatively old and others are pretty new. Ideas about family change with time, and perhaps they will also change with each of the specific poems below.


All In a Family Way (1800 – 1852) by Thomas Moore

Date Published1800 – 1852
Type of PoemLyric poem
Rhyme SchemeABAB
MeterIambic tetrameter

All In a Family Way is an interesting one as it is not as overtly a poem about family as the others on this list. Instead, it is concerned with financial difficulties, and the image of the family is conjured at one point. However, there are many other images produced along the way, and so this poem casts a far wider net than only being about the family itself. This does go to show how pervasive a financial crisis can be in that it affects everyone from the family to individual merchants. The poem is about finances, but finances are one of those things that every family in the world needs to deal with throughout their existence.

They do not all struggle, but many do, and they all have to prepare themselves for what money can do regardless of their social class.

Famous Poems About Family Thomas Moore (nd) by Unknown Artist; See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Children’s Hour (1860) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Date Published1860
Type of PoemLyric poem
Rhyme SchemeImperfect ABAB
TopicFather-child relationship

The Children’s Hour is one of the more beautiful instances of poems about family in that it is concerned with the relationship that exists between a loving father and his children. The poem is idyllic in its presentation of this familial bond between father and children. The poem uses an extended metaphor of invasion, of him being a castle, and his children breaching the walls. This can also be seen as a means of using the image of children to bring down one’s defenses that are usually otherwise always raised and at the ready. Children can bring us down to their level with relative ease, and that is not a bad thing.

Or at least the way that this poem has presented it to us, it cannot be a bad thing because it gives us something to live for.

Old Family Poems H.W. Longfellow (1868) by Julia Margaret Cameron; Julia Margaret Cameron, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Stick-Together Families (1917) by Edgar A. Guest

Date Published1917
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeAABB
TopicFamilial bonds

The Stick-Together Families is a poem that looks at family in a rather general sense. It is about how important families are, and the very first line tells us why this is the case. The poem tells us that families that stick together are happier than those that don’t, and the text also goes through a number of different aspects of family life and the societal factors that can affect us and tries to shame those who would pull themselves from their family. This is an example of the many poems about family that are immensely positive in their presentation of the idea of the family as a whole.

There are so many other poems about family that are also incredibly positive, and when family has been good to someone, it can indeed be a fantastic thing to have one’s family in one’s life.

Modern Family Poems Photo of poet Edgar Guest from his NBC Radio program (1935); NBC Radio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


a smile to remember (Between 1920 and 1994) by Charles Bukowski

Date PublishedBetween 1920 and 1994
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicDysfunctional families

a smile to remember is a poem that is, in some ways, the opposite of the above poem. The reason is because instead of being about how positive and wonderful the family can be, this one takes an unflinching look at the dark side of the family. It shows the domestic abuse and the dysfunction that can also affect many in a family. While many poems about family are very happy about the idea of the family, those poems may have come from those who had far happier families. The notion that a blood relative will automatically love you and care for you is something that many of us simply take for granted. We cannot fathom a parent being an enemy to us who harms us every day of our lives.

However, this is still part of family for innumerable people around the world and so, despite it being tragic, this is still a poem about family.

Family Poems Writers A sample of Charles Bukowski’s books published by Black Sparrow Press (2019); Tintin1994, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Mother to Son (1922) by Langston Hughes

Date Published1922
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicA mother’s advice

Mother to Son is a poem that shows us what a mother talks to her son about. It is essentially a monologue from the mother’s perspective, and it focuses on the idea of perseverance in the face of oppression. The poem uses an early-20th-century iteration of African American Vernacular English because the speaker is an African American mother, and she is trying to convey to her son that he will face hardships in his life thanks to his race. He will struggle, as she has struggled, but he must never give up in the face of these kinds of hardships, and he must instead face them down and never allow them to win over him.

It’s since come to be seen as one of the best-known poems by this poet.

Importance of Family Poems Langston Hughes as a baby, held by his mother Caroline (“Carrie”) Mercer Langston (1901); See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Family Court (1931 – 1971) by Ogden Nash

Date Published1931 – 1971
Type of PoemHumorous poem
Rhyme SchemeAABB
TopicFamilial bonds

Family Court is a very short poem, as were many poems by Odgen Nash, and it quite simply states that we would have an easier time in the world at large if our own families were easier to be around. While there is nothing else there, it is still a poem that can resonate with many of us. Families can be a source of positivity, but they can often harm us, and the poem zeroes in on this idea when it tells us that we would probably have better lives in general and would not have such difficulties in our non-familial lives if we could also rely on our families more often.

