Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Advice, by Dan Gerber


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!

Posted in poem of the week

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


Posted in poem of the week

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