American Life in Poetry: Column 656


Joseph Hutchison has been writing good poems for more than forty years, and I have been reading them for just that long. He lives in Colorado, where he is the state Poet Laureate, and his latest book, The World As Is: New & Selected Poems, has just come out from New York Quarterly Books. Here’s a father’s poem from that fine collection.

Lifting My Daughter

As I leave for work she holds out her arms, and I
bend to lift her . . . always heavier than I remember,
because in my mind she is still that seedling bough
I used to cradle in one elbow. Her hug is honest,
fierce, forgiving. I think of Oregon’s coastal pines,
wind-bent even on quiet days; they’ve grown in ways
the Pacific breeze has blown them all their lives.
And how will my daughter grow? Last night, I dreamed
of a mid-ocean gale, a howl among writhing waterspouts;
I don’t know what it meant, or if it’s still distant,
or already here. I know only how I hug my daughter,
my arms grown taut with the thought of that wind.

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 by Joseph Hutchison, “Lifting My Daughter,” from The World As Is: New & Selected Poems, 1972-2015, (New York Quarterly Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Joseph Hutchison 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.

Dailies 10/20/17: “The best poems take long journeys.” Poems referencing San Francisco, Kansas, Seattle, New Orleans, & New Haven

Sarah Sarai  – Andy Warhol Left Those Parties by Midnight

You will not wake at 7
tomorrow morning and
start working as I’ve read
he did, will not wonder until
9 or 11 a.m. if you can fly
Berthe to San Francisco
to confirm sorrow everywhere.

Read rest of poem 


Philip Schaefer – Touching Down

So much for
the lone cannon

up to its ears
in winter wheat

in the Kansas
of someone’s dying

Read rest of poem 



Prageeta Sharma – Seattle Sun

There is a quick sharp pull that one might feel, with it a weighted turn to finding brightness where there is none. I have Seattle to thank for this, but the home of ours must be built anew. And yet I am not in my method and have no sense of worship for the work

Read rest of poem 


Robert Bly – The Day We Visited New Orleans

So much time has gone by! Napoleon’s house—
He never came—still stands in the Quarter.
Time ends all the good living that
Louis the Sixteenth, after the trouble, never

Read rest of poem 



Poetry Diary: since all of the other poems today mention cities etc. I figured I’d put one up re: the town I work in. 

Carolyn M. Rodgers – East of New Haven

you see so many
********graveyards around
******these little towns—
********out in the open
**********spaces & places.

There’s one boy on fire and another drowning. You only get to save one/ for your final exam

Gary Jackson – Tryouts
      For those of us who live at the shoreline /standing upon
            the constant edges of decision / crucial and alone
                    – Audre Lorde from “A Litany for Survival”
            With that jive bunch of turkeys in the JLA? Forget it!! 
                    – Black Lightning from  Justice League of America #173
There’s one boy on fire and another drowning. You only get to save one
for your final exam, so you lift the wet boy from the lake and don’t realize
your mistake until Superman touches down, sorry son, we can’t have

Nominees for the T.S. Eliot prize shortlist are too white


Why the TS Eliot prize shortlist hails a return to the status quo: This year’s lineup may be deserving, but with just one collection by a BAME poet in an exceptionally strong year for poets of colour, it also seems naive. – Sandeep Parmar – Guardian – 10/20/17

[Note for dum Americans like me: according to the online Oxford Dictionary, “BAME” means “British. Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (used to refer to members of non-white communities in the UK).”]

“Over the past few years, challenges to British poetry’s lack of diversity have made it impossible to return to the status quo – or so we thought. This year’s TS Eliot prize shortlist, announced on Thursday, features just one collection (out of 10, including Michael Symmons Roberts and Leontia Flynn) by a poet of colour, the much-acclaimed Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. For those who have championed crucial interventions in poetry publishing, reviewing and prizes, this nearly all-white shortlist cannot help but seem inexplicably naive and regressive.”

