Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Waiting for a Poem,” by Lulieta Lleshanaku


Center for Poetry intern Arzelia Williams said this about her choice for this week’s poem: “I chose this poem in particular because of something Cindy Hunter Morgan said at our last Peckham workshop. It was emphasizing becoming a better writer and poet by reading more writers and poets. I thought about the poet’s approach to write about waiting to get inspiration (her guests). Too often writer’s block has been a result of waiting for the action and paying little attention to the setting.”


Waiting For a Poem





I’m waiting for a poem,

something rough, not elaborate or out of control,

something undisturbed by curses, a white raven

released from darkness.


Words that come naturally, without aiming at anything,

a bullet without a target,

warning shots to the sky

in newly occupied lands.


A poem that will well up in my chest


and until it arrives

I will listen to my children fighting in the next room

and cast my gaze down at the table

at an empty glass of milk

with a trace of white along its rim

my throat wrapped in silver

a napkin in a napkin ring

waiting for late guests to arrive. . . .



Luljeta Lleshanku, “Waiting for a Poem” from Child of Nature.  Copyright © 2000, 2006, 2010 by Luljeta Lleshanku. Translation copyright © 2010 by Henry Israeli and Shpresa Qatipi. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Posted in Poem of the Day

Poem of the (holi)Day: “Wild Gratitude,” by Edward Hirsch

Wild Gratitude

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In every one of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
“And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,
And the gardeners for their private benevolence
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed
When even this small pleasure was denied him.
But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down
And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth
That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”
And for the first time understood what it meant.
Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
That I realized how gratefully he had watched
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
Who can teach us how to praise—purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.


You’ll find a link to a recording of the poet reading this poem at

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” by Joy Harjo


Perhaps the World Ends Here


The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.


The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation,

and it will go on.


We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their

knees under it.


It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make

men at it, we make women.


At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.


Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh

with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again

at the table.


This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.


Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A

place to celebrate the terrible victory.


We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.


At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give



Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating

of the last sweet bite.


From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky: Poems, by Joy Harjo. W.W. Norton, 1994.

Posted in Poetic Justice

“Poetic Justice” is back and building community

poeticjustice logo


Everyone’s favorite poetry podcast returns for Season 2, exploring the power and impact of poetry.

In the first episode of Season 2, hosts and Center for Poetry interns, Allison Costello, Estee Schlenner, Lydia Barron, and Amy Potchen discuss the importance of poetry and community building with Cindy Hunter Morgan, the Center for Poetry’s interim director.

Special shout out to intern Arzelia Williams for writing the interview questions.

“Working on the project was easier than I expected. Allison made the process easy to learn and Arzelia wrote some great questions,” Estee Schlenner said, after working on this podcast project for the first time.

Poetic Justice is produced by the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University.

You can listen to Poetic Justice via our website, online, or wherever you currently subscribe to podcasts.



Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Origin Story,” by Karin Gottshall

Join us this Wednesday as we welcome Karin Gottshall for our Fall Writing Series.

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Origin Story

Lake Michigan dreamed me, I think,

in the winter of 1969, its long currents

combing shipwrecks and where


was my mama, then? (She was wearing

a red muumuu.) And where was my father,

then? (He was fishing for steelhead.)


No one dreamed you, stupid girl, the seagull

said — you came straight from the belly
of your granddad’s school mascot


You wore plaid skirts and bruised your knees
and lived across the street from the motorcycle shop

I remember dropping dimes in the jukebox;


I remember embers in the sand. Once I saw God

himself — a small boy running across the RV park

with a toy sword in his hand. I dreamed


we all lay down on the beach and the dunes

moved over our bodies. It took

ten thousand years of whispering,


but we finally slept. And before that?

the seagull asked. Before that I found comfort

in the fur of animals and the movement


of a boat on the water. I was warm

in my mother’s arms. Before that I was

a sonic boom over Wisconsin, and before that, fire.