26
October

Housekeeping by Natasha Trethewey

American Life in Poetry: Column 605
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

tretheweyBeginning writers often tell me their real lives aren’t interesting enough to write about, but the mere act of shaping a poem lifts its subject matter above the ordinary. Here’s Natasha Trethewey, who served two terms as U. S. Poet Laureate, illustrating just what I’ve described. It’s from her book Domestic Work, from Graywolf Press. Trethewey lives in Georgia.

Housekeeping

We mourn the broken things, chair legs
wrenched from their seats, chipped plates,
the threadbare clothes. We work the magic
of glue, drive the nails, mend the holes.
We save what we can, melt small pieces
of soap, gather fallen pecans, keep neck bones
for soup. Beating rugs against the house,
we watch dust, lit like stars, spreading
across the yard. Late afternoon, we draw
the blinds to cool the rooms, drive the bugs
out. My mother irons, singing, lost in reverie.
I mark the pages of a mail-order catalog,
listen for passing cars. All day we watch
for the mail, some news from a distant place.

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9
September

The Jockey by Elise Hempel

American Life in Poetry: Column 598
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

elisehempel
I’d guess that many of us like old toys. As a boy I had a wind-up tin submarine that dove and surfaced, and a few years ago I saw one just like it in the window of an antique store, making me, of course, an antique. Here’s a poem by Elise Hempel of Illinois, from Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art. Her newest book, Second Rain, will be out in the spring of 2016, from Able Muse Press.

The Jockey

Atop his exhausted buggy with its
rusted wheels and now-stuck key,
one boot missing, a faded jersey,
the bill of his cap cracked off, he sits

behind a nicked brown horse that once
flicked its tail, clattered around
planked floor or rug when the buggy was wound
after school by children who’ve since

fallen behind him, white-haired or gone,
as he still waves the flopping spring
of his crop, still stares through dimming
goggles, gathering gray ribbons

of dust in his silent, frozen race
down an ever-unfurling track,
hunched to win, leaving far back
all claps and laughter, his once-smooth face

scarred and pitted, just the white
fleck of a smile now, more a sneer,
his empty fists on the reins of air
still holding tight.

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5
September

Curtains by Stuart Dybek

American Life in Poetry: Column 597
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

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.

curtainsCurtains

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.

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29
May

My Dead by Tim Nolan

tim-nolan-298x450American Life in Poetry: Column 583
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

At some moment every day I call up a memory of one or another of my family members who have passed on, so I was especially taken with this poem by Tim Nolan, who lives in Minnesota. His forthcoming book is The Field, (New Rivers Press, October, 2016).

My Dead

They grow in number all the time
The cat, the Mother, the Father
The grandparents, aunts, and uncles

Those I knew well and hardly at all
My best friend from when I was ten
The guy who sat with me in the back

Of the class where the tall kids lived
Bill the Shoemaker from Lyndale Avenue
The Irish poet with rounded handwriting

They live in The Land of Echo, The Land
Of Reverb, and I hear them between
The notes of the birds, the plash of the wave

On the smooth rocks. They show up
When I think of them, as if they always
Are waiting for me to remember

I drive by their empty houses
I put on their old sweaters and caps
I wear their wristwatches and spend

Their money. So now I’m in six places
At once—if not eighteen or twenty
So many places to be thinking of them

Strange how quiet they are with their presence
So humble in the low song they sing
Not expecting that anyone will listen

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4
May

They Dance Through Granelli’s – Pat Emile

American Life in Poetry: Column 580
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Pat Emile is Assistant Editor and Jill-Of-All-Trades for this column. Were it not for her help I couldn’t keep these weekly selections coming. Here she is in another role, as a poet, stopping in a little food market and noticing things the way a poet should notice them.

