April 1, 2023 Since 2011, I have been posting a poem on Facebook each day of National Poetry Month. Each year I look forward to sharing poems that make me think and rethink, wonder, be sad or happy, or fill me with awe. This year I decided to add them to my website so more people can find and read them.
April 2, 2023 For the second day of National Poetry Month, here is a beautiful affirmation of deep living, of our belonging to nature and to generations of humanity. The poet, adrienne maree brown, starts with the words, “even now/ we could be happy” and halfway through, “even now/ we can be present.…” The last stanza takes my breath away. Here is “spell for reclaiming the moment” by adrienne maree brown. https://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/spell-for-reclaiming-the-moment
April 3, 2023 What was life like in the internment camps set up for the Japanese in the United States from 1942 to 1946? The poem, “Barracks Home” by Toyo Suyemoto, paints the picture most skillfully and poignantly. Be sure to watch the one-minute, ten-second illustrated film of the poem. The poet asks toward the end, “What peace can such a place as this impart?” https://www.mellon.org/twenty-ten-25/barracks-home/=
April 4, 2023 Today in Alexandria, VA, we are welcoming The Golden Rule, the anti-nuke ship that travels around the world to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear arms, as it docks at the marina on the Potomac River here. I will be reading a couple of poems at the event.
April 6, 2023 Today’s poem is “Meeting at an Airport” by Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, who has written so many gems. Two friends meet by chance at an airport, after forty years, and the poet answers the questions (“What do you hate/ and who do you love?”) the same way…read his beautiful answers! He writes that as he was about to reply,his blood was “rushing in me/ like the shadow/ cast by a cloud of starlings.” Friendship remains while everything around us changes; and sometimes this makes us weep. I love this poem. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54303/meeting-at-an-airport
April 8, 2023 Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, a Palestinian poet, novelist, and children’s book writer, lives under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank. This poem, “Mothers Arrange Their Aches at Night,” talks of the ordinary and extraordinary roles that mothers take on, like holding photos of their martyred sons to be captured by cameras. They also “hold up the house beams” and so much more. The last line feels like the poem’s capstone. https://poets.org/poem/mothers-arrange-their-aches-night
April 9, 2023 If you’re not familiar with this poem by Danusha Laméris, “Bonfire Opera,” you’re in for a fabulous treat. “In those days,” it starts, and recounts a wondrous tale, lush in sensory detail. The ending is a surprise, a profound understanding that becomes clear, both anguished and stunning. http://www.danushalameris.com/poems.html
April 11, 2023 My dear friend, poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller, brought this poem to my attention. I know that he and I, and so many people I know, think deeply about what it means to be aging, how to grow into our later years with more lightness of being as we shed material things and widen our perspectives. Here is “I Dare You” by Dorianne Laux. https://poets.org/poem/i-dare-you
April 12, 2023 Poet James Crews always homes in on the crux of the matter, and always with tender perception. He models the idea of kindness to oneselfin many of his poems. The words that begin this one, repeated twice, like affirmations, are “Let me…” — let me endure, let me trust, let me thrive We sometimes need to experience a fire in our lives in order to get through it, and then grow. This poem is about strength and resilience, both in nature and in human character. Here is “Let Me Thrive” by James Crews. https://singingbowl.org/author/jamescrews/page/8/
April 13, 2023 The poem by the late celebrated Polish poet Adam Zagajewski, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” became famous soon after 9/11. Its lines speak of compassion and optimism, with many references to nature along with aspects of the scarred, human-made world. Although the unsettling words “mutilated world” appear four times, there is also something comforting about this poem, especially the ending. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57095/try-to-praise-the-mutilated-world-56d23a3f28187
April 15, 2023 This gorgeous poem by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha recalls and vivifies the making of zaatar pies. It offers a “recipe” that is an invocation ofgenerational memory and the hillsides where zaatar is lovingly foraged and brought home. Here is one lovely stanza: “And in the kneading/ hinge forward, let the weight/ of what you carry on your shoulders,/ the luster of your language, shade/ of your story press into the dough.” And later, "Some grandmothers sing as they bake,/ others speak prayers.” You will find many beautiful, inimitable lines in this poem, “Eating the Earth.” https://www.sukoonmag.com/responsive/poems-lena-khalaf-tuffaha/
