Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Home,” by Bruce Weigl

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Home

 

I didn’t know I was grateful

         for such late-autumn

                  bent-up cornfields

 

yellow in the after-harvest

         sun before the

                  cold plow turns it all over

 

into never.

         I didn’t know

                  I would enter this music

 

that translates the world

         back into dirt fields

                     that have always called to me

 

as if I were a thing

         come from the dirt,

                  like a tuber,

 

or like a needful boy. End

                  lonely days, I believe. End the exiled

                           and unraveling strangeness.

 

From The Unraveling Strangeness, by Bruce Weigl, Grove/Atlantic, 2003.

 

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Poem of the Week: “Break,” by Aracelis Girmay

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Break

By Aracelis Girmay

When the boys are carnivals
we gather round them in the dark room
& they make their noise while drums
ricochet against their bodies & thin air
below the white ceiling hung up like a moon
& it is California, the desert. I am driving in a car,
clapping my hands for the beautiful windmills,
one of whom is my brother, spinning,
on a hillside in the garage
with other boys he’ll grow old with, throw back.
How they throw back their bodies

on the cardboard floor, then spring-to, flying
like the heads of hammers hitting strings
inside of a piano.

Again, again.
This is how they fall & get back up. One
who was thrown out by his father. One
who carries death with him like a balloon
tied to his wrist. One whose heart will break.
One whose grandmother will forget his name.
One whose eye will close. One who stood
beside his mother’s body in a green hospital. One.
Kick up against the air to touch the earth.
See him fall, then get back up.
Then get back up.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Aracelis Girmay. From The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015).

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Hija,” by Ruth Irupé Sanabria

Dust Rays

Hija

Ruth Irupé Sanabria

 

I am the daughter of doves
That disappeared into dust

 

Hear my pulse whisper:
  progre-so
     justi-cia
     progre-so
     justi-cia

 

I have many friends and thirty thousand
Warrior angels to watch
Over my exiled skin.

 

Look what occupies the four chambers of my heart:
re/vo/lu/ción

 

You will know me by this.
I am the daughter that never forgets.

 

 

 From “The Strange House Testifies” (Bilingual Review Press, 2013).

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Advice, by Dan Gerber

rainy

You know how, after it rains,

my father told me one August afternoon

when I struggled with something

hurtful my best friend had said,

how worms come out and

crawl all over the sidewalk

and it stays a big mess

a long time after it’s over

if you step on them?

 

Leave them alone,

he went on to say,

after clearing his throat,

and when the rain stops,

they crawl back into the ground.

 

Poem copyright ©2012 by Dan Gerber from his book of poems, Sailing through Cassiopeia, Copper Canyon Press, 2012.

Photo by Jacob and Karen Rank

The Center for Poetry is thrilled to co-host Dan Gerber with the Michigan Writers Series as part of our 2017 Fall Writing Series this Tuesday, October 24. Join us at 7pm for his poetry reading in the MSU Main Library!

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Poem of the Week: The Art of Leaving, by Anita Skeen

 

006_05-e1508166119125.jpgAs we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities (RCAH) at MSU, please enjoy this villanelle, written for the occasion of the first graduating class in 2011 by RCAH Professor and Center for Poetry director Anita Skeen.

 

The Art of Leaving

~ for the inaugural graduating class of the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities (RCAH) at Michigan State University, 2011

 

You came at dawn. It’s getting on toward noon.

We’ve just had time to learn your names and faces.

How can you think of leaving us so soon?

 

You made us snakes, and left us Appalachian tunes.

You wrote about extraordinary places.

You came at dawn. It can’t be much past noon.

 

Look at your watch. It’s long before the moon

will rise. Are you sure you rounded all the bases?

How can you think of leaving us so soon?

 

You chased white whales with Ahab, drew cartoons,

studied empires, lived transculturation.

You came at dawn. It’s now mid-afternoon.

 

You’ve got your rucksacks packed, like Daniel Boone,

for city sidewalks, graduate classes, distant mesas.

How can you think of leaving us so soon?

 

Unless you’d like the plenary to resume,

best grab your boots. Be sure to tie the laces.

You came at dawn. And now it’s long past noon.

Go where you need to go. But write home soon.

 

~ Anita Skeen

                                       May 7, 2011

 

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Poem Of The Week: Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong by Ocean Vuong

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Ocean, don’t be afraid.

The end of the road is so far ahead

it is already behind us.

Don’t worry.

Your father is only your father

until one of you forgets. Like how the spine

won’t remember its wings

no matter how many times our knees

kiss the pavement. Ocean,

are you listening? The most beautiful part

of your body is wherever

your mother’s shadow falls.

Here’s the house with childhood

whittled down to a single red tripwire.

Don’t worry. Just call it horizon

& you’ll never reach it.

Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not

a lifeboat. Here’s the man

whose arms are wide enough to gather

your leaving. & here the moment,

just after the lights go out, when you can still see

the faint torch between his legs.

