informal book recommendation: “The Poetry Pharmacy”

While my kid is in the hospital (improving daily 🙂 ) I’m having trouble reading substantial poetry articles or having the patience to do my regular blogging. I do want to write here, though, about the book that helped me through his operation: for some random reason I had The Poetry Pharmacy when we went to the ER–I’d gotten a copy because I’m considering writing an essay on it, esp. as my mother got it this past Xmas from my brother and it helped her through the early days after my Dad’s December 26 death.  It recommends different poems for different personal problems (Unrequited Love, Need for Reassurance, Glumness, Old Age) and has a write-up about each separate “condition” before its poem.

The write-ups aren’t as good as the poems, (which is how things should be!)  but the selection of poems is excellent, and reading poems that addressed other people’s problems helped me through the anxiety & sadness & terror I was in during my son’s operation.  (Reading the write-ups in between was a good pallet-cleanser, too.) The book is a good reminder that everyone goes through tough times, which helps one to know when one is going through one’s own. It was also a decent distraction….In contrast I was given a copy of Kevin Young’s The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing by my brother after our dad had his fatal Xmas heart attack. The book helped my brother and has helped many others, but although I know it’s an excellent anthology I haven’t read it yet myself as the topic is too overwhelming to me right now. (As would be a book of poems about sick children.)  The amount of varied topics in The Poetry Pharmacy was right, though.  I also didn’t have the concentration to read longer bits of fiction or articles, but I had enough to get through the short pieces–another reason why poetry is good to read during crazy times.

I will buy copies of this book for friends when they too go through trauma. (Hopefully they will never go through any trauma, though!!!!!!!!) Oy.


From The Poetry Pharmacy, under the heading “Condition: Parental Protectiveness” 

Vernon Scannell – Nettles 


My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.

“Bed” seemed a curious name for those green spears.

That regiment of spite behind the shed:

It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears

The boy came seeking comfort and I saw

Read rest of poem @ The Guardian


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Jean Blewett – St. Patrick’s Day

There’s an Isle, a green Isle, set in the sea,
 ***Here’s to the Saint that blessed it!
And here’s to the billows wild and free
***That for centuries have caressed it!
Here’s to the day when the men that roam
***Send longing eyes o’er the water!
Here’s to the land that still spells home
***To each loyal son and daughter!
Here’s to old Ireland—fair, I ween,
 ***With the blue skies stretched above her!
Here’s to her shamrock warm and green,
***And here’s to the hearts that love her!

American Life in Poetry: Column 677



I’m devoted to yard and garage sales, and love to spend time with friendly strangers in scuffed front yards and oily, dim garages. Here’s a poem by Matthew Brennan, who lives in Indiana, from his 2016 Lamar University book, One Life.

Yard Sale

The renters bring out their greasy table,
End of the month again: It sags,
Weighted and warped like them, unable
To hold much more than glasses and rags.

Old clothes and rusty tools compete
For space with magazines they stole
From garbage bins behind our street;
Each shoe reveals a run-down sole.

A few come by, inspect, and leave,
Almost always with empty hands.
But when, at sundown, all things cleave
To slanted light, and when it lands

So rubber, glass, and metal glint—
And for a moment make you squint—
You’ll see our neighbors bathed in gold
As if their worth cannot be sold.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 “Yard Sale,” by Matthew Brennan, from One Life, (Lamar University Literary Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Matthew Brennan 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.

Poetry Diary March 16, 2018


Poetry Diary: Day 3 in children’s hospital.

Kevin Young – Ode to the Hotel Near the Children’s Hospital

Praise the restless beds
Praise the beds that do not adjust
***that won’t lift the head to feed
***or lower for shots
***or blood

Dailies 3/14/18


Mark Halliday – Milano Adesso

They are speaking rapidly in Milan right now unacceptably
far from me at tables in sunlight, their sunglasses poised adeptly
upon their dark hair, their hands inflecting thoughts,
they understand themselves to be splendidly alive adesso

Read rest of poem


Carly Joy Miller  – Dayshift Caught in the Ribs 

To crash into the architecture

of the beast is to remember

how the body is rigged

Read rest of poem 


Carol Moldaw – Arthritis

“Save your hands,” my mother says,
seeing me untwist a jar’s tight cap—

just the way she used to tell me
not to let boys fool around, or feel
Read rest of poem 


Walt Whitman: “the quintessential poet of disability and death”

“Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century had no sure prospect of resting in peace after death. If their bodies weren’t embalmed for public viewing or dug up for medical dissection, their bones were liable to be displayed in a museum. In some cases, their skin was used as book covers by bibliophiles and surgeons with a taste for human-hide binding.

“The preservation, exhumation, and exhibition of human remains become, in the hands of the literary critic Lindsay Tuggle, an illuminating basis for a provocative reassessment of America’s foremost poet, Walt Whitman. In The Afterlives of Specimens, Tuggle aligns Whitman’s life and work with the practice of preserving and learning from cadavers or body parts during the Civil War era. She offers new insights into Whitman’s poetics of the body, both by limning the history of body preservation and by considering his development using the work of various psychologists and literary theorists, including Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.”

Fine Specimens – David S. Reynolds – New York Review of Books – March 22, 2018 issue

posting may be sporadic for a while here

my kid is in the hospital. He will be fine but it will be a while before he gets out. I’ll post poetry stuff when I can/when I have energy.

of course, there’s not much to do in the hospital, so I might end up posting a lot instead. Will see.

Katie Ford – Children’s Hospital

Our sorrow had neither place nor carrier-away,
and dared not hover over the child
whose breath opened as transom
of a frail house.

Dailies 3/13/18


Poetry Diary: blogging in bed while lying next to my feverish kid. Consumed with worry. The snow I can see outside the window–a gift from our latest northeaster– is beautiful, though. So I’m posting a link to Swensen’s “No Worry.”

Also, I esp. like the Charles Simic poem that’s up at today. Judging from the poem, Simic is apparently not on Facebook, though…. 🙂 I think the Verse Daily poem is written for Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca?  Be sure to check out the 2nd poem– “The Humanist”– in the Poetry Daily link below.  Happy snowy day, everyone, (or whatever sort of day it is where you are….) 

Cole Swensen – No Worry

No, worry about nothing
but the chiseling
of hills into distance
in the slight haze

Charles Simic – Hide and Seek

Haven’t found anyone 
From the old gang.
They must be still in hiding,
Holding their breaths
And trying not to laugh.
Read rest of poem


 Sam Roxas-Chua – Dearest Federico 

Inside of a room, sits a box.
Inside the box, rests a seed.
Inside the seed, balls a planet.
Inside the planet, lifts a baby.

Read rest of poem 


Wayne Miller – Generational

Open the bays***** and we fall together
as in archival footage

Read rest of poem plus one more by Miller 




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