'Veiled, he's mysterious as a bride'

What haunts this loose sonnet by Carrie Green is loss, anticipated loss, but loss, nonetheless. Yet, what emerges is an elegant “pre-elegy”. A tender anthem to a father and to the sweetness he represents, an anthem made more intimate by the choice of addressee: “Brother”.

 

ROBBING THE BEES

by Carrie Green

after John Wood

 

Brother, one day the grove and hives will empty:

the ...

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American Life in Poetry

'It takes three days to tow our brokenness across the state'

Jehanne Dubrow’s finely crafted sonnet, her own “simple machine”, reminds us so well of that moment, full of contradictory emotions, when the things we think are “unfailing”, fail us. She reflects on the fear of having to put aside an old, cherished thing to acquire what she calls “clean and bright”...

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American Life in Poetry

'No matter how wide the final margin, a lone ballot never counted so much'

It’s been some months since our last election, but it is always good to be reminded, in this poem by Kamilah Aisha Moon, of how precious and hard-won the right to vote and the act of voting are.

 

...

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American Life in Poetry

'Lost in a foaming green crawl, I grew smaller than me'

For many of us who live in landlocked states, an encounter with the tumult and power of the sea can be a bracing encounter with nature. Here, in a poem I came across in a clever new anthology called R...

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American Life in Poetry

'I went to the hospital to hear my heart beat in her various chambers'

There is nothing quite like the relief of good news from the doctors. Of course, it is a reminder of the bad news we eventually expect, the faith that the word “cure” demands of us. I have always enjo...

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American Life in Poetry

'I want to kiss them as I hurt to be kissed'

Sasha Pimentel’s poem is a splendid example of the poetic device called the conceit, which refers to an extended metaphor, and of course, the image here is the violin. Yet the title of the poem is tak...

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American Life in Poetry

'The truth is I love watching you trot away from me'

It is reassuring to know that other dog owners struggle with the strange way in which we project our humanity on animals and ignore the implications of such an “unnatural” act. Nikki Wallschlaeger’s n...

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American Life in Poetry

'You are the most beautiful dark'

I heard Yona Har­vey say in an inter­view that this loose Shake­speare­an (“the bard”) son­net was writ­ten for her teenage daugh­ter, which makes its deep, lay­ered beau­ty a touch­ing mon­u­ment to ...

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American Life in Poetry

'And when the owl stirred, a fine dust fell from its wings'

In many cul­tur­al tra­di­tions, an encounter with an owl at night is an omi­nous sign. But here, in a poem by recent Shel­ley Memo­r­i­al Award win­ner, Arthur Sze, (first pub­lished in 1982), there ...

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American Life in Poetry

'I hold my life above a sieve'

There is a long and ancient tradition of poetry as a form of prayer. Here, in a poem from his new collection of new and selected poems, The Naked Prince, South Carolinian poet Ben Greer brings to my m...

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American Life in Poetry

'Moths sing of you from wherever moths go to sing'

Sometimes defining what we mean by love causes us to fumble around, until we find the right language, or, as in this case, the perfect lived image that captures it all. Tyree Daye does this here in hi...

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American Life in Poetry

'Each bite an ordinary weapon we wield against the shrinking of mouths'

The insane birds in 'Almost Forty', by the always eloquent and emotionally generous poet Ada Limón, seem to be warning of the coming of winter, but it is time, really, and its passing, that they anthe...

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American Life in Poetry

'Animals long believed gone crept down from trees'

Tracy K Smith, former poet laureate, has a wonderful way with strange and haunting images, that still manage to tell a resonant story. I think of the old story she tells here - how future generations ...

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American Life in Poetry

'Watching the troubled people running and crying'

I have a memory of Lucille Clifton responding to a young poet who asked her how she managed to be a productive publishing poet despite having to raise six children, by saying, “I wrote shorter poems.”...

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American Life in Poetry

'I keep that scrap of paper in my pocket'

June Jordan died in 2002, an American child of Jamaican immigrants whose remarkable poetry is collected in The Essential June Jordan, a new collection published by Copper Canyon Press. This eloquent f...

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American Life in Poetry

'Mama, with an axe, trudged tirelessly each day through deep snow'

Missouri poet Kitty Carpenter could have chosen any number of titles for her poem, a moving and difficult accounting of how the roles of parent and child change as a result of the passing of time; but...

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American Life in Poetry

'Little one, it starts with a heart'

It must be one of the great mercies of life that time provides us with the magical capacity to turn memories of the complete alarm of caring for an infant child into a delightful bit of nostalgia. Adr...

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American Life in Poetry

'Here every flower grows ragged and sideways and always beautiful'

I have heard so many poets say that they feel like outcasts, until they meet other outcasts and dreamers, people who seem to feel like them, and suddenly they feel affirmed in their difference, and, a...

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American Life in Poetry

'Nothing moving but his quick beating heart'

José Alcantara’s poem, which appeared in the winter 2020 issue of Rattle, seems simple enough - a splendid and hopeful account of a familiar moment - a bird stunned by a collision with glass, held in ...

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American Life in Poetry

'We go nowhere for weeks. We're stiff and silent in these rows'

Only 0.03 per­ cent of us end up doing jury duty each year. But we all car­ry an aware­ness that it can be us next. Accord­ing to casi​no​.org a quar­ter of Amer­i­can adults serve on jury duty at lea...

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American Life in Poetry

Kwame Dawes takes over as editor of American Life in Poetry

Award-winning poet, author, and editor Kwame Dawes has published his first weekly column as American Life in Poetry editor, in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and University of Nebraska-Lincoln...

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American Life in Poetry

'They whirl out the door, the blue sky a sudden surprise'

Pat Emile, who served as assistant editor to American Life in Poetry for over a decade, was described by past editor Ted Kooser as the “Jill-Of-All-Trades for this column”. I was fortunate enough to e...

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