There are families that do have this kind of reliance, but there are few than there should be.

Writing Family Poems Ogden Nash at Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California (1949) by Los Angeles Daily News; Los Angeles Daily News, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Family Reunion (Between 1932 and 1963) by Sylvia Plath

Date PublishedBetween 1932 and 1963
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicFamily relationships

Family Reunion is a poem that continues the kind of vivid imagery for which Sylvia Plath was so well-known. In this case, the poem describes the way in which family reunions bring all sorts of people together, and many of those people are not even all that familiar to you. The ultimate conclusion of the poem points out that Plath, and those who feel like her, need to shed their own identities to be able to survive within this kind of large family setting, and this is something that many will understand. The family is not always a particularly understanding place, especially when you do or believe something that is counter to what they all do.

It is a poem that shuns the positivity of the family in favor of a grimmer reality.

Sad Family Poems Sylvia Plath, sitting sideways to the camera (before 1963) by Giovanni Giovannetti; Giovanni Giovannetti/Grazia Neri, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


my father moved through dooms of love (1940) by ee cummings

Date Published1940
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicElegy to a father

my father moved through dooms of love is not a standard poem about family. Instead, it is an elegy. It was written by the poet in commemoration of his father, and it shows the respect that cummings had for his father now that he has passed from this world. While we may not necessarily see poems of this nature as more traditional poems about family, there is the harsh reality of the fact that our family members do eventually die. We either see them die ourselves or they see us die. Those are the two options provided they remain in our lives.

This poem is intimately aware of that reality, and because of this, it is a poem that many will likely understand, especially those who have lost family.

Family Poems Examples E.E. Cummings (1953) by Walter Albertin; Walter Albertin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Human Family (Between 1951 and 2014) by Maya Angelou

Date PublishedBetween 1951 and 2014
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicHumanity as a family

Human Family is not a poem about family in the traditional sense. It is actually a poem about humanity as a whole. The poem focuses on how there are many differences between humans, and how we are all different from one another, but it ultimately chooses to focus on the similarities between us. We are all positioned as one great big human family in this poem. We may not be as closely connected as the more traditional idea of the family, but we are all connected with one another in a way that many of us do not necessarily wish to acknowledge.

We need to see the humanity within everyone else to realize that we have a lot more in common than we have often been led to believe.

Poems About Family Examples Gallery of portrait photographs of Maya Angelou at Fresno State College (1972) by Ryan Marty; Bee Photos by Ryan Marty, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Family (Between 1963 and 2019) by Mary Oliver

Date PublishedBetween 1963 and 2019
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicThe natural world as family

The Family is, like the above, a poem that does not take a traditional stance towards the idea of family. In this case, it focuses on the natural world. It shows how we are interconnected with one another. Not only humans, but everything. All living things are ultimately related to all other living things as we all come from the same basic organisms. We are one with each other, and it does not matter what kind of an animal we are, because we should look toward our affinity with others rather than fixating on our differences.

The final lines of the poem directly call us out for fleeing from these members of our family that we do not appear to wish to consort with; the family that is not human.


Mid-Term Break (1966) by Seamus Heaney

Date Published1966
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicFamily tragedy

Mid-Term Break is not a standard instance of the many poems about family. Instead, this is a poem that focuses on tragedy. It is a poem that presents us with the narrative of the speaker coming home from school to attend the funeral of his child brother. It is an unhappy poem, but one that is stunning in its presentation of the shock and mourning that comes with a tragedy in the family. Not all the times in a family are positive, even in families where the family is a source for goodness, because death will eventually come. It is a dark thing, but such accidents and realities happen to us every day of our existence.

We need to learn to deal with these kinds of horrible aspects of the real world if we wish to survive it.

Emotional Poems About Family Seamus Heaney, Irish poet (1982) by Bernard Gotfryd; Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


This Be the Verse (1971) by Philip Larkin

Date Published1971
Type of PoemLyric poem
Rhyme SchemeABAB
MeterIambic tetrameter
TopicEmotional baggage

This Be the Verse is a poem that does not play around with the idea of family being a good thing. The very first line sets the tone by swearing, and using the term to inform us that the family is a group that gives us our emotional baggage. The family is an entity that provides us with our trauma, and the poem ultimately tends by telling us to break the cycle and to not have a child at all. This poem is concerned with the fighting and the ugliness that takes place between people in a family, and it is not a poem that wants us to see the family as something that could possibly be redeemed.

It is an unrepentant negative in our lives.

