Tag Archives: national poetry month

What Our World Lacks, We Lack

I think Sommer Browning is one of the most talented young poets writing, and I know I am being a Bad Feminist, but she’s also super pretty, which doesn’t even seem fair, because COME ON HER POEMS ARE REALLY GOOD TOO. Anyway, we follow each other on Twitter and I think she’s a riot.

What We Have 

The earth’s crust
is like a cooking pancake
in a black iron skillet, exceptinstead of sitting on the stove
it shoots around the kitchen.
It’s amazing how sturdy it feels

on top, in our dim museums.
With just enough light to make out
a why, a what, and a how.

Ignoring how much we ignore,
like fish living in underground lakes ignore
ignoring their eyes to ignore the dark.

How desperate life is to live
that it shapes itself so readily to the world,
so that what our world lacks, we lack.

Video

Okra, and a slow boil, and things that cannot be taught

My buddy Kevin reading just one of his many wonderful food poems. If you haven’t read his work, do yourself a favor and check out any of his books and/or anthologized work.

Take a Step Out of Your House

Today, the first day of National Poetry Month, I reaped the ultimate reward of the used book collector. I opened up this dogeared Rilke traslation and out fluttered someone’s efforts. I haven’t read it yet, but I desperately want it to be good. I’m going to share a poem with you every day, and I think this is a good one to start with. So many people think they don’t “get” poetry, but take Ol Rainer’s advice on this one, and take a walk out of your comfort zone.

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The Way In

Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Robert Bly

 

Whoever you are, some evening take a step

out of your house, which you know so well.

Enormous space is near, your house lies where it begins,

whoever you are.

Your eyes find it hard to tear themselves

from the sloping threshold, but with your eyes

slowly, slowly, lift one black tree

up, so it stands against the sky: skinny, alone.

With that you have made the world. The world is immense

and like a word that is still growing in the silence.

In the same moment that your will grasps it,

your eyes, feeling its subtlety, will leave it.

You Must Not Let Peter Peter Out

We’re winding down National Poetry Month, yet I still have so many poems I want to share with you. Alas!
Sandra Beasley and I have near-missed each other innumerable times; she left UVA as I came, I left Ole Miss as she arrived, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. I enjoy her work and our mutual friends are convinced we’d get along, but so far, no dice. Anyway, please enjoy this funny and smart poem she composed.

Let Me Count the Waves

by Sandra Beasley

We must not look for poetry in poems.
—Donald Revell

You must not skirt the issue wearing skirts.
You must not duck the bullet using ducks.
You must not face the music with your face.
Headbutting, don’t use your head. Or your butt.
You must not use a house to build a home,
and never look for poetry in poems.
In fact, inject giraffes into your poems.
Let loose the circus monkeys in their skirts.
Explain the nest of wood is not a home
at all, but a blind for shooting wild ducks.
Grab the shotgun by its metrical butt;
aim at your Muse’s quacking, Pringled face.
It’s good we’re talking like this, face to face.
There should be more headbutting over poems.
Citing an 80s brand has its cost but
honors the teenage me, always in skirts,
showing my sister how to Be the Duck
with a potato-chip beak. Take me home,
Mr. Revell. Or make yourself at home
in my postbellum, Reconstruction face—
my gray eyes, my rebel ears, all my ducks
in the row of a defeated mouth. Poems
were once civil. But war has torn my skirts
off at the first ruffle, baring my butt
or as termed in verse, my luminous butt.
Whitman once made a hospital his home.
Emily built a prison of her skirts.
Tigers roamed the sad veldt of Stevens’s face.
That was the old landscape. All the new poems
map the two dimensions of cartoon ducks.
We’re young and green. We’re braces of mallards,
not barrels of fish. Shoot if you must but
Donald, we’re with you. Trying to save poems,
we settle and frame their ramshackle homes.
What is form? Turning art to artifice,
trading pelts for a more durable skirt.
Even urban ducklings deserve a home.
Make way. In the modern: Make way, Buttface.
A poem is coming through, lifting her skirt.

Pecking, Pausing

I’m trying to give you a hint about what my fantasy life update will be today, but also to honor National Poetry Month.

Peacock Display

by David Wagoner

He approaches her, trailing his whole fortune,
Perfectly cocksure, and suddenly spreads
The huge fan of his tail for her amazement.
Each turquoise and purple, black-horned, walleyed quill
Comes quivering forward, an amphitheatric shell
For his most fortunate audience: her alone.
He plumes himself. He shakes his brassily gold
Wings and rump in a dance, lifting his claws
Stiff-legged under the great bulge of his breast.
And she strolls calmly away, pecking and pausing,
Not watching him, astonished to discover
All these seeds spread just for her in the dirt.

A Quick, Nervous Bird

Billy Collins is one of my favorite living poets, mostly because he’s so, so funny. I don’t want to reduce his insightful, smart writing to just humor, but I think it’s great that he gets the joke of being a poet. There’s so much handwringing and black beret-wearing in the realm of Serious Literature, so I find it really refreshing.

ANYWAY, in honor of yet another day of National Poetry Month, I bring you A Paradelle for Susan. The paradelle is allegedly a formal poem from medieval France, similar to a villanelle, though actually, it was just a poem that Collins invented to make fun of excessively formal writing exercises. The best part? The writing establishment believed him and started writing their own paradelles. Please enjoy!

 

Paradelle for Susan

by Billy Collins 

I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Thinnest love, remember the quick branch.
Always nervous, I perched on your highest bird the.

It is time for me to cross the mountain.
It is time for me to cross the mountain.
And find another shore to darken with my pain.
And find another shore to darken with my pain.
Another pain for me to darken the mountain.
And find the time, cross my shore, to with it is to.

The weather warm, the handwriting familiar.
The weather warm, the handwriting familiar.
Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below.
Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below.
The familiar waters below my warm hand.
Into handwriting your weather flies you letter the from the.

I always cross the highest letter, the thinnest bird.
Below the waters of my warm familiar pain,
Another hand to remember your handwriting.
The weather perched for me on the shore.
Quick, your nervous branch flew from love.
Darken the mountain, time and find was my into it was with to to.

Part of Every Particle

Y’all seem to really be enjoying the poems I’ve been bringing you for National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d bring you this one. I worked with Malachi for awhile, and I didn’t know he was a Big Deal Poet, just that he was a sweet, gentle smoker prone to making excited, declarative statements in blooming prose and that he taught the kids things about dystopian futures. Enjoy this, his work.

This Gentle Surgery

by Malachi Black

Once more the bright blade of a morning breeze
glides almost too easily through me,

 

and from the scuffle I’ve been sutured to
some flap of me is freed: I am severed

 

like a simile: an honest tenor
trembling toward the vehicle I mean

 

to be: a blackbird licking half notes
from the muscled, sap-damp branches

 

of the sugar maple tree . . . though I am still
a part of any part of every particle

 

of me, though I’ll be softly reconstructed
by the white gloves of metonymy,

 

I grieve: there is no feeling in a cut
that doesn’t heal a bit too much.