Dailies 5/22/17: Market Day, a chair, a town dreams that a tornado apologizes to them, & the time for nuance is over



Catherine Pierce – The Town Dreams the Tornado Apologizes


And then we woke up.  And our uncles

were still missing, our azaleas yanked


and gone, our dogs dashed against oaks.

But before we woke, we heard you say


Read rest of poem 


Linda Pastan – Market Day

We have traveled all this way
to see the real France:
these trays of apricots and grapes spilled out
like semi-precious stones

Read rest of poem 


Sam Sax – Doctrine

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse descent—knife
through my poached egg.

Read rest of poem 


Michael Chitwood – His Chair

After lunch
and before he went

back to the fields,
he’d catch a nap

Read rest of poem 


“Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly”

“This World” by Czeslaw Milosz. Film by Zbigniew Czapla.

CZESLAW MILOSZ’S BATTLE FOR TRUTH: Having experienced both Nazi and Communist rule, Poland’s great exile poet arrived at a unique blend of skepticism and sincerity. – Adam Kirsch – New Yorker – May 29, 2017

“…it was his lifelong, intimate knowledge of suffering, both private and public, that did the most to shape Milosz’s work. Unlike many great twentieth-century writers, who saw truth in despair, Milosz’s experiences convinced him that poetry must not darken the world but illuminate it: ‘Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, / under unbearable duress and only with the hope / that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.’ That decision for goodness is what makes Milosz a figure of such rare literary and moral authority. As we enter what looks like our own time of troubles, his poetry and his life offer a reminder of what it meant, and what it took, to survive the twentieth century.”

Child of Europe

Czeslaw Milosz

We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

Read rest of poem 

Poems for graduation

(poetry diary 255-5/22/17) It’s Graduation Season.  (I’m sitting in one of the Yale libraries right now watching students in gowns run merrily through the library to our rest rooms before they have to make their official walk….) Here are two on-line anthologies of poems for graduates: 

“Poems for Graduation” at Poets.org and “Graduation Poems” at the Poetry Foundation.

[yonder deadfromtheneckup graduate]

E. E. Cummings

yonder deadfromtheneckup graduate of a
somewhat obscure to be sure university spends
her time looking picturesque under

Read rest of poem.  Note, according to Poets.org, in this poem Cummings “plays with the idiom ‘poeta nascitur, non fit’ or ‘a poet is born, not made.'” 

Dailies 5/21/17: Observations of an OB/GYN nurse. Observations before group meditation. Plus a patched sail & a lumpy father.



Molly Tenenbaum – My Lumpy Father

Inside his plaid shirt, a scurry of moles.
While he naps, a lone brave nose
whiskers the air, and they all venture out,
once, twice, three times
around his body. And hurry back in,
on a path between third and fourth button.

Read rest of poem 


Chloe Honum – Before Group Meditation 

I recall splendor.
On a borrowed bicycle,
I wobbled fast

Read rest of poem 


Lois Parker Edstom – Observations of an OB/GYN Nurse

       In memory of Dr. Tom Critchfield

The babies, CEOs of his life,
set the schedule, write the script.

They arrive in predawn hours
and the middle of the afternoon

Read rest of poem 



Marianne Moore – Under a Patched Sail

“Oh, we’ll drink once more
when the wind’s off shore,”

Read rest of poem 

excellent poem by a 13-year-old



Joanna Jimenez (age 13)

8 is an upright infinity sign,
a goldfish, and a snowman
8 is the mask that you can use
to hide away from this rocky reality
It’s the chain that holds me back
from endless choices I know I’d regret.
8 is the age I met my father
and I had to pretend that I wasn’t bothered
Without 8, it would be 7 then 9,

crime writer uses poetry to help write novels



Salvalaggio writes poetry privately, often to explore her personal life. She also uses it

“…for purely utilitarian reasons as I find it helpful to approach highly emotive scenes in my novels first as poetry. It is basically free writing, but in verse. In the absence of the usual constraints there’s an increased chance of stumbling upon unique ways to describe the natural world and human emotions. Unusual word juxtapositions also emerge, an example being bone dust white, a phrase used to describe a child’s breath on a frigid winter morning, which incidentally became the title of my first novel. When I’m free writing poetry it often feels like I’m taking down dictation from an unseen source. Ideas tend to emerge in surprising ways. After I’m finished I get out my highlighter and mine the unedited poems for interesting imagery and phrasing. The poems are then abandoned to the piles of notebooks thrown beneath my writing desk.”

Dailies 5/20/17: city visions, a graveyard, a dulcimer duet, & a drought


R.T. Smith – Duet


Baylis Ritchie of Viper,
Kentucky, near skeletal
in this picture with his
famous daughter Jean,
picks a Cumberland
dulcimer with a willow
switch, as his girl’s hands

Read rest of poem 


Richard Hague – Drought


When we have run our passion’s heat

Love hither makes his best retreat


In Spring, thaw and rain and promise:

lilies beard the good ground


Read rest of poem 


W. S. Merwin – Windnoon

On the green hill with the river beyond it
long ago and my father there
and my grandmother standing in her faded clothes
wrinkled high-laced black shoes in the spring grass

Read rest of poem 


Emma Lazarus – City Visions


As the blind Milton’s memory of light,
The deaf Beethoven’s phantasy of tone,
Wrought joys for them surpassing all things known
In our restricted sphere of sound and sight,—

Read rest of poem

American Life in Poetry: Column 634



During the twelve years we’ve been doing this weekly column, today’s poem will be the first time I’ve offered you a plane ride. It’s just one of a number of fine poems from Patricia Hooper’s book, Separate Flights, from the University of Tampa Press. Hooper lives in North Carolina.

Sunday Flying

Sometimes after the flight show when my father
flew in formation with the other pilots,
diving and somersaulting in his Cessna,
he took us up. The crowd was driving off,
the windsocks disappeared. We flew above
the empty air strip, past the silver hangar,
the ballpark, then the bridge, beyond the school;

and then, if there was fuel enough, we flew
to Hidden Lake where, just below us, Grandpa
was fishing in his rowboat, looking up,
waving his hat, and Grandma hurried out,
wearing her yellow apron. Oh, if only
we could go down and fish for perch with Grandpa!
But it was nearly sunset, and we flew

back over woods and highways toward the town,
and finally there we were above our block,
our house, my Kool-Aid stand, my brother’s blue
two-wheeler in the drive. How small it was—
how strange it seemed to look down on your life
from somewhere else. And suddenly I was sick
with loneliness. But we were all together:

my brother with my father up in front,
Mother beside me in the back. And yet
we must be small from there: our empty yard,
the Thompsons on their porch, the Barton’s Airedale
trying to climb the fence, and Mother’s clothesline,
my sweater hung to dry. Just then, if I had seen
myself on the swing set, I would not have been surprised.

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 ©2016 by Patricia Hooper, “Sunday Flying,” from Separate Flights, (University of Tampa Press,2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Patricia Hooper 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.

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