How you use it again & again

to find your own hands.

You asked for a second chance

& are given a mouth to empty into.

Don’t be afraid, the gunfire

is only the sound of people

trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean,

get up. The most beautiful part of your body

is where it’s headed. & remember,

loneliness is still time spent

with the world. Here’s the room with everyone in it.

Your dead friends passing

through you like wind

through a wind chime. Here’s a desk

with the gimp leg & a brick

to make it last. Yes, here’s a room

so warm & blood-close,

I swear, you will wake—& mistake these walls

for skin.

 

Published in The New Yorker, March 2015

Photo by John Menard

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Poem of the Week: September Midnight, by Sara Teasdale

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
Ceaseless, insistent.
The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.

 

Originally published in Poetry, March 1914.

Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 1914)

 

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Center For Poetry Brings Color to Campus

by: Alexis Stark

“When your world moves too fast
and you lose yourself in the chaos,
introduce yourself
to each color of the sunset.”

—Christy Ann Martine

This past week, the Center for Poetry took its love for the written and rhythmic word to the sidewalks of MSU’s campus for Walk, Chalk, Poetry.

Since the fall of 2007, the RCAH Center for Poetry has hosted this event for people to enjoy the beauty of campus while establishing a presence and inspiring a love for poetry. By mid-day Wednesday, MSU’s River Trail was covered in pastel colored poems by Rita Dove, William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Director Anita Skeen and assistant director Laurie Hollinger spent the morning handing out sticks of chalk wrapped in a wide variety of poems for people to write on the sidewalk.

“I don’t know how many people actually stop and read the poems, still, it lets people know poetry is alive and well. ‘Autumn Leaves’ are autumn leaves, whether today or 100 years ago. They still carry the same message of mutability, of time passing and days shortening as we move into the bare months of winter.”

Skeen’s chalking of “Autumn Leaves” in pale yellow mirrored the slowly changing leaves on the trees above, hanging on, letting go and decorating the ground.

Part of the beauty of the event is watching the sidewalk slowly fill with poems of all colors and adding to the natural beauty of the Red Cedar River, the surrounding trees and the students passing all day long.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”  

—Leonardo da Vinci

Returning interns Arzelia Williams, Grace Carras and Alexis Stark enjoyed the sunshine and making their mark on campus, celebrating their love for poetry.

This chalking was the first event of the semester for new interns Allison Costello and Shannon McGlone.

“My favorite part was watching students and dressed-up professionals stop to read the vibrant scrawling on the sidewalks, even if they didn’t participate in any chalking themselves.”

In previous years, the Center for Poetry partnered with the MSU Sexual Assault Program to bring awareness to experiences of violence and sexual assault. Survivors and supporters could bring their stories to life through the use of chalk, color and conversation.

College is stressful and fast paced. It’s a nice change in routine to take a break from the surrounding chaos and add some more color to the world.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: House of Life by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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Photo: Katherine Hepburn in “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” by Eugene O’Neil. Hepburn plays Mary, the family matriarch, whose eldest son quotes the following poem in reference to her insanity.
House of Life: 97. A Superscription
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also call’d No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
Cast up thy Life’s foam-fretted feet between;
Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
Which had Life’s form and Love’s, but by my spell
Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
Of ultimate things unutter’d the frail screen.
Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
Of that wing’d Peace which lulls the breath of sighs,—
Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Season of Phantasmal Peace,” by Derek Walcott

The Season of Phantasmal Peace

by Derek Walcott

 

Then all the nations of birds lifted together

the huge net of the shadows of this earth

in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,

stitching and crossing it. They lifted up

the shadows of long pines down trackless slopes,

the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,

the shadow of a frail plant on a city sill—

the net rising soundless as night, the birds’ cries soundless, until

there was no longer dusk, or season, decline, or weather,

only this passage of phantasmal light

that not the narrowest shadow dared to sever.

 

And men could not see, looking up, what the wild geese drew,

what the ospreys trailed behind them in silvery ropes

that flashed in the icy sunlight; they could not hear

battalions of starlings waging peaceful cries,

bearing the net higher, covering this world

like the vines of an orchard, or a mother drawing

the trembling gauze over the trembling eyes

of a child fluttering to sleep;

it was the light

that you will see at evening on the side of a hill

in yellow October, and no one hearing knew

what change had brought into the raven’s cawing,

the killdeer’s screech, the ember-circling chough

such an immense, soundless, and high concern

for the fields and cities where the birds belong,

except it was their seasonal passing, Love,

made seasonless, or, from the high privilege of their birth,

something brighter than pity for the wingless ones

below them who shared dark holes in windows and in houses,

and higher they lifted the net with soundless voices

above all change, betrayals of falling suns,

and this season lasted one moment, like the pause

between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,

but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long.

 

 

 

 

Derek Walcott, “The Season of Phantasmal Peace” from Collected Poems: 1948-1984. Copyright © 1987 by Derek Walcott.