Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Easter, 1916

100 years ago on April 24, an uprising took place against Great Britain’s rule of Ireland. Though the uprising was unsuccessful and many of the prominent Irish leaders involved were executed, the uprising exemplified national pride and revolution. Later that year, poet William Butler Yeats composed “Easter, 1916” describing his conflicted emotions towards the event.

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Through summer and winter, seem
Enchanted to a stone.

Hearts with one purpose alone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change.
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim;
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death.
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

“Easter 1916,” by William Butler Yeats. As published in The Dial, Volume LXIX, No. 25 (New York, November 1920).




Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “From: To: ” by Robin Coste Lewis




At last, a dark murderous lunatic

to whom they are allowed to respond.

Here, no one expects them to be strung

up by their necks—dangled—and then left


to be cut down from a tall tree—and not cry.

No law—here—will require them to watch

their families hurled on top of the world’s bright pyre,

over generations—without complaint—


unattended by rage’s holiness

or the clear mirror of grief. They find some

chalk to celebrate. While one loads, one lifts,

then checks. Just before they ignite the bomb,


they write on its shell—FROM HARLEM, TO HITLER—

then stand back for the camera, smiling.


~ Robin Coste Lewis


From “Voyage of the Sable Venus and other poems,” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)

harlem to hitler (1)

Posted in Balocating Prize for Poetry, news, Spring Poetry Festival

Annie Balocating Prize for Poetry winner to be announced this week

anita and annie

By Kelsey Block

On Wednesday, April 20, the Center for Poetry is hosting poet and MSU alumna Lindsay Tigue as a guest in the annual Spring Poetry Festival.

In addition to her reading, Tigue will announce the winner of the 2016 Annie Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry.

This has been the contest’s biggest year yet, with 65 entries.

The prize is named for another MSU alumna and poet, Annie Balocating.

Balocating bought her first poetry book—a collection of Emily Dickinson’s work—from a Troll Book Order when she was in 8th grade. Her class had been learning to diagram sentences and scan poetry at the time.

“I loved learning about Emily Dickinson’s life, and dissecting her poetry through scan and diagramming felt like unraveling hidden treasures,” she wrote in an email.

Balocating was a student in the Residential Option in the Arts and Letters (ROIAL) program at MSU. Even after she completed the ROIAL program, Balocating wanted to stay involved. She belonged to a writing group with several MSU faculty and students and she kept in touch with Center for Poetry founder Anita Skeen.

“After completing ROIAL, I approached Anita Skeen and asked if I could work for ROIAL because I felt a student voice would help strengthen the program curricula by providing a student’s perspective. I also loved working with the faculty and visiting artists, and providing administrative and event-planning support,” Balocating said.

When the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities was founded in 2007, Balocating was so excited she decided to donate to the program.

Skeen established the award in her name in honor of her work as an undergraduate poet.

“I appreciate that this award invites all undergraduates from any major to submit their poetry to be considered for the award,” Balocating said.

Balocating currently resides in New York City. She teaches at City University of New York.

Posted in news

RCAH Center for Poetry, Lansing Poetry Club making the bid for Michigan Poet Laureate

By Kelsey Block

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” –Mary Oliver

On Thursday, March 31, the Historical Society of Greater Lansing hosted “Michigan, My Michigan,” a celebration honoring the contributions of the Lansing Poetry Club. The evening ended with a call to action by Center for Poetry Director Skeen and Lansing Poetry Club President Ruelaine Stokes for the creation of a Michigan poet laureate.

Michigan is one of only five states without a poet laureate. California was the first to establish the post in 1915, and Ohio added their own last year. The laureate’s duties and compensation vary from state to state.

“Usually the duties are broadly outlined, and involve the central mission of promoting the reading, writing, and an appreciation of poetry among the general public. While occasional poetry readings and other events may be required, laureates otherwise tend to fulfill their missions as they see fit. Leading poetry workshops, organizing and participating in reading series, visiting local schools, and organizing conferences are some of the ways laureates typically fulfill their duties,” Skeen said.

In July 2015, House Rep. Sarah Roberts introduced House Bill 4763, calling for the establishment of a Michigan state poet laureate. The bill, which can be viewed here, proposes that the poet laureate be appointed by the Governor, and receive no compensation other than reimbursement for “his or her actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of his or her duties as assigned by the governor.

This isn’t the first time a poet laureate has been proposed. According to the Library of Congress website, Michigan had a poet laureate in the 1950s. Edgar Guest served as the laureate from 1952-1959. In 2005, the Senate passed Bill 0181, but the House did not approve the bill.

The current bill has since been referred to a committee. House Reps. Bradford Jacobsen, Michael Webber, Andrea LaFontaine, Tim Greimel and Sam Singh are on the committee. Three of the five committee members are needed to get the bill out of the committee and into a hearing.

Skeen gave a speech at “Michigan, My Michigan” that explained the value of poetry.

“Poetry builds bridges – between individuals, communities, racial and ethnic groups, those with different sexual orientations, between the young and the old, between those who read and perform, and those who simply listen,” Skeen said.

Skeen also noted the healing power of the arts in times of political, economic and societal tensions.

“When we are facing the disasters of global warming, poverty, unrestrained access to firearms, racial violence, restrictions on women’s rights, voting rights, gay rights, where are the voices that can reconnect us with our humanity and unite us in community? Poets are doing this day in and day out in weekly newspapers, literary magazines, open mike events, spoken word performances and national events such as Poetry Out Loud where high school students all over the country interpret, memorize, and deliver poems with intensity and passion.”

For more information on poets laureate or to help establish the position in Michigan, please contact Center for Poetry Assistant Director Laurie Hollinger at or Lansing Poetry Club president Ruelaine Stokes

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Eating Walnuts

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 11.07.54 AM

The old man eating walnuts knows the trick:
you do it wrong for many years,
applying pressure to the seams,
to split the shell along its hemispheres.

It seems so clear and easy. There’s the line.
You follow the instructions, then
your snack ends up quite pulverized.
You sweep your lap, and mutter, try again.

Eventually you learn to disbelieve
the testimony of your eyes.
You turn the thing and make a choice
about what you’d prefer to sacrifice.

You soon discover that the brains inside
are on right angles, so the shell
must be cracked open on its arc,
which isn’t neat. The shattered pieces tell

a story, but the perfect, unmarred meat’s
the truth: two lobes, conjoined, intact.
One of two things is bound to break:
One the fiction, one the soul, the fact.

Poem by Jennifer Keith