Adrienne Su

The Drinking of Tea

April 15, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

In honor of National Poetry Month, today’s post is a poem courtesy of American Life in Poetry.

Introduction by Kwame Dawes: Sometimes a poem achieves its beauty by a certain fixation on a small detail that is not burdened with the need to be ​“important”. Here, in ​“Oolong”, Adrienne Su creates her own tea ritual, a meditative moment to reflect on the ordinary, the quotidian. Tea and the drinking of tea, treated to such careful study, become a way to think of life as it moves from strong to weak and back again.

Oolong

From strong to weak, a single cup
can carry me from waking up
to the mild hush of the bedtime snack.
Fresh hot water brings it back
from depletion, or threat of such.

What ancient genius gained so much
from roasting pieces of a shrub?
I watch it change, as daylight flags,
from strong to weak,

ending with the faded touch
of flavor that was once robust.
faintness helps the mind relax,
but part of me remains perplexed
that every day unfurls as it must,
from strong to weak.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Adrienne Su, “Oolong” from Peach State, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

National Poetry Month

The Solace of Poetry

April 01, 2022

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and almost every year I write a blog post to promote it. Why? Because since my teens, reading poetry has brought both happiness and solace—a simple pleasure I like to share here on Catching Happiness. 

And also I need the reminder to include more poetry in my reading life. I usually read one or two books of poetry each year, and I still subscribe to a weekly email from American Life in Poetry (see link below), but National Poetry Month reminds me to read more.

For the poetry curious

If you’re curious about poetry, or would like to get back to reading it, here are a few easy ways to get started:

Sign up for Poem-a-Day here

If a poem a day is too much, subscribe to American Life in Poetry’s once-a-week poem newsletter. 

Listen to the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf podcast.

Enjoy some Spring Poems—classic and contemporary poems to celebrate the advent of spring. 

Author and blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel) has written several posts on poetry, including this one. You might also enjoy hearing her discussion of poetry with her friend and poet Dave Harrity on Episode 75 of What Should I Read Next?

Check my post “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” for links to apps and other poetry resources.

And for anyone whose interest in the art and culture of Ukraine has been piqued, here are two poets whose work I’ve recently come across: Ilya Kaminsky (That Map of Bone and Opened Valves) and Serhiy Zhadan (read two of his poems here).

If you’re a poetry lover, what are your favorite ways to experience poetry?

Lisel Mueller

Simple Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 30, 2021



Reading poetry is a simple pleasure that I don’t indulge in as often as I’d like. Even though I enjoy it, it sometimes feels too “hard.” I know a lot of people feel that way, or they think poetry is boring or confusing. And it certainly can be. But it can also be funny, sweet, thought provoking, and powerful. Witness the furor caused by Amanda Gorman’s poem from this year’s presidential inauguration. 


April is National Poetry Month and in honor of that, I’m sharing a poem below, and a few links to other resources related to National Poetry Month or poetry in general. If you have any favorite poems or poets, please do share in the comments below!  


30 Ways to Celebrate the 25th Annual National Poetry Month at Home or Online

 

It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’


Finding Solace in Poetry


American Life in Poetry has a new editor and a new look, and I still think it’s one of the best ways to get a taste of modern poetry.

 

Knopf Doubleday offers a free poem-a-day service during the month of April (click here to sign up for next year) and occasional news about the poets they publish.


Today’s poem, with an introduction by Ted Kooser:


It’s not at all unusu­al for a poet who’s been impressed by some­one else’s poem to think, ​“I wish I’d writ­ten THAT!” I’ve nev­er read a poem by the late Lisel Mueller — and I’ve read near­ly all of them — when I didn’t feel just that way. Mueller died at age 96 this past Feb­ru­ary [2020]. Here’s the poem that stands as an epi­graph to her Pulitzer Prize win­ning book, Alive Togeth­er: New and Select­ed Poems, pub­lished by Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

 

In Passing


How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1996 by Lisel Mueller, “In Passing,” from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems, (Louisiana State University Press, 1996). Poem reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press. Introduction copyright © 2021 by The Poetry Foundation.

