Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen is undoubtedly the best contemporary fantasy series I've read. Or rather am reading, given that these things tend to be pretty neverending – I'm currently about a quarter of the way through book six, The Bonehunters.
At the head of each chapter and part of each book there's a quotation from the world of the Malazan Empire. The vast majority of these are forgettable, and, if I wasn't so damnably anally retentive, I might skip them. But I am so I don't.
I was, however, fairly blown away by the poem that kicks off chapter 22 of Midnight Tides (book five). I quote it here for your reading pleasure.
An old man emerged from the ditch, a creature
Of mud and wild autumn winds capering
Like a hare across a bouldered field, across
And through the stillness of time unhinged
That sprawls patient and unexpectant in the
Place where battle lies spent, unmoving and
Never again moving bodies strewn and
Death-twisted like lost languages tracking
Contorted glyphs on a barrow door, and he
Read well the aftermath, the disarticulated script
Rent and dissolute the pillars of self toppled
Like termite towers all spilled out round his
Dancing feet, and he shouted in gleeful
Revelation the truth he'd found, in these
Red-fleshed pronouncements – 'There is peace!'
He shrieked. 'There is peace!' and it was
No difficult thing, where I sat in the saddle
Above salt-rimed horseflesh to lift my crossbow
Aim and loose the quarrel, skewering the madman
To his proclamation. 'Now,' I said, in the
Silence that followed, 'Now, there is peace.'
The Lay of Skinner
Fisher kel Tath