April 16, 2023 Karenne Wood was a member of the Monacan Indian Nation and lived in Northern Virginia until she died in 2019. She wrote poems about Virginia Indians and their history, identity, and culture. In “My Standard Response,” we can really feel her frustration about the stereotypes she encounters of indigenous peoples.At one point later in the poem, she even writes “I’m sick of explaining myself.” Here is “My Standard Response” by Karenne Wood. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/147117/my-standard-response
April 17, 2023 Allow me to offer one of my own poems today. I am grateful to Steven Ratiner, Poet Laureate of Arlington, Massachusetts, for publishing “Prayer for Syria” in his latest newsletter, “The Red Letters.” The poem responds to the recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey and the amazing, and heartbreaking, story of the infant found alive under the rubble in the town of Jindayris. You can read the poem and the essay Steven wrote on this blogspot (scroll down a bit to “The Red Letters” and then to “Red Letter Poem #156): http://dougholder.blogspot.com/
April 20, 2023 I have been thinking a lot recently about the role of poetry in spurring people to action. Diane di Prima is a poet who comes to mind, one “who frankly wrote about sexuality, feminism, class, and various aspects of the counterculture, [and] was regularly targeted by the authorities for her radical content…” (quote from the Academy of American Poets). She was a contemporary of the Beat movement poets like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Read her poem, “Revolutionary Letter #2,” and note in the second stanza how she describes a tribe, “an organism, one flesh, breathing joy….” (there is much more!). https://poets.org/poem/revolutionary-letter-2
April 21, 2023 The horrific Charleston, SC, church massacre occurred during the tenure of US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, in June 2015. He wrote these moving words in memory of the nine victims. The beginning is “poem by poem/ we can end the violence,” with a plea at the end, “…stop them/ from falling.” Sadly, we continue to relive similar horrible shootings too often in the United States. Here is “Poem by Poem” by Juan Felipe Herrera. https://poets.org/poem/poem-poem
April 22, 2023 Although Muriel Rukeyser is more known for poetry addressing injustice, human rights, and anti-war sentiments, this poem, “Water Night,” is also a lovely, lyrical piece. Is it describing (beautifully) the act of falling asleep? I’m curious how others read it. Here is “Water Night” by Muriel Rukeyser. http://murielrukeyser.emuenglish.org/2018/12/07/water-night/
April 23, 2023 Here are “Three Poems from Palestine” by Najwan Darwish because I couldn’t decide which one to point to on this page. They are all so meaningful and moving. I hope you will read all three. This poet’s voice captures so much of the Palestinian people’s angst, sorrow, abandonment, and loss. But he does so with dignity and situates the experience in a long history. And despite it all, in the first poem he affirms, “No matter. I still want to write it —/ the land.” These translations are by the brilliant Kareem James Abu-Zeid. https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2021/summer/three-poems-palestine-najwan-darwish
April 24, 2023 Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Here is collection of poems by Armenian poet Peter Balakian. They are all so moving, and I’d like to draw your attention to “Parable for Vanished Countries” and “After the Survivors Are Gone.” https://pen.org/june-tree/
April 25, 2023 Hanif Abdurraqib’s creative way with metaphor and word is so compelling to me. In this poem, he writes of the brief life of the peony, “a flower with a short season. born dying,” as he describes a relationship that is ending. The title of the poem, “How Can Black People Talk about Flowers at a Time Like This,” is a question he heard someone whisper at a poetry reading, after which he wrote a series of poems with the same title. This poet is so imaginative in the way he gets to the nub of things. https://poems.com/poem/how-can-black-people-write-about-flowers-at-a-time/
April 27, 2023 This poem is for optimists and early rising birds that wake up chirping that “life is so fine.” Here is the charming poem, “For the Bird Singing before Dawn,” by Kim Stafford https://poets.org/poem/bird-singing-dawn
April 28, 2023 Langston Hughes wrote the powerful poem “Democracy” in 1949, when segregation and racism against African Americans were institutionalized in US society. “I have as much right/ As the other fellow has/ To stand/ On my two feet/ And own the land,” he affirms. The website also has a lovely animation (49 seconds) to accompany the reading of this poem (scroll down a bit on the page). https://www.mellon.org/article/video-democracy
April 30, 2023 Well, friends, it’s the last day of National Poetry Month. Thanks to the many folks who read and commented on, or just engaged on your own with, the poems I have posted. I’ve enjoyed choosing the poems to post, and especially, reading a bunch of poems before deciding which ones to feature. If any of you would like the full month’s postings, send me a direct message with your email address and I will email the document to you.
We will go out with a bang! Check out this amazing poem, “You Are Who I Love,” by Aracelis Girmay. I know it’s long, but it’s so worth reading. The poet Hanif Abdurraqib says that whenever he is asked to share a poem at a demonstration, this is the one he reads. https://poets.org/poem/you-are-who-i-love