Modern Poems About Family Philip Larkin (1984) by Humphrey Ocean; Humphrey Ocean, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Plenty (2001) by Isobel Dixon

Date Published2001
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone

Plenty is a poem about childhood. As children, we are often at our most connected to our families. We quite literally need them to not starve, so they play a rather large role. And this poem explores childhood poverty. The speaker grew up in a poor household, and she and her siblings would often be difficult with her mother and try to sneak in the few bits of luxury that they could. It is a reflective piece because as the speaker looks back, she holds nostalgia for that poverty and the togetherness that she felt even if she is doing a lot better in her life as an adult.

Family forms an integral part of our existence in this world, and this poem shows us how that is not necessarily always positive, but it certainly can be.


A Tribute to Family (Between 2007 and 2023) by Michelle Moran

Date PublishedBetween 2007 and 2023
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeNone
TopicThe importance of family

A Tribute to Family is a poem that blends both religious imagery and the family together. It states that God created the family, and so it was created with a positive place in the world. It is a thing that presents us with a strong bond that teaches us, loves us, and helps us. It is a poem that wants the family to be a good thing, and the connection to the divine aids this idea of the family along.

It is a somewhat lengthy poem, but it needs its duration to also focus on numerous aspects of the family, such as different members of the family and the duties within the family.


A Family Is Like a Circle (2023) by Nicole M. O’Neil

Date Published2023
Type of PoemFree verse
Rhyme SchemeABCB
TopicFamily relationships

A Family Is Like a Circle is the most recent poem in this selection of poems about family, and it is one of those that is a lot more positive about family in general. It uses a repetitive structure in which many of the stanzas make use of a simile that compares the family to some positive thing, such as a circle that never ends or the stars that are always up above us. This is a poem about family that will make many happy. It is idyllic and beautiful. It is the image of a perfect family that has your back and is willing to care for you and to only hope for the best that could possibly befall you. It may be unrealistic to many out there, but to those with a family experience that has been wholly positive, it can be a very resonant text.

Famous Family Poems


Poems can be about anything, and this article shows that even more than usual because while they can all be argued to be poems about family, they were also all quite different from one another. Family is a very broad category that, on its own, does not mean much, but it can be adapted to look at far smaller and more specific intricacies of family life. Hopefully, these 15 family poems have given you a good overview of what can be done in poetry on the topic of families, but there are doubtless many more out there that could be enjoyed by those who go looking for them.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Are Poems About Family?

This is a very broad category of poem because this simply refers to a poem that is, in some way, concerned with family. This means that the many poems about family that are out in the world could examine any number of topics relating to family. Family includes the good and the bad of family life, family values, individual family members, and so on. There is no real end to the possibilities of what could be in a poem about family.


What Are the Characteristics of Family Poems?

There are no universal characteristics that can be associated with poems about family. Some family poems make use of more positive or more negative aspects, and as such, the kind of language used can vary. However, we could likely assume that if a poem about family discussed the positives of family life, then it would probably use language that is more upbeat and praiseworthy than a poem about something like abuse within the family environment. It entirely depends on the poem in question.


What Kind of Poem Is Most Commonly Used for the Structure of Family Poems?

There is no type of poem that is used in poems about family more than any other. A poem about family could be a narrative poem, a sonnet, a lyric poem, and so on. There are so many different types of poems in the world that attempting to contain them within family poems alone would be impossible. However, the kind of tone that a poem has can often justify the use of one type of poem over another.


What Are Some of the Most Famous Family Poems?

There are many poems about family out there, but some of the most notable include poems like Mother to Son (1922) by Langston Hughes, my father moved through dooms of love (1940) by ee cummings, and This Be the Verse (1971) by Philip Larkan. However, there are many other family poems that could not be included in this brief list or the article as a whole.


Who Are Some of the Most Famous Poets Who Wrote Poems About Family?

Many poets have written about family, and they include poets like Charles Bukowski, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, ee cummings, Philip Larkan, and many others. It can also depend on what is and what is not considered to be a poem about family, but family members, issues, and such have been used by many poets over the centuries. So, there are far more that you can find if you search for them.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Poems About Family – Discover the 15 Most Famous Examples.” Art in Context. January 6, 2024. URL: https://artincontext.org/poems-about-family/

van Huyssteen, J. (2024, 6 January). Poems About Family – Discover the 15 Most Famous Examples. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/poems-about-family/

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Poems About Family – Discover the 15 Most Famous Examples.” Art in Context, January 6, 2024. https://artincontext.org/poems-about-family/.

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