They Dance Through Granelli’s

He finds her near the stack
of green plastic baskets waiting to be filled
and circles her waist with his left arm,
entwines her fingers in his, pulls her toward him,
Muzak from the ceiling shedding a flashy Salsa,
and as they begin to move, she lets
her head fall back, fine hair swinging
a beat behind as they follow
their own music—a waltz—past the peaches
bursting with ripeness in their wicker baskets,
the prawns curled into each other
behind cold glass, a woman in a turquoise sari,
her dark eyes averted. They twirl twice
before the imported cheeses, fresh mozzarella
in its milky liquid, goat cheese sent down
from some green mountain, then glide past
ranks of breads, seeds spread across brown crusts,
bottles of red wine nested together on their sides.
He reaches behind her, slides a bouquet
of cut flowers from a galvanized bucket, tosses
a twenty to the teenaged boy leaning
on the wooden counter, and they whirl
out the door, the blue sky a sudden surprise.

3 comments

26
April

With Spring In Our Flesh – Don Welch

American Life in Poetry: Column 579
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Don Welch

Don Welch

Early each spring, Nebraska hosts, along a section of the Platte River, several hundred thousand sandhill cranes. It’s something I wish everyone could see. Don Welch, one of the state’s finest poets, lives under the flyway, and here’s his take on the migration. His most recent book is Gnomes, (Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2013).

With Spring In Our Flesh

With spring in our flesh
the cranes come back,
funneling into a north
cold and black.

And we go out to them,
go out into the town,
welcoming them with shouts,
asking them down.

The winter flies away
when the cranes cross.
It falls into the north,
homeward and lost.

Let no one call it back
when the cranes fly,
silver birds, red-capped,
down the long sky.

4 comments

18
April

The Way We Said Goodbye by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

kooser_hp
American Life in Poetry: Column 578

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I can’t help wishing that dogs lived as long as we do. I have buried a number of them, and it doesn’t get any easier. In fact, it gets harder. Here’s Mark Vinz, a Minnesota poet, from his book Permanent Record and Other Poems, from Red Dragonfly Press.

The Way We Said Goodbye

So many years later, the old dog
still circles, head lowered, crippled by
arthritis, nearly blind, incontinent.
We repeat the litany, as if we need
convincing that the end is right.

I’ll get her an ice cream cone if you’ll
drive her to the vet, my wife says.
So there we sit on the front steps
with our friend, and in the car, as always,
when she senses the doctor’s office
drawing near, she moans and tries to
burrow underneath the seats.

 What remains, the memory of how
she taught us all the way we need
to learn to live with wasting.
There we sit, together, one last time
as all that sweetness slowly disappears.

2 comments

2
October

Just Sharing An Excellent Article on Sylvia Plath

sylvia-plathFor today’s post I’d just like to share a link to an excellent article on Poet Sylvia Plath on the Poetry Foundation website.

This article was one of several in the Poetry Foundation’s latest newsletter. You can sign up to receive their bi-weekly newsletter and other newsletters here, if you wish. I’d encourage you to do so, if you love poetry. They’re great resources!

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22
May

Look within yourselves …

drinkbukowski

You are stronger than you know and the strength you need is within you. Do you believe that? When I get frustrated, feel inadequate, unsupported, feel like quitting … sometimes just feeling sorry for myself, I try to remind myself of this quote by Charles Bukowski.

I’m not saying that at times we don’t need friends or even help, surely we do. Life can be overwhelming. I’m just saying that, more often than not, we sell ourselves short. We’re far stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Frankly, I doubt thought most of us have any idea how strong we really are. Don’t give in, find out!

“drink from the well of your self and begin again.”

Just some food for thought.

2 comments

5
November

Golden Season – a new haiku by Sannel Larson

sannelsittingMy dear friend Sannel Larson has been a busy lady of late. She has published several children’s books, illustrated another and created a number of beautiful pieces of digital art. Which by the way, you can see and purchase on her artist website on Fine Art America.

She’s also published some new haiku including this one, Golden Season, which is absolutely wonderful! Combined with her beautiful photograph, it’s worth your time to visit. I hope you will and take the time to leave this immensely talented woman a comment. I know she will appreciate it!

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