 

 

Amanda Gorman

If We're Brave Enough To Be It

January 22, 2021

I was in my car Wednesday when on the radio I heard the voice of 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Her passionate reading thrilled me and brought tears to my eyes. Apparently she touched and inspired many people that day, as I’ve come across many quotes and memes on social media sharing her words. For me, the last few lines were the most meaningful:

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it.


Click here if you’d like to read her poem in full. Or click below to see her recite it. 



May we all be brave enough to be the light.


 

 

Dorianne Laux

Perpetual Kindness

September 25, 2020

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Tolstoy said, “Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” I found this poem by Dorianne Laux in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, CT. The poet, whose most recent book of poetry is Only As The Day Is Long, lives in Maine.


For the Sake of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward anothera stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even 
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it mus have once called to them
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1994 by Dorianne Laux, “For the Sake of Strangers,” from What We Carry, (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1994). Poem reprinted by permission of Dorianne Laux and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. 

4th of July

Opening the Gate to Joy

July 03, 2020

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I was once on Deer Isle, Maine, on the Fourth of July, and attended their own town parade. Deer Isle isn’t big enough to mount a very long parade, so they ran it past us twice, first down to the water, and then back up. And we applauded as much with our second viewing as we did with the first. July 4th parades are a wonderful institution. And here’s a parade for you, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who lives in southwest Colorado.  Her newest book, Hush, has just been published by Middle Creek Press.

In the Fourth of July Parade

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “In the Fourth of July Parade,” (2019 ). Poem reprinted by permission of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy 4th of July!


Jonathan Greene

Finding Solace in Poetry

April 10, 2020


Lost in the frenzy of coping with the Covid-19 situation is the fact that April is National Poetry Month in the United States. Several times on Catching Happiness, I’ve posted about incorporating poetry into one’s life in simple, non-intimidating ways. (See “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” or “10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month.”)

In fact, now seems like an excellent time to return to reading poetry. I find it calming and soothing—and slowing down is necessary in order to fully appreciate the layers of meaning in many poems. In particular, I’ve been meaning to revisit some of Robert Frost’s poetry after visiting one of his homes in September of 2019.

In the meantime, here’s a poem, courtesy of americanlifeinpoetry.org, to remind us that even in the face of  “interesting times,” some rituals remain.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: That sage curse, “May you live in interesting times,” has been upon us for the past few years, but here a Kentucky poet, Jonathan Greene, offers us some reassurance that there is order in the world. Greene has a special talent for, and love of, short poems, and this is a good example of his work. This poem is from his most recent book, Afloat, published by Broadstone Books.

The Return

We are heartened
when each year
the barn swallows
return.

They find their old nests,
teach their young to fly,
lining up on the barn roof
for their first flight.

They remind us,
for now, some rituals
of this good earth
continue.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Jonathan Greene, “The Return,” from Afloat, (Broadstone Books, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Greene and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Holly J. Hughes

What the Mind Wants

November 04, 2019

Photo by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

Guess what? There’s a special Catching Happiness milestone coming up this week. I normally post poems and quotes on Fridays, but since I plan to write a special post for Friday, I’m sharing this lovely poem today instead.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here's a poem by Holly J. Hughes, who lives and writes in Washington state, about finding joy in what's before us. I found it in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, CT. Ms. Hughes' most recent book of poetry is Hold Fast, (Empty Bowl Press, 2019).

Mind Wanting More

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade
pulled not quite down. Otherwise,
clouds. Sea rippled here and
there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has—
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses—as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren't enough,
as if joy weren't strewn all around.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Holly J. Hughes, “Mind Wanting More,” from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, (Grayson Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Holly J. Hughes and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

California

California Hills--Landscape of My Childhood

August 23, 2019


When I read this poem I had to share it, because it so perfectly captures for me the look and feel of the area in which I spent my growing-up summers, an area that I love deeply and find beautiful, in ways that may seem puzzling to those who come from more well-watered areas.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Let’s hope that by the time this column appears all fires in California have been extinguished. I wanted to offer you a poem that shows us what that beautiful but arid state can look like before it’s caught fire. The poet, Dana Gioia, served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and has been a friend to, and advocate for, poetry for many years. This poem appeared in the anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, from Scarlet Tanager Books.

