Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “I Remember the Carrots,” by Ada Limón

carrotCenter for Poetry graduate fellow Alecia Beymer said this about this week’s choice: “I chose this poem for a number of reasons: I’m taken by the promise in the first line; I don’t know exactly what the poem means or even endeavors to mean and I’m grateful for that uncertainty; I have begun to repeat the line, ‘Why must we practice / this surrender?’ over and over again as if the resuscitation will yield a quenchable answer. I think I am always negotiating the space where this poem was written, ‘I haven’t given up’ and ‘I still want.’ I’ve always been enamored by Limón’s poetic move of renaming and the conjuring of the confession; she makes a swift, but gentle turn towards the end, ‘What I mean is:’ and there we have it, our ears pressed to the page, ready and waiting for someone to tell us just how and why we practice this day-to-day surrender? Never knowing what truly compelled us into the predicament in the first place. Also, I love her book Bright Dead Things and cannot recommend it enough. She also has another book out entitled, The Carrying. I am only halfway through and already on the floor.”


I Remember the Carrots

by Ada Limón

I haven’t given up on trying to live a good life,
a really good one even, sitting in the kitchen
in Kentucky, imagining how agreeable I’ll be –
the advance of fulfillment, and of desire –
all these needs met, then unmet again.
When I was a kid, I was excited about carrots,
their spidery neon tops in the garden’s plot.
And so I ripped them all out. I broke the new roots
and carried them, like a prize, to my father
who scolded me, rightly, for killing his whole crop.
I loved them: my own bright dead things.
I’m thirty-five and remember all that I’ve done wrong.
Yesterday I was nice, but in truth I resented
the contentment of the field. Why must we practice
this surrender? What I mean is: there are days
I still want to kill the carrots because I can.



“I Remember the Carrots” by Ada Limón, from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Coffee Aisle,” by Graham Barnhart

Beans (1)

“I chose this poem because I believe in the healing, transporting power of a cup of coffee,” said Center for Poetry intern Grace Carras. “Graham Barnhart writes often about his experience as a medic in the US Army. I thought that this was a touching poem that raises an interesting question; what flavors do we use to mask the old tastes in our mouth? What flavor could be strong enough to ground us in the ordinary present, when our minds keep slipping back to memories of trauma or conflict? (To answer, if that flavor isn’t coffee, then I don’t know what it could be.) I really enjoyed this poem, as I enjoy all of Barnhart’s poetry. Let’s face it; with all this ice and snow, the thought of a hot cup of coffee feels healing.”


The Coffee Aisle

by Graham Barnhart


You step back always to boiling

black froth in a tin cup

to the density of flak curtains

heavier at least than the wind


stirred up by whatever

is outside exploding,

whenever you arrive

among these stone-ground beans


labeled Colombian Supremo

Jamaican Blue Mountain

robust with floral notes and balanced

blends of pleasant acidity.


After disheveling homes

with tracks of finger-size holes

left open to let a little sunlight in,

or kneeling through blood rinsed


truck-bed surgeries

while ceramic armor plates

clamped your legs to sleep

your fingers in torn rubber gloves

in someone’s torn leg—


anything that didn’t taste

like dust was saffron or jasmine

under the tongue—even dirt

sometimes, even blood.


But now which of these

mild to moderate sharpnesses

counterfeit best that flavor

when tamped into a cannon-mouth


French press here at home

in your un-demolished kitchen?



Posted in news

Founder Anita Skeen featured in MSU Today


Anita Skeen, founder of the RCAH Center for Poetry, in full Ravenclaw regalia.

We were thrilled to find this February 11 story in MSU Today about our beloved founder, Anita Skeen.

Click this link to read more about Anita’s fascinating journey from Appalachia to East Lansing, and her campaign to start our Center for Poetry.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows,” by Paige Lewis

heart card

An explanation by Center for Poetry intern, Estee Schlenner: “Valentine’s Day is this week so I thought it only necessary to choose a love poem. This poem gives me all the warm, fuzzy feelings inside because it showcases the more sweet and subtle moments of love in a relationship. The last few lines are my favorite because they provide strong image of a sweet sentiment. I hope everyone has a nice Valentine’s Day, and remember to not only celebrate romantic love if you have it, but celebrate the love you have for your friends and family, and most importantly celebrate the love you have for yourself!”


“When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows”

by Paige Lewis



what I really mean. He paints my name

across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners

to my ankles. Then he paints another

for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,

saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your

shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels

of your shopping cart. It’s all very polite.

Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take

them to the Laundromat—the one with

the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—

and watch our shadows warm

against each other. We bring the shadow game home

and (this is my favorite part) when we

stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled

my husband grips his own wrist,

certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.


Copyright © 2018 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week “A Warm Day in Winter,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

melting snow

Center for Poetry intern, Amy Potchen, gives insight about the choosing of the poem: “I could not think of a more perfect poem to fit the day in East Lansing. After what I hope is the largest snow storm of the winter, a day in the fourties seems almost uncomfortable. Paul Laurence Dunbar captures the feelings of today with his dialect heavy poem “A Warm day in Winter.”


A Warm Day in Winter


Paul Laurence Dunbar



Sunshine on de medders,

Greenness on de way;

Dat’s de blessed reason

I sing all de day.”

Look hyeah! Whut you axin’?

Whut meks me so merry?

‘Spect to see me sighin’

W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary?


‘Long de stake an’ rider

Seen a robin set;

W’y hit ‘mence a-thawin’,

Groun’ is monst’ous wet.

Den you stan’ dah wond’rin’,

Lookin’ skeert an’ stary;

I’s a right to caper

W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary.


Missis gone a-drivin’,

Mastah gone to shoot;

Ev’ry da’ky lazin’

In de sun to boot.

Qua’tah ‘s moughty pleasant,

Hangin’ ‘roun’ my Mary;

Cou’tin’ boun’ to prospah

W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary.


Cidah look so pu’ty

Po’in’ f’om de jug–

Don’ you see it’s happy?

Hyeah it laffin’–glug?

Now’s de time fu’ people

Fu’ to try an’ bury

All dey grief an’ sorrer,

W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary.


Dunbar, P.L. (1913). The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.