Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Gifts for Poetry Lovers

Looking for gift ideas this holiday season? Read on for ideas on what to give the poetry lover or bibliophile in your life!

For the Shape Poem Enthusiast: Leaves of Grass Poster

Litographs partners with artists to create designs that incorporate the text from classic novels, plays, and poems into stunning graphics. They also partner with the International Book Bank to donate a book to communities in need for every poster, tee-shirt, and tote they sell, and every five temporary tattoos. Make sure to check out their other poetry-themed items, including graphics based on the works of T. S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and William Wordsworth.

For the Poe Fan: “The Raven” Tee

We all know someone who loves this gothic writer. Out of Print has awesome t-shirts and accessories based on classic literature, not to mention a whole slew of Poe-themed goodies.

For the Apple Junkie: BookBook Covers for iPad, iPhone, and MacBook


These elegant leather covers from Twelve South make any Apple product appear as a vintage book.

For The Book Lover: Library Card Tote Bagtote bag

Proudly display your love of libraries with this canvas tote from Out of Print, also available in yellow, blue, and gray.

For the Poetry Novice: Poetry 180

poetry 180

For those who think poetry is scary or, dare we say it, boring, try giving them a copy of Poetry 180. Compiled by Billy Collins during his tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate, this collection started as a program to get high schoolers to read or listen to one poem every day, without analysis or discussion — simply take in a single poem on a daily basis. The poems are accessible and capture a range of emotions and topics, from “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn to “Domestic Work, 1937” by Natasha Trethewey. For those already familiar with Poetry 180, try its companion collection, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day.

For Kids: The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems

This book presents a lovely collection of poems by authors both traditional and contemporary, such as Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, e. e. cummings, Sonia Sanchez, and children’s poetry favorites Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein. Beginning with anonymous Native American verses and a selection from the 1727 New England Primer, “Alphabet,” The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems goes on to span over 200 years of children’s poetry appropriate for ages six and up.

For “Shop Local” Supporters: Poetry in Michigan | Michigan in Poetry

michigan poetry

Last, but certainly not least: For Michiganders and lovers of the Mitten state, this collection of Michigan poetry and art is a must. Featuring works by noted contemporary poets such as Jim Harrison, Diane Wakoski, and Patricia Clark, Poetry in Michigan | Michigan in Poetry is a carefully crafted book that brings together the best of Michigan’s poets and visual artists. Click here to see a sample poem by Cullen Bailey Burns and art by Meridith Ridl, David Grath, and Nathan Caplan. Not to mention, we at the Center for Poetry have hosted many poets in the collection!

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “For Saundra” by Nikki Giovanni

For Saundra
by Nikki Giovanni

i wanted to write
a poem
that rhymes
but revolution doesn’t lend
itself to be-bopping

then my neighbor
who thinks i hate
asked – do you ever write
tree poems – i like trees
so i thought
i’ll write a beautiful green tree poem
peeked from my window
to check the image
noticed that the school yard was covered
with asphalt
no green – no trees grow
in manhattan

then, well, i thought the sky
i’ll do a big blue sky poem
but all the clouds have winged
low since no-Dick was elected

so i thought again
and it occurred to me
maybe i shouldn’t write
at all
but clean my gun
and check my kerosene supply

perhaps these are not poetic
at all

Posted in poetry potluck

Poetry Potluck: Anita’s Cheese Grits

Chili Cheese Grits Recipe
Photo courtesy of Tate of Home

These cheese grits, brought to you by Center for Poetry Director Anita Skeen, are a staple at our annual staff holiday party. Anita writes:

During the holiday season, I think we often recall friends and family who are no longer physically with us but who live on in other ways. The recipe for cheese glints was passed down to me by P.J. Wyatt, a professor of linguistics and folklore whom I taught with at Wichita State University until her retirement. She was my colleague, my mentor, my friend and I often had dinner at her home, across the street from the university, in those early days. Whenever I cook cheese grits, and often I do that during the holidays, I remember P.J., who has been gone now for nearly 23 years. My mother, who has been gone for almost 7 years, left me few recipes, probably because I hated to cook. But I do have a few, in her handwriting, that I pull out of my recipe box on occasion, generally during holidays. Every time I do, she comes alive in the kitchen of my memory, always wearing an apron, bending over a pot or skillet, wooden spoon in hand.

Cheese Grits
1/2 cup quick-cooking hominy grits
2 cups boiling water
1/3 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/12 cups)
4 tablespoons butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
1 egg, well beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

Stir grits into rapidly boiling water in large pot. Reduce heat; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick. Add cheese and butter to hot grits; stir until they melt. Mix egg, salt and red pepper sauce in small bowl; add to grits mixture. Spoon into greased casserole. Bake at 350˚F for 40 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika 10 minutes before done. (6 to 8 servings.)

By Anita Skeen

My father, afraid to turn on the oven for over a year
after my mother died, sends me his recipe for corn casserole,

scrawling across the top, Try it, It’s good. On the next sheet,
another recipe, this one for old fashioned vanilla ice cream,

typed, I can tell, on a manual typewriter. On the bottom,
my mother’s handwriting, changing the proportions,

suggesting alternatives. I’m as startled by that forgotten script
as I would be if she entered the room and spoke my name,

her absence three years painful. This is the recipe
she stirred on summer days when cousins came

from Parkersburg, Richmond, far away L.A.
Daddy dug out the wooden freezer and we all cranked,

fifteen minute shifts, the ice and salt replenished,
newspapers wrapping the tub, a noisy marvel.