California Hills in August

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1986 by Dana Gioia, “California Hills in August,” from Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, (Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan, Eds., Scarlet Tanager Books, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Dana Gioia and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Peg Duthie. Ease.

Making It Look Easy

July 12, 2019


Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: There’s nothing that can’t be a good subject for a poem. The hard part is to capture something in such a way that it becomes engaging and meaningful. Here's a poem from the Summer 2018 issue of Rattle, by Peg Duthie of Tennessee, in which two very different experiences are pushed up side by side. Her most recent book of poetry is Measured Extravagance, (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012).

Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis


The commentator’s rabbiting on and on
about how it’s so easy for Roger, resentment
thick as butter still in a box. Yet word
from those who've done their homework
is how the man loves to train—how much
he relishes putting in the hours
just as magicians shuffle card after card,
countless to mere humans
but carefully all accounted for.
At hearing “luck” again, I stop
until my hands relax their clutch
on the cone from which a dozen more
peonies are to materialize. I make it look easy
to grow a garden on top of a sheet
of fondant, and that’s how it should appear:
as natural and as meant-to-be
as the spin of a ball from the sweetest spot
of a racquet whisked through the air like a wand.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Peg Duthie, “Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis,” from Rattle, (Vol. 24, No. 2, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Peg Duthie and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Poetry

Waving

April 26, 2019

Photo by Alistair MacRobert on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Stuart Dybek was born in Chicago, where there are at least a couple of hundred hotels a poet might stroll past, looking up at the windows. Here's a poem from his book, Streets in Their Own Ink, from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Curtains
Sometimes they are the only thing beautiful
about a hotel.
Like transients,
come winter they have a way of disappearing,
disguised as dirty light,
limp beside a puttied pane.
Then some April afternoon
a roomer jacks a window open,
 a breeze intrudes,
resuscitates memory,
and suddenly they want to fly,
while men,
looking up from the street,
are deceived a moment
into thinking
a girl in an upper story
is waving.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Stuart Dybek, “Curtains,” (Streets in Their Own Ink, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2004. Poem reprinted by permission of Stuart Dybek and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Marge Saiser

We Had All Time

April 05, 2019

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Marge Saiser, who lives in Nebraska, is a fine and a very lucky poet. With the passing of each year her poems have gotten stronger and deeper. That's an enviable direction for a writer. This poem was published in The Briar Cliff Review and it looks back wisely and wistfully over a rich life. Saiser's most recent book is The Woman in the Moon from the Backwaters Press.

Weren’t We Beautiful

growing into ourselves
earnest and funny we were
angels of some kind, smiling visitors
the light we lived in was gorgeous
we looked up and into the camera
the ordinary things we did with our hands
or how we turned and walked
or looked back we lifted the child
spooned food into his mouth
the camera held it, stayed it
there we are in our lives as if
we had all time
as if we would stand in that room
and wear that shirt those glasses
as if that light
without end
would shine on us
and from us.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Marjorie Saiser, "Weren't We Beautiful," from The Briar Cliff Review, (Vol. 30, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

National Poetry Month

It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’

April 01, 2019


Since my romantic youth, I’ve had an interest in poetry. My fantastic creative writing teacher, Marie Tollstrup, taught us to read and write poetry, and a love for the form has stayed with me. I’m not truly “educated” about poetry—but I know what I like! April is National Poetry Month, so what better time to rekindle my love affair with poetry?

Many people are intimidated by poetry, think they don’t like it, or don’t understand it. But if you enjoy listening to music with words, you enjoy poetry! At least one form of it.

If you’d like to explore poetry, here are a few simple ways you might enjoy dipping into this art form:

I’ve been enjoying The Slowdown podcast, by Tracy K. Smith, the current U.S. Poet Laureate. During each short (six minutes or less!) episode, Smith “delivers a different way to see the world—through poetry.” Listen while you drink your morning coffee or tea. Smith’s voice is lovely and soothing, and I love how she weaves together everyday life experiences and poems.

I’m going to check out from my library at least one of the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets editions. Aren’t they beautiful? 

This is a good explanation of haiku, with examples. (I love haiku!)  

Poetry apps are also a good and quick way to get a bite-sized taste of poetry. You can read, write, or listen to poetry on your phone! See Book Riot’s list of poetry apps here. These were the most intriguing to me:

Poemhunter (Android and iOS) has a library of 1.4 million poems.