Paul Hostovsky wins the Dailies, 10/19/17. + a melancholy poem about parenthood and some characters

ASL poem by Ian Sanborn


 Paul Hostovsky – Only Child

In my one and only childhood
I didn’t like to eat in front of people.
I think I thought it made me look weak.
I think I thought I ought to be immune

Read rest of poem 


Carrie Fountain – Time to be the fine line of light

between the blind and the sill, nothing
really. There are so many things
that destroy. To think solely of them
is as foolish and expedient as not


Paul Hostovsky – One Ambition

All I ever really wanted
was to whistle with my fingers—
I knew I would never
be the one up on stage
Read rest of poem 
Albert Goldbarth –  Deep Down
“I have said, and intend to say, nothing of the hideous
business of the Six Snowmen, and the unspeakable end
which threatened Ursula Trelawney.” —Cay Van Ash

Okay, let’s count ’em up. There’s 1)
a small-time pimp with big-ass dreams;
2) an undercover op [as opposed to the undercover cop
he sometimes sleeps with]; 3) the newbie dancer
at Titters; 4) the nurse in the refugee camp,

Read rest of poem 


Poetry Diary: since there are already 2 poems of Hostovsky up today, I’m going to put up one more:
Paul Hostovsky – Caterpillar
After Ian Sanborn’s ASL poem of the same title
A man with eyes as blank
as the indifference of nature
is staring straight ahead
as the whole thing unfolds.
Read rest of poem 

Elizabeth Bishop: “present everywhere but visible nowhere”

Hiding in Plain Sight: The loneliness of Elizabeth Bishop. – David Yaffe – The Nation – November 6, 2017

“One of the brilliant features of Bishop’s writing was that, despite her astonishing control and mastery of forms from centuries past, she had a gushing emotional register just barely below the surface. The effect was subtle, and even at its most pitched tones, one could miss it. But Bishop’s poems were beautifully constructed edifices with emotions that bubbled close enough to the surface for readers to feel and hear them. In these poems she was, as Flaubert might have put it, present everywhere but visible nowhere. Indeed, one of the arts of ‘One Art’ was her ability to hide in plain sight, using antique verse structures to expose the personal wounds that she was simultaneously trying to keep to herself. Several drafts of ‘One Art’ were published posthumously in the controversial Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, a collection of unfinished writing from the ultimate perfectionist poet. The facsimiles are not easy to read, but they’re worth the effort: Within the limitations of the villanelle—19 lines composed of five tercets and a quatrain—there were only so many words to cover losing her father to disease, her mother to an insane asylum, Lota to suicide, and now her ‘love, love, love,’ Alice.”

Lord Byron had some random person’s skull made into a cup so that he could drink from it. Wanna buy the cup?

Skull Cup Associated with Lord Byron Heads to Auction: A cup made from a human skull has an inscription that attributes it to Lord Byron, who was known to drink wine from such a vessel. – Allison Meier – Hyperallergic – 10/16/17

Supposedly Byron wrote this about the cup:

“The gardener, in digging, discovered a skull that had probably belonged to some jolly friar or monk of the abbey, about the time it was demonasteried. Observing it to be of giant size, and in a perfect state of preservation, a strange fancy seized me of having it set and mounted as a drinking cup. I accordingly sent it to town, and it returned a mottled color like a tortoiseshell.”

George Gordon Byron – Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff’d, like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
The drink of Gods, than reptiles’ food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

Dailies 10/18/17: sonnet w/rose, 5 islands, a daughter, American dusk, bees


Matthew Yeager – Sonnet w/ Rose

When I see you after so long not
seeing you it is like picking up in
side a fist the flopped red petals of
a drooped red rose, and when you

Lisel Mueller – Daughter

My next poem will be happy,
I promise myself. Then you come
with your deep eyes, your tall jeans,

Read rest of poem 



Jessica Goodfellow  – American Dusk

Beneath a stagger of stars the herd untangles,
hooves throbbing the prairie’s dull drumhead,
grave as the heart’s marginalia. The day unhitches

Read rest of poem  


Anne Michaels – Five Islands

When she returned, a few weeks later, the café was gone. Yet that summer evening, a crowd of souls had been laughing and drinking. The story of his past was the story of her future, the child he lost, the child she was carrying. In the café, the train hurtled toward the switch and in a moment they were looking at each other, one looking forward, the other looking back.

Read rest of poem 


Poetry Diary: My kid is developing a fear of

The Bees

Bruce MacKinnon 

One day the bees start wandering off, no one knows why.
First one doesn’t come back, and then another and another,
until those who are supposed to stay and guard the hive, those
who are making the royal jelly and feeding it to the queen,

10 young black poets share their favorite poems

“When it comes to black poets, you probably already know the usual suspects like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, who are always worth praising, but there is also a young crop of poets bringing new color to words. Ahead, we had some of them share their favorite works of poetry that either inspired or changed them for the better.”

10 Black Poets Share Their Favorite Pieces Of Poetry – Taylor Bryant – Nylon – 10/17/2017

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