Book Sale Success!

The RCAH Center for Poetry would like to give a big “thank you!” to all of our supporters who showed up at our annual book sale last week. All went well and we earned more than $900, which will help the Center put on events and host visiting writers.

If you haven’t yet satisfied your craving for a good book, stop on by the center – we’ve got plenty of novels, poetry books, and scholarly journals left.

Poem of the Week: “To My Reader” by Irene McKinney

To My Reader

There’s a passage through the night
where someone awards me, hangs
the tassle of distress off to the side
and replaces it with a badge
indicating that I did one thing
right by continuing what
I’d started when I didn’t know
it had begun, and I was sure
of no reward. Blessings were not
forthcoming, daily distress.
The path is aerial seen from
above. I startle myself
and feel I have no choice but
to proceed by inches. I pull down
the magic curtain, uncurb the car,
get in and drive, coaxing
the pattern to relief.

And you have been with me
through the long and hateful night
although you are only a shadow.
You have stayed behind
my shoulder and I’ve sheltered
you there, made a place for
you in my mind. In loneliness,
in rain, in the loss of breath,
you have been with me
and I have not failed you
because I continued to speak
when you begged me not
to inquire further and I spoke
to your fears in a voice of grief,
saying, yes they are gone and
will not return, but you
are still breathing. And I sang
you a song that came through
a trail of nerves down the generations
through all we have read together
and all we have remembered.
Remember the words, and I’ll remember you.

Courtesy of The Kenyan Review

Poem of the Week: “No Map” by Stephen Dobyns

No Map


How close the clouds press this October first

and the rain—a gray scarf across the sky.

In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend

lie waiting for their respective operations,

hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.

They were so brave when I talked to them last

as they spoke of the good times we would share

in the future. To neither did I say how much

I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.

Their bodies are delicate glass boxes

at which the world begins to fling its stones.

Is this the day their long cry will be released?

How can I live in this place without them?

But today is also my son’s birthday.

He is eight and beginning his difficult march.

To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.

Far from my house he will open his presents—

a book, a Swiss army knife, some music. Where

is his manual of instructions? Where is his map

showing the dark places and how to escape them?


from Body Traffic: Poems by Stephen Dobyns

Copyright 1990 by Stephen Dobyns

Upcoming Events: Book Sale

Join the RCAH Center for Poetry at our annual book sale on Thursday, September 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’ll be set up outside the MSU Auditorium selling more than 3,000 new and used books starting at just 25 cents each! All of the proceeds to benefit our center. Hope to see you there!

Also, while you’re on campus, stop by the MSU Main Library to help them celebrate Banned Books Week! They’ll be reading short passages from banned books out on the library’s patio in order to draw attention to issues surrounding censorship. For more information about the Banned Books Readout, please contact Holly Flynn at 

Here’s a sneak peek of a small selection of the books we’ll have available for sale. 

Poem of the Week: “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore

But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.


Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation

Poem of the Week: “Why We Tell Stories” by Lisel Mueller

Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems

Copyright 1996 by Lisel Mueller


Up and Coming

Hey poetry lovers! Be sure to mark down these important dates for all things poetry here at MSU! We’d love to see you there!

Book Sale: Thursday, September 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside the MSU Auditorium

Chalking: Wednesday, September 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by the Red Cedar River near Erickson Hall and Farm Lane

George Ellenbogen (Fall Writing Series: Memoir): Wednesday, October 16 at 7 p.m. in the RCAH Theater (Snyder C20)

Foreign Language Poetry Reading with MSU Student Language Clubs: Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the RCAH Theater (Snyder C20).

Carolyn Gage (Fall Writing Series: Playwriting): Wednesday, November 6 at 7 p.m. in the RCAH Theater (Snyder C20)

Barbara Presnell (Fall Writing Series: Poetry): Wednesday, November 13 at 7 p.m. in the RCAH Theater (Snyder C20)

Ann Pancake (Fall Writing Series: Fiction): Wednesday, December 4 at 7 p.m. in the RCAH Theater (Snyder C20)

To find out more about upcoming events in the RCAH Center for Poetry, visit our Facebook page at or our website at

We also welcome questions, comments, and concerns. Feel free to visit, call, and/or send us an email. See our “Contact” page for more information.


The Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Center for Poetry at Michigan State University opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry.

Our goal is to help facilitate a place for poetry in our everyday lives. Poetry allows us to read, write, and think expressively while teaching the value of collaboration and interpretation. Our events, readings, workshops, and community outreach programs are designed to bring together all kinds of poets in an effort to appreciate the simple yet powerful beauty of words.

We hope to use this blog as a place to preview upcoming events. Keep checking back as we add more information on visiting poets, workshops, and other happenings in the RCAH Center for Poetry