Wings—Poems & Poets for the Love of Poetry. Unfortunately for me, Wings doesn’t have an Android version, because it looks like fun. You can read poetry, read about poetry, combine your own photos with poems, etc. 

For Haiku lovers, check out THF Haiku, The Haiku Foundation’s portable library of haiku. 

Hear poetry read by great actors by downloading The Poetry Hour (iOS).

Read previous Catching Happiness posts on National Poetry Month:





I’m sorry to say I’ve gotten away from reading poetry on a regular basis, so I appreciate the reminder of National Poetry Month. I know I have an unread book or two of poetry somewhere on my shelves, and, of course, the library beckons. Reading (and sometimes writing) poetry brings me pleasure, and I encourage you to give it a try if it’s something you’d like to explore. During the month of April, I’ll share a few poems on Fridays, too.

If you enjoy poetry, please share the name of your favorite poem or poet in the comments below!

P.S. If you enjoyed the Action for Happiness Mindful March calendar, click here for Active April

Emily Grosholz

What Will You Miss When You’re Gone?

December 21, 2018


Introduction by Ted Kooser: Do others of you think about what you'll miss when you leave this life? For me it will be the great skies over my part of the world. Heres Emily Grosholzs take on this, from her new book The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, from Word Galaxy Press. She lives and teaches in Pennsylvania.

Here and There


What will I miss when I'm gone?
The squeak of the wheelbarrow's wheel,
Grace note that strikes with every slow
Revolution, and then the hushed, rusty
Answer in triplets from the invisible
Bird in the lackluster maples.

Branches, weeds, last autumn’s leavings
Raked from the moss-eaten pads, beds,
Borders, still untrimmed hedges.
Also the silent pale blue bells
Of my half dozen borage, ringed,
Self-seeded from the woods.

Daylilies my mother liked to set
Roadside in June. Pale Greek anemones
She never traveled far enough
To find wild, as I did once or twice, but
Maybe I'll bring her some, if over there
Windflowers blow beside a cloudy sea.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Emily Grosholz, “Here and There (from “June”), from The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, (Word Galaxy Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Emily Grosholz and the publisher. Introduction copyright©2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.



John Foy

A Walk in the Woods

August 24, 2018


Introduction by Ted Kooser: John Foy is a poet living in New York whose book, Night Vision, published by St. Augustines Press, was the winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. I especially like this leisurely, conversational account of a walk in the woods that just at the end lifts its eyes and looks into a deeper place beyond the particulars.

Woods

I took the dog and went to walk
in the auditorium of the woods,
but not to get away from things.
It was our habit, that was all,
a thing we did on summer days,
and much there was to listen to.
A slight wind came and went
in three birches by the pond.
A crow uphill was going on
about the black life it led,
and a brown creeper went creeping up
a brown trunk methodically
with no record of ever having
been understood by anyone.
A woodpecker was working out
a deep hole from the sound of it
in a stand of dead trees up there.
And then a jay, much put upon,
complained about some treachery
it may or may not have endured,
though most are liars anyway.
The farther in, the quieter,
till only the snapping of a stick
broke the silence we were in.
The dog stood still and looked at me,
the woods by then already dark.
Much later, on the porch at night,
I heard the owl, an eldritch thing.
The dog, still with me, heard it too,
a call that came from where wed been,
and where we would not be again.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by John Foy, “Woods,” from Night Vision, (St. Augustine's Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of John Foy and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Birds

Prophets of Spring

April 06, 2018

Pterzian at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I can identify most of the birds that live in my part of Nebraska, but I can't tell one warbler from the next. But Kevin Cole, in his new book, Late Summer Plums, from Scurfpea Publishing, has identified a warbler for us. The archives of this column, at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, has another of Cole's poems, about watching a deer cross the Missouri. Kevin Cole lives in South Dakota.

Audubon Warblers

The Audubon warblers keep the time of their coming,
Arriving on stillness of a storm,
Their breast and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud,
Rumps and throats as yellow as blooms of buckwheat.

They throng this evening in the newly-leaved
Tender-tipped canopies nervously weaving
Through the catkins like frantic prophets
Bearing some divine prophecy of the coming spring.

