Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “After Apple-Picking,” by Robert Frost

Center for Poetry intern Allison Costello said this about her choice for this week’s poem: “I chose this classic poem because I wanted something reflective to close out the autumn season. I think this semester has been a tough one for many people, and there’s nothing quite like the wise comfort (and touch of sorrow) that Frost consistently conveys in his work. While it may be cliché to use such a poem to represent the turn of the seasons and a time for rest, I think it contains an honesty and mix of emotions that many people can relate to regarding their own accomplishments and dreams in the final month of the year.


After Apple-Picking

By Robert Frost


My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree

Toward heaven still,

And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill

Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight

I got from looking through a pane of glass

I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough

And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.

But I was well

Upon my way to sleep before it fell,

And I could tell

What form my dreaming was about to take.

Magnified apples appear and disappear,

Stem end and blossom end,

And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin

The rumbling sound

Of load on load of apples coming in.

For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

For all

That struck the earth,

No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,

Went surely to the cider-apple heap

As of no worth.

One can see what will trouble

This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.

Were he not gone,

The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his

Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,

Or just some human sleep.

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.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “All Souls’ Day”, by Carol Rumens








All Souls’ Day

By Carol Rumens


Let’s go our old way
by the stream, and kick the leaves
as we always did, to make
the rhythm of breaking waves.

This day draws no breath –
shows no colour anywhere
except for the leaves – in their death
brilliant as never before.

Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly,
brown of Oak Eggar Moth –
you’d say. And I’d be wondering why
a summer never seems lost

if two have been together
witnessing the variousness of light,
and the same two in lustreless November
enter the year’s night…

The slow-worm stream – how still!
Above that spider’s unguarded door,
look – dull pearls…Time’s full,
brimming, can hold no more.

Next moment (we well know,
my darling, you and I)
what the small day cannot hold
must spill into eternity.

So perhaps we should move cat-soft
meanwhile, and leave everything unsaid,
until no shadow of risk can be left
of disturbing the scatheless dead.

Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.

And yet – touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.


Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Unmarked,” by Tim Seibles



for Natalie


So much like sequins

the sunlight on this river.

Something like that kiss—



Fourth of July, with the moon

down early    the air moved


as if it were thinking,

as if it had begun

to understand


how hard it is

to feel at home

in the world,


but that night

she found a place

just above your shoulder


and pressed her lips

there. Soft rain


had called off the fireworks:

the sky was quiet, but

back on Earth


two boys cruised by on bikes

trying out bad words. You turned

to reach her mouth,


at last, with yours    after weeks

of long walks, talking


about former loves

gone awry—


how the soul finally

falls down


and gets up alone

once more


finding the city strange,

the streets unmarked.


Every time you meet someone

it’s hard not to wonder


who they’ve been—one story

breaking so much


into the next: memory

engraves its hesitations—


but that night

you found yourself

unafraid. Do you remember


what the wind told the trees

about her brown hair?—

how the cool dark turned around:


that first kiss,

long as a river.


Didn’t it seem like you already loved her?


Off the sidewalk: a small pond,

the tall cattails, all those sleepy koi


coloring the water.



Center for Poetry intern Estee Schlenner had this to say about her choice of “Unmarked” this week:
I like this poem so much because, as a poet, it is difficult to write about love or most sentimental feelings, without leaning into clichés. I think Seibles walked that line perfectly. He spoke of love and a first kiss, while making it about so much more than that. I think it’s very admirable when a poet can write a poem like this because it’s a very difficult task to accomplish.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Dear Amy Nehzooukammyatootill,” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

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Center for Poetry intern Grace Carras selected this poem, and had this to say:

“I had the great privilege of participating in a poetry workshop led by Aimee Nezhukumatathil over the summer. As a teacher, she was tremendously energetic and inspiring; as a poet, her wit and attention to sensory detail sets her work apart from so many others. I’ve felt inspired by her poetry for months, and I hope you find yourself inspired as well.”


Dear Amy Nehzooukammyatootill,

(a found poem, composed entirely of e-mails from various high school students)


If I were to ask you a question about your book

and sum it up into one word it would be, Why?

I think I like Walt Whitman better than you. I just don’t

get literature, but for a fast hour and a half read, your book


takes the cake. I like how you organized the lines

in that one poem to represent a growing twisting bonsai tree.

Are you going to get a rude reaction when you meet

that one guy in that one poem? I guess you never know.


You are very young to be a poet. I also like how your poems take

up an entire page (it makes our reading assignment go faster).

In class we spend so much time dissecting your poems

and then deeply analyzing them. I think I like Walt Whitman


better than you, but don’t take offense—you are very good too!

You are young, You are young and pure and really just want

to have a good time. Thank you we have taken a debate

and you are a far better poet than Walt Whitman. And I loved


how your poems were easy to read and understand. Hello

my name is Alicia. We read you book and I just loved it.

We also read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. There

was no competition there. I liked your book a whole lot better.


It was an easy read. But poetry is not my favorite type

of literature. Sometimes I am offered drinks and guys

try to talk to me but I too just brush it off and keep dancing.

Every once and a while the creepy mean guys try to offer you


things and then they say something. What would you do?

Lastly, I was wondering if you ever wrote a poem that really

didn’t have a deeper meaning but everyone still tried

to give it one anyways? Walt Whitman is better than you.


Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Orchestra” by Russell Brakefield


Center for Poetry intern Amy Potchen selected this week’s poem, and said this:

This poem is by Russell Brakefield.
I chose this poem while looking into Brakefield’s poetry, since he will be coming to RCAH next month to do a reading. This poem reminds me to see the beauty in Summer’s nature before the season comes to a close. The end of the poem emphasizes that we can learn from bees and the connections they seem to have to each other. I am also intrigued by how frequent the line breaks are, as well as relating the sound of bees to an orchestra.


by Russell Brakefield

Bees sleep
because they need to
like us. Together
a bundle
of bees asleep
at night
is a concertina
wheezing closed.
In the hive
they dance
a democratic dance,
a waltz
to prioritize.
Abdomen wobbles
a whole note.
I read today
some bees feel
the thrum
of electric current
as they encounter
a flower’s field,
which is true
but also
what I need to be— 
social spark,
singing field.