Category: Poetry

Happy birthday, Lucille!

Lucille’s mother was a gifted poet with only an elementary school education. Her poetry was offered publication but Lucille’s father wouldn’t allow it and forced her to burn the poems in the fireplace. It’s said Lucille never forgot it and I’m sure it shaped much of her own poetry. About the incident, she wrote a poem called “fury”:
“her hand is crying. / her hand is clutching / a sheaf of papers. / poems. / she gives them up. / they burn / jewels into jewels.”

She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for two separate books in the same year: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (1987), and Next: New Poems (1987). She won the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats (2000); the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010, just before her death.

When I discovered Lucille’s work I felt energized. Her messages of empowerment and self-love are lessons every one of us should take to heart and put into practice. How great it must have been to hear her read in person. 


Photo via The New Yorker

Poetry Wonderment

One night in April I stumbled on the  livestream of a poetry reading program on Twitter, put together by Maria Popova, named The Universe in Verse. For over an hour and a half I listened in wonderment to a clatch of beautiful poetry read by some wonderful writers. Now the program is available as a video which I’ve posted here along with the playlist. I loved the whole thing but especially the readings by Diane Ackerman and Tracy K Smith. I hope you’ll find some time to listen to at least some of the readings. It will inspire you, I promise! Read more about the evolution of The Universe in Verse here

Playlist:
“Planetarium” by Adrienne Rich from Collected Poems: 1950–2012 (public library), read by Janna Levin

“My God, It’s Full of Stars” by Tracy K. Smith from Life on Mars (public library), read by the poet herself

“Power” by Adrienne Rich from The Dream of a Common Language (public library), read by Rosanne Cash

“The Venus Hottentot” by Elizabeth Alexander from Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (public library), read by the poet herself

“Cosmic Gall” by John Updike from Telephone Poles and Other Poems (public library) read by Brandon Stanton

“We Are Listening” by Diane Ackerman from Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems (public library), read by the poet herself

“On the Fifth Day” by Jane Hirshfield, read by Emily Levine

“For Oliver’s Birthday, 1997” by Steven Jay Gould, published in On the Move by Oliver Sacks, read by Billy Hayes

“Euclid Alone Has Looked” by Edna St. Vincent Millay from The Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay (public library), read by Sam Beam

“Jane Goodall (1961)” by Campbell McGrath from XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century (public library), performed by Sarah Jones

“The Habits of Light” by Anna Leahy from Aperture (public library), read by Ann Hamilton

“Address: The Archaeans, One Cell Creatures” by Pattiann Rogers from Wayfare (public library), read by Jad Abumrad

“Pi” by Wisława Szymborska from Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library), read by Maria Popova

“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman, read by Amanda Palmer

9 Years 8 Months

You sat at the back of the room like a glacier,
non-moving, non-blinking,
arms crossed over your chest. I chattered
on, ignoring you but sneaking a side-eye
now and then.

Thousands of days have passed, this thing moved
way past estrangement into forever-gone land
long ago. But you reappeared, hovering like fog
over shifting ground until you finally walked over,
handed me a letter,disappeared again. Fog.
The first sentence read,
I was sober for 9 years, 8 months. Now I’m not.

I don’t know what to do with this,
this unsettling psychic information. That’s the thing
about dreams, where does fantasy stop
and cries for help start?