I wait, hoping for nothing too grave:
News of ruinous lands, of cutting and swarming locusts,
Of withering vines and empty granaries,
Of fasting, weeping, and rending of garments.

No, I wait for lighter fare:
Perhaps a promise that the green heron will nest
On the west end of the slough and that the ironweed
And wood lily will once again together bloom.

This would be an ample prophecy for another year—
This and a promise to keep the time of their coming.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Kevin L. Cole, “Audubon Warblers,” from Late Summer Plums, (Scurfpea Publishing, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Kevin L. Cole and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Einstein

Falling

February 16, 2018

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: It seems that love poems have a better chance of being passed around from person to person than other poems, and here’s one by Richard M. Berlin, who lives in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, that we’d like to pass along to you.

Einstein’s Happiest Moment

Einstein’s happiest moment
occurred when he realized
a falling man falling
beside a falling apple
could also be described
as an apple and a man at rest
while the world falls around them.

And my happiest moment
occurred when I realized
you were falling for me,
right down to the core, and the rest,
relatively speaking, has flown past
faster than the speed of light.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Richard M. Berlin from his most recent book of poems, Secret Wounds, BkMk Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Richard M. Berlin and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Happiness

Not the Same Happiness

January 12, 2018


Introduction by Ted Kooser: This is the sixth poem we've published by Peter Everwine, which testifies to how much I admire his writing. How fine it is when a memory arrives from the past to surprise us into happiness. Everwine lives in California, and his most recent book is Listening Long and Late from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Day

We walked at the edge of the sea, the dog,
still young then, running ahead of us.

Few people. Gulls. A flock of pelicans
circled beyond the swells, then closed
their wings and dropped head-long
into the dazzle of light and sea. You clapped
your hands; the day grew brilliant.

Later we sat at a small table
with wine and food that tasted of the sea.

A perfect day, we said to one another,
so that even when the day ended
and the lights of houses among the hills
came on like a scattering of embers,
we watched it leave without regret.

That night, easing myself toward sleep,
I thought how blindly we stumble ahead
with such hope, a light flares briefly—Ah, Happiness!
then we turn and go on our way again.

But happiness, too, goes on its way,
and years from where we were, I lie awake
in the dark and suddenly it returns—
that day by the sea, that happiness,

though it is not the same happiness,
not the same darkness.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Peter Everwine, “The Day,” from New Letters, (Vol 83, no. 1, 2016-17). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Ada Limon

You Say, I Say

December 20, 2017

Photo by Ciprian Boiciuc on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Sit for an hour in any national airport and you’ll see how each of us differs from others in a million ways, and of course that includes not only our physical appearances but our perceptions and opinions. Here’s a poem by Ada Limón, who lives in Kentucky, about difference and the difficulty of resolution.

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Ada Limón, whose most recent book of poems is Sharks in the Rivers, Milkweed Editions, 2010. Poem reprinted from Poecology, Issue 1, 2011, by permission of Ada Limón and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

April Lindner

A Will Greater Than Its Own

October 25, 2017

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Several years ago I published a children’s book about a bag in the wind, so it’s no wonder I love this poem by April Lindner, who lives in Pennsylvania. Once you start noticing these windblown bags, you see them everywhere. Her most recent book is This Bed Our Bodies Shaped (Able Muse Press, 2012).

Carried Away

One rainy night we sat in traffic
and, overtired in back, you saw
a wind-whipped grocery bag afloat
beyond the clutch of jagged branches,
swept by gusts and whirled in eddies.
A sudden downdraft swooped it earthward,
where it danced till with a whoosh
a current luffed it past the power lines.
Disowned by gravity, small ghost
not yet snagged by twiggy fingers,
it couldn’t reach the earth. Thin-skinned,
it pulsed, translucent jellyfish.
You wept and pled to be let out
into the dark and slanted rain,
somehow to save that desolate thing.
The light turned green and still you begged,
Go back, go back, on its behalf,
caught and held, bossed and tossed
by a will much greater than its own.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by April Lindner, “Carried Away,” (The Hudson Review, Vol. LXIII, no. 1, Spring 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of April Lindner and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.