Evening Poetry, September 11

Photograph from September 11 

By Wislawa Szymborska

Translated By Clare Cavanagh

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them   
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

You can find this poem in Monologue of a Dog.

Poetry is for YOU (plus, a GIVEAWAY!)

I know plenty of people who are bookworms but not poetry lovers. Maybe they were forced to read poetry written in archaic language when they were in high school and then asked to write a dreaded analysis. That kills it for so many people!

Or maybe they just think poetry is full of flowery language that they can’t understand or relate to. No one wants to feel stupid, so poetry gets shelved along with old yearbooks. Let me just say, this is not the point of poetry at all! It’s not meant to be only for those “brainy, heady types”. Poetry is for everyone!

For me, poetry is a breath of fresh air. It’s a way to connect emotion, intuition, and mystery with words. It’s fluid and freeing and touches me deeply in a way that prose cannot.

For those of you whose interest in poetry has been blighted by education’s withering hand, I entreat you to try this: Go to your local library or bookstore. The children’s poetry is often an easy, accessible entry point. Pick up a book of poetry and open it. If one poem doesn’t appeal to you, turn a few pages and try another one. If that particular poet doesn’t appeal to you, set that book down and reach for something else. If you feel brave, find the grown-up poetry section and repeat.

I promise: there is poetry for you, for where you are at right now, and for the kind of language your heart speaks. You don’t have to decipher the meaning, write an analysis or attempt to understand every line. You just have to listen with your heart and see if the poet is speaking to you.

If you’re brand new to poetry, head to The Poetry Foundation’s website to read more poetry than you can imagine. Here are a few poets you might want to start with:

Shel Silverstein

Mary Oliver

Jack Prelutsky

Maya Angelou

Ogden Nash

Wendell Berry

OK, about the giveaway! **U.S. Residents ONLY** I am giving away a brand new copy of Plough Publishing’s poetry book The Heart’s Necessities to one reader. Read my review here. To enter: 1. Subscribe to this blog. 2. Follow me on Instagram. I will choose one reader at random on Friday May 31st. Good luck, readers!

Evening Poetry, May 11

This poem can be found in the March 2019 edition of Poetry Magazine.

Maybe my most important identity is being a son

by Raymond Antrobus

my mother

asking how

to open a tab

on her laptop,

to email a photo,

calling to ask–

can you change

the lightbulb

at the top of the stairs?

my mother

spending hours

helping me find

a doctor’s form,

a hearing aid battery,

anything

misplaced, my mother

who keeps leaving

her keys in the doors

or on the walls,

who keeps saying

I might have to change

the locks, mother

of self-sufficiency,

of beads and trolleys,

of handlebars,

short-tempered

spiteful mother,

mother of resistance,

licorice and seaweed

on the table,

lonely mother,

mother needs-no-man,

mother deserves my cooking,

deserves a long sleep,

a cuppa tea, a garden

of lavender mothers,

all her heads up,

mother’s tooth

falls out, mother

dyes her hair,

don’t say graying

say sea salt

and cream, remedy,

immortal mother.

You can find the poetry of Raymond Antrobus in the collection To Sweeten Bitter.

Evening Poetry, May 5

How to Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry


Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.   

Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   

Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

You can find this poem at the Poetry Foundation and in the collection Given: Poems.