When it churned hard enough, we extracted
the dasher, all having a lick or two

before packing the canister back in ice to ripen.
My mother’s favorite was peach, sweet with frosty

chunks, but we cousins wanted chocolate chips,
maraschino cherries, and pecans. I can’t stop staring

at the mundane notes she wrote, unaware
of the earthquake they’d one day cause.

I hear her laughter on the front porch as spoons
chime against the sides of bowls, scraping them clean.

Mysterious night cools down around us, fireflies blink on
and off. I feel guilty for saying thumbs down so often

to her peach delight. Now that peaches seem more plentiful
than ever, I find no recipe in any of her cookbooks.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Negative” by Kevin Young

by Kevin Young

Wake to find everything black
what was white, all the vice
versa—white maids on TV, black

sitcoms that star white dwarfs
cute as pearl buttons. Black Presidents,
Black Houses. White horse

candidates. All bleach burns
clothes black. Drive roads
white as you are, white songs

on the radio stolen by black bands
like secret pancake recipes, white back-up
singers, ball-players & boxers all

white as tar. Feathers on chickens
dark as everything, boiling in the pot
that called the kettle honky. Even

whites of the eye turn dark, pupils
clear & changing as a cat’s.
Is this what we’ve wanted

& waited for? to see snow
covering everything black
as Christmas, dark pages written

white upon? All our eclipses bright,
dark stars shooting across pale
sky, glowing like ash in fire, shower

every skin. Only money keeps
green, still grows & burns like grass
under dark daylight.

Via Poetry Foundation

Posted in Benvenuto High School Poetry Competition

Benvenuto winners visit Center for Poetry

By Kelsey Block

From left to right: 1st place winner Jackson Graham, Honorable Mention winner Jack Evans, Honorable Mention winner Mitch VanAcker, 2nd place winner Nazifa Chowdhury, 3rd place winner Paulina Adams, and Center for Poetry Director Anita Skeen.
From left to right: 1st place winner Jackson Graham, Honorable Mention winner Jack Evans, Honorable Mention winner Mitch VanAcker, 2nd place winner Nazifa Chowdhury, 3rd place winner Paulina Adams, and Center for Poetry Director Anita Skeen.

On Wednesday, November 19, six Michigan high school students were recognized as winners of the Benvenuto High School Poetry Competition. The announcement was celebrated in conjunction with a reading by the last guest of the Fall 2014 Writing Series, Jim Minick.

The winners of the Benvenuto Competition are: Jackson Graham, first place, of Detroit Catholic Central; Nazifa Chowdhury, second place, of Detroit International Academy for Young Women; Paulina Adams, third place, of Harbor Springs High School; Jack Evans, honorable mention, of Detroit Catholic Central; Ellen Zhang, honorable mention, of Troy High School; and Mitch VanAcker, honorable mention, of Detroit Catholic Central.

The poetry prize was established in 2008 in honor of late MSU Professor Richard Benvenuto. His wife, Joyce Benvenuto, said students should be recognized for their art.

“I think the poetry has been really good. I’ve really been proud to hear (the students) read,” Joyce Benvenuto said.  “(The Center for Poetry) brings in a major author and he’s there sitting along with the kids and these kids are shining. They’re really showing that poetry is alive and well.”

The prize grew out of a collaboration between mid-Michigan writers and teachers Joyce Benvenuto and Linda Cheeseman. The pair originally established a spring poetry prize for Lansing area students. As the project grew, it attracted the attention of Barry Gross, a retired MSU English professor and former colleague of Richard Benvenuto. Gross offered up additional funding, and the pair decided to partner with the Center for Poetry to create another competition for students around the state.

Nazifa Chowdhury, 16, said she didn’t expect to win, let alone earn second place. Chowdhury has been writing poetry since she was in the sixth grade. Since then, she’s been in summer programs and performed her poetry around the state. Chowdhury’s poem, titled “Rivulets & Guilt” was about her grandfather.

Chowdhury said the hardest part about writing her poem was admitting that she was one of the people who had overlooked her grandfather’s wisdom.

“It was admitting to what I feel like I did wrong,” she said.

Mitch VanAcker said he first heard the news from classmates.

“Everybody started coming up to me saying my poem was good,” VanAcker said. Later, he found out his teacher had announced it in class. “It feels good to be recognized and it makes me want to continue,” he said.

Jack Evans said the competition gave him a sense of validation and inspired him to work harder.

“I was really excited,” he said, adding that he’s been involved in poetry at school and through Poetry Out Loud. “As soon as I got the email, I forwarded it to my teacher with ‘HELL YEAH’ in the subject line in all caps.”

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Students” by Mark Halliday

The students eat something and then watch the news,
a little, then go to sleep. When morning breaks in
they find they have not forgotten all: they recall
the speckle of words on certain pages of
the chapter assigned, a phrase of strange weight
from a chapter that was not assigned, and something
said almost flippantly by a classmate on the Green
which put much of the 18th century into perspective.
Noticing themselves at the sink they are aware
the hands they wash are the “same” hands
as in high school—though the face is different.
Arriving in the breakfast hall having hardly felt
the transit, they set down their trays on one table;
presently, glance at another corner of the space:
that was where we mostly sat two years ago,
that was where Gerry said what he said
about circles, the concept of, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation