'Every butterfly knows that the end is different from the beginning'

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I'm writing this column on a summer day when a hungry crowd of Monarch butterfly caterpillars are eating the upper leaves of the milkweed just outside my door in Nebraska, and my wife and I are joyful that they're getting a good start at life. The following poem is from Stuart Kestenbaum's new book, How to Start Over, from Deerbrook Editions. He lives in Maine and is the state's Poet Laureate.

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American Life in Poetry

'Each time, the found world surprises - that is its nature'

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Jane Hirshfield, who lives in California, is one of our country's finest poets. I found this beautiful meditation in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, CT. Ms. Hirshfield's most recent book of poetry is the newly-published Ledger: Poem...

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American Life in Poetry

'Though I am inclined to share, I know that opening the window will change the world'

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Karen Head lives in Georgia, and possums seem to live everywhere. You may drive past a dead one on a roadside somewhere today. Here's a poem in which the poet chooses to keep a safe distance from wild...

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American Life in Poetry

'A convenience store with a bike stand, and three smoke-drenched taverns'

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I’ve mentioned the anthology, Local News: Poetry About Small Towns from MWPH Books, PO Box 8, in Fairwater, Wisconsin. Here’s one of the many poems I’ve enjoyed, by Scott Wiggerman, who lives in New M...

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American Life in Poetry

'Consider me a prospector probing with my own gold'

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Lest we forget our vegetables, here's a poem by James Bertolino about one of our dearest and healthiest ones. The poet lives in Bellingham, Washington, and this is from his book, Every Wound Has A Rhy...

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American Life in Poetry

'Some rituals of this good earth continue'

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That sage curse, "May you live in interesting times," has been upon us for the past few years, but here a Kentucky poet, Jonathan Greene, offers us some reassurance that there is order in the world. G...

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American Life in Poetry

'Our souls have been longing to go home ... the body doesn't agree'

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Robert Bly is one of the last living major American poets of his generation, and WW Norton recently published his Collected Poems. I and many other poets of the central states owe Bly, who grew up on ...

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American Life in Poetry

'Somewhere the night had accommodated him'

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This week’s poem is one of my favourites and I can’t explain why in the 15 years I’ve been writing this column I’ve neglected until now to share it with you. Wendell Berry is one of our country’s fine...

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American Life in Poetry

'All day it continues, each kindness reaching toward another'

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Tolstoy said, "Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." I found this poem by Dorianne Laux in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness P...

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American Life in Poetry

'Your hand a quick tremble in brief illumination'

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This is the sixth of Marge Saiser's poems to appear in my column, and I've written elsewhere how much I admire her work. This poem is typical of her clear, accessible poetry of close observation. I am...

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American Life in Poetry

'Her daylilies bobbed wide open out in the wild, blue sun'

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This week and next I want to show you two beautiful poems of grief and loss by David Baker, from his new and selected poems, Swift, published in 2019 by WW Norton. Baker teaches at Denison University ...

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American Life in Poetry

'He always came back just in time for the bell'

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Poets Tom Montag and David Graham have just published a fine anthology, Local News: Poetry About Small Towns, from MWPH Books, PO Box 8, in Fairwater, Wisconsin. Here’s one of the many poems I’ve enjo...

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American Life in Poetry

'You hold life like a face between your palms'

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There’s a very fine book, Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, Connecticut, and I’ve found a number of poems for this column there. Here’...

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American Life in Poetry

'Purple trumpet blowing high notes at the sky'

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I'm a big fan of short, imagistic, haiku-like poems, and here's a fine one for the end of the year. It's by Sarah Freligh of New York, from her book Sad Math, from Moon City Press.

 

DECEMBER

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American Life in Poetry

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