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Shane McCrae
Shane McCrae

The Tree of Knowledge

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 21, 2018.
About this Poem 

“‘The Tree of Knowledge’ is part of a tiny sequence of poems featuring a being I call ‘the hastily assembled angel.’ A lot of the poems I’ve been writing lately seem to me to be very belated responses to the Martian poetry that briefly appeared in the United Kingdom about forty years ago, and so feature protagonists to whom Earth seems even more strange than it seems to people who live on Earth in a more everyday way. If our country is going to be led by a comic-book villain, our poems might as well be filled with Martians.”
—Shane McCrae

The Tree of Knowledge

The hastily assembled angel saw
One thing was like another thing and that
Thing like another everything     depend-
ed on     how high it was     the place you saw

Things from     and he had seen the Earth from where
A human couldn’t see the Earth     and could-
n’t tell most human things apart    and though
He hadn’t ever really understood

His job he knew it had to do with seeing
And what he saw     was everything would come
Together at the same time everything
Would fall apart     and that was humans thinking

The world was meant for them and other things
Were accidental     or were decora-
tions meant for them and therefore purposeful
That humans thought that God had told them so

And what the hastily assembled angel
Thought     was that probably God had said the same thing
To every living thing     on Earth and on-
ly stopped when one said Really back     but then

Again     the hastily assembled angel
Couldn’t tell human things apart     and maybe
That Really mattered what     would he have heard
Holy     or maybe Folly     or maybe Kill me

Copyright © 2018 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Poetry and the Creative Mind
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collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

These Poems

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

June Jordan
2017
poem

Always on the Train

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.
Ruth Stone
2003
Acadia National Park. Courtesy of the National Park Service
poem

Like You

translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


Como Tú

Yo, como tu,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.

Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sange unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

Roque Dalton
2018
collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

Poetry Is a Destructive Force

That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart. 
It is to have or nothing. 

It is a thing to have, 
A lion, an ox in his breast, 
To feel it breathing there.
 
Corazon, stout dog, 
Young ox, bow-legged bear, 
He tastes its blood, not spit. 

He is like a man 
In the body of a violent beast. 
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun. 
Its nose is on its paws. 
It can kill a man. 
Wallace Stevens
1980
Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets
collection

Lesson Plans for Introducing Poetry

Bring poems into the classroom with these lesson plans, which are especially suited to introducing students to poetry and helping them become engaged and thoughtful readers.