Category Archives: Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week: Canoe, by Alison Luterman via poetry mistress Alison McGhee

Canoe, by Alison Luterman

When I was young, years ago, canoeing on the green
Green River, with my young first husband,

I wriggled out of my shorts, eased over the lip
of our little boat, and became eel-woman,

naked and glistening, borne along in the current.
He paddled, I floated and spun,

and let the ripples take me.
Even an hour of that kind of freedom

can last for years and years,
can become a touchstone you return to

long after the rented canoe has been returned,
and the road trip has ended, and then the marriage,

and then the husband’s brief life, and you yourself
have become someone else entirely; still

you return in your mind to the days
you could set up a tent in the dark,

and build a small fire
from birch bark and newspaper

and sit beside it, sipping tea, savoring your muscles’ sweet ache,
as one by one the uncountable stars came out.

A big thanks to Alison McGhee for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

For more information about Alison Luterman, please check out her website. Website Blog
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Poem of the Week: Choices by Tess Gallagher via Alison McGhee

Choices, by Tess Gallagher

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,   
an unseen nest
where a mountain   
would be.  

                              for Drago Štambuk

​For more information on Tess Gallagher, please ​click here.

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Thanks to Alison McGhee for curating these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: For Nothing is Fixed by James Baldwin via Alison McGhee

By Alison McGhee, a pre-amble to the poem “For Nothing is Fixed” by James Baldwin

Last week, late at night, the fire alarm in my cheap motel began to shriek. Doors opened up and down the hall and men began to emerge: huge men, small men, men in their underwear, one on crutches, one pushing a walker, one carrying a case of beer, one sweating as if just out of a sauna. This is the strangest assortment of men I’ve ever seen, I murmured to myself. One of the men leered or smiled, hard to tell.

Next morning in the breakfast room I sat tapping on my laptop while the hallway men shuffled in one by one. The leer/smile man sat next to me. I could tell he wanted to talk but I pretended to be too absorbed in my work to look up. This did not stop him.

“Hey! I like your pink hair! How’s it goin’?” 

It was early. There were six hundred miles ahead of me. I didn’t want to talk. But then the last lines of this poem by James Baldwin came to me and I closed my laptop and turned to him and smiled. Had a long conversation about the fire alarm, the slim pickings at the breakfast buffet, his favorite smoking rituals back when everybody smoked, hard to believe it now, right? 

He was a lonely man. He just wanted to talk. Sometimes it feels like most people are lonely, and most people just want to talk. 

For Nothing Is Fixed, by James Baldwin

For nothing is fixed,
forever, forever, forever,
it is not fixed;
the earth is always shifting,
the light is always changing,
the sea does not cease to grind down rock.
Generations do not cease to be born,
and we are responsible to them
because we are the only witnesses they have.
The sea rises, the light fails,
lovers cling to each other,
and children cling to us.
The moment we cease to hold each other,
the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

If you’d like to read more about James Baldwin, this is an interesting profile.

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Poem of the Week: Lumina by Darrell Bourque

Lumina
      – Darrell Bourque

We’re all extensions
          of someone or another’s
                     golden light.

In the moment
          I was made
                     stars filled the sky

& some parts
          of the bodies
                     making me

were fleetingly
          illuminated—
                     briefly luminous.

Druids see light
          in wood
                     and worship trees.

When we wave
          in recognition,
                     we disperse light,

set light in motion
          toward
                     the beloved.

We string our trees
          with lights
                     in wintertime.

We want
          to see ourselves
                     in the dark.

For more information on Darrell Bourque, please click here.

Thank you as always, to Alison for passing along these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: Voyage by Tony Hoagland via Poetry Mistress Alison

Voyage, by Tony Hoagland

I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.

And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage —

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,
I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it —
The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

For more information about Tony Hoagland, please read his obituary.

Thanks to Alison McGhee for sharing these beautiful poems. WebsiteBlogFacebook page@alisonmcghee

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Poem of the Week: by Margaret Hasse via Alison McGhee

High School Boyfriend, by Margaret Hasse

You are hometown.
You are all my favorite places
the last summer I grew up.
Every once in a while
I write you
in my head
to ask how Vietnam
and a big name college
came between us.
We tried to stay in touch
through the long distance,
the hum and fleck of phone calls.

It was inevitable
that I should return
to the small prairie town
and find you
pumping gas, driving a truck, measuring lumber,
and we’d exchange
weather talk,
never able to break through words
and time to say simply:
“Are you as happy
as I wanted you to be?”

And still I am stirred
by musky cigarette smoke
on a man’s brown suede jacket.
Never having admitted the tenderness
of your hands, I feel them now
through my skin.
Parking on breezy nights,
in cars, floating passageways,
we are tongue and tongue like warm cucumbers.
I would walk backwards
along far country roads
through late evenings cool as moving water,
heavy as red beer,
to climb into that August.

In the dark lovers’ lanes
you touched my face
and found me here.

For more information on Margaret Hasse, please click here.

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Poem of the Week: Distant Regard by Tony Hoagland via Alison McGhee

This is one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read.

Distant Regard by Tony Hoagland

If I knew I would be dead by this time next year
I believe I would spend the months from now till then
writing thank-you notes to strangers and acquaintances,
telling them, “You really were a great travel agent,”
or “I never got the taste of your kisses out of my mouth.”
or “Watching you walk across the room was part of my destination.”
It would be the equivalent, I think,
of leaving a chocolate wrapped in shiny foil
on the pillow of a guest in a hotel–
“Hotel of earth, where we resided for some years together,”
I start to say, before I realize it is a terrible cliche, and stop,
and then go on, forgiving myself in a mere split second
because now that I’m dying, I just go
forward like water, flowing around obstacles
and second thoughts, not getting snagged, just continuing
with my long list of thank-yous,
which seems to naturally expand to include sunlight and wind,
and the aspen trees which gleam and shimmer in the yard
as if grateful for being soaked last night
by the irrigation system invented by an individual
to whom I am quietly grateful.
Outside it is autumn, the philosophical season,
when cold air sharpens the intellect;
the hills are red and copper in their shaggy majesty.
The clouds blow overhead like governments and years.
It took me a long time to understand the phrase “distant regard,”
but I am grateful for it now,
and I am grateful for my heart,
that turned out to be good, after all;
and grateful for my mind,
to which, in retrospect, I can see
I have never been sufficiently kind.

For more information about Tony Hoagland, please read his obituary.

Thanks to Alison for sharing these beautiful poems far and wide.

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