'At a certain age a man can begin to say things like that to his friends'

entry picture

Some of the mannerisms of poetry that can get in the way of an everyday reader's enjoyment are elevated diction, obscure references, and a vocabulary that requires a trip to the dictionary. Here's a good example of a conversational poem that doesn't require anything other than what it carries with it. Steve Langan lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and this is from his book What It Looks Like, How It Flies...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'We longed to go to Virginia Beach and put our toes in the tide'

entry picture

Ruth Stone, who died at the age of 96 in 2011, was one of our finest poets. I'm especially taken with 'Lighter Than Air.'  I love it when there's an instant at which something magical appears and for me it's those ladders reaching down toward the girls. The poem is from What Love Comes To: New and S...

Read and leave comments (1)

 

American Life in Poetry

'Others around me, others by the window, silently looking out'

entry picture

In thirteen years of publishing this column we've never selected a poem about mental illness, but neither have I come upon one that feels so true. I am especially taken by the third stanza, which rema...

Read and leave comments (1)

 

American Life in Poetry

'The unspoken building up like thunderheads'

entry picture

Family life can shove one up against another, and here's a poem by Jeffrey Harrison that gets to that. It was originally published in Five Points, one of our most respected literary journals. Harrison...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'We will carry them home like the weight of guilt'

entry picture

There's lots of fine writing about fly fishing, from A River Runs Through It on down, but good old pole-and-bobber fishing gets short shrift.  Here's a bobber-fishing poem by P Ivan Young, who lives i...

Read and leave comments (2)

 

American Life in Poetry

'They remind us of our own hearts ... quivering in the lightest wind'

entry picture

I've never seen a frigate bird (or a frigate) but wanted to offer you a poem to prove that the hawks and crows of the Great Plains aren't the only ones that get attention in this column. Sally Bliumis...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'What do I have that she could want enough to risk such failure?'

entry picture

With Dorianne Laux I've shared the experience of having a bird enraged at her reflection in a window.  Laux lives in North Carolina and this is her third poem to be published in this column. Are you f...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'You'll see our neighbours bathed in gold'

entry picture

I'm devoted to yard and garage sales, and love to spend time with friendly strangers in scuffed front yards and oily, dim garages.  Here's a poem by Matthew Brennan, who lives in Indiana, from his 201...

Read and leave comments (1)

 

American Life in Poetry

'Their breasts and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud'

entry picture

I can identify most of the birds that live in my part of Nebraska, but I can't tell one warbler from the next. But Kevin Cole, in his new book, Late Summer Plums, from Scurfpea Publishing, has identif...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'He was at his work bench, a rich man straightening nails'

entry picture

My late friend, the poet and novelist Jim Harrison, used to tease me about the buckets of bent nails in my barn, which I planned to straighten on some rainy day but which only accumulated.  Here's a f...

Read and leave comments (1)

 

American Life in Poetry

'You pair them, two by two, you marry the socks'

entry picture

One thing I've tried to do with this column is to show off poets who do indeed write about contemporary American life, and who see deep into the ordinary parts of it. Here's a fine poem by Heid Erdric...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'Who has the courage to look out to the east again at someone else's sun?'

entry picture

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" has been attributed to a half dozen different writers. It can be helpful in encouraging people to write, but also in describing poetry that arises ...

Read and leave comments (5)

 

American Life in Poetry

'The linen is there as you left it, well-ordered'

entry picture

So many contemporary poems fail for the lack of strong endings, but here's one with a masterful latch that snaps closed at the end. Tami Haaland served as Montana's fifth poet laureate and she teaches...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'Things come down to the pale blue or the white, or some other'

entry picture

Some of you may think that I publish too many poems about the deaths of loved ones, but poetry is a means of establishing order and form when times feel disordered and formless. Marge Saiser is a Nebr...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'A roll of the dice could send a girl to jail'

entry picture

I'm writing this column on a very cold day, and it's nice to be inside with a board game to play, but better yet, for me at least, to be inside with a poem about a board game. This Monopoly game by Co...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'Tomorrow I will begin to try to forget'

entry picture

Poems that move back and forth through time can be intriguing.  In this poem by Pat Schneider, she looks deep into the past and evokes it in compelling detail, though the poem speculates that there wi...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'They die on the rug. We find them there, eyes open in surprise'

entry picture

I've had a couple of aquariums (or is the plural aquaria?), but I didn't take very good care of either one.  The glass clouded over with algae, and the fish had to live on whatever they could scrounge...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

'How blindly we stumble ahead with such hope, a light flares briefly'

entry picture

This is the sixth poem we've published by Peter Everwine, which testifies to how much I admire his writing. How fine it is when a memory arrives from the past to surprise us into happiness. Everwine l...

Read and leave comments (1)

 

American Life in Poetry

'An otter slaps the water with his paw to feel the current's pulse'

entry picture

James Crews, now living in Vermont, was for a couple of years our assistant here at American Life in Poetry. He came to us having already won the Prairie Schooner book prize, and his poems have gotten...

Read and leave comments (0)

 

American Life in Poetry

Archive of American Life in Poetry articles View all subjects

RSS feed icon Podcast podcast icon

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message