1. "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins. Billy Collins quickly became one of my favorite poets after a friend introduced me to his work. I've heard him criticized for essentially being too accessible, (which drives me utterly insane, but that's a tangent for another day); this poem helps explain why I think that is the dumbest accusation you can lay on a poet--or any kind of artist for that matter. You can read it here.
2. "If I Should Have a Daughter" by Sarah Kay. I'm a little bit of a Ted Talk junkie, and it's how I found Sarah Kay. The first time I saw her perform "If I Should Have a Daughter," I had goosebumps, and got teary-eyed more than once. Do yourself a favor, and watch it. (Side note: Billy Collins, above, also presents a few of his poems in a Ted Talk. I just need to do a post on all my favorite talks!).
3. "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath. I'm not sure this poem even needs an introduction, or that I could give it an adequate one if I tried. What I love most about it is its darkness, rawness, and vulnerability. That last stanza is probably one of the most well-known in poetry. Read it here.
4. "Keeping Things Whole" by Mark Strand. There are such giant thoughts about life, identity, and our relationship with the world around us in 17 lines. There's almost a sense of being an intruder in the world, in your own life, and that your presence causes a fracturing in the natural order of things. That makes it sound depressing, and it really isn't. Oh, just go read it. :)
5. "Illusions" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I've got such an emotional connection to this poem; it was a go-to source of comfort after my father passed away, and I revisit it frequently when life feels too heavy. Find it here.
Honorable mentions go to "Litany" by Billy Collins, "Catchlight" by Kirby Knowlton, and "Holy! Holy! Holy!" (unpublished) by Rick Stasi.
I'm grateful to the Poetry Foundation for having so many of these great works available to read & link to for free. If you're looking to explore poetry and find some favorite poems of your own, the Poetry Foundation is a great place to start. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/