poets.org

29
advertisement
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

Flowers from the Volcano

translated by Carolyn Forché

Fourteen volcanos rise
in my remembered country
in my mythical country.
Fourteen volcanos of foliage and stone
where strange clouds hold back
the screech of a homeless bird.
Who said that my country was green?
It is more red, more gray, more violent:
Izalco roars, taking more lives.
Eternal Chacmol collects blood,
the gray orphans
the volcano spitting bright lava
and the dead guerrillero
and the thousand betrayed faces,
the children who are watching
so they can tell of it.
Not one kingdom was left us.
One by one they fell
through all the Americas.
Steel rang in palaces,
in the streets,
in the forests
and the centaurs sacked the temple.
Gold disappeared and continues
to disappear on yanqui ships,
the golden coffee mixed with blood.
The priest flees screaming
in the middle of the night
he calls his followers
and they open the guerrillero's chest
so as to offer the Chac
his smoking heart.
In Izalco no one believes
that Tlaloc is dead
despite television,
refrigerators,
Toyotas.
The cycle is closing,
strange the volcano’s silence
since it last drew breath.
Central America trembled,
Managua collapsed.
In Guatemala the earth sank
Hurricane Fifi flattened Honduras.
They say the yanquis turned it away,
that it was moving toward Florida
and they forced it back.
The golden coffee is unloaded
in New York where
they roast it, grind it
can it and give it a price.
Siete de Junio
noche fatal
bailando el tango
la capital.

From the shadowed terraces
San Salvador’s volcano rises.
Two-story mansions
protected by walls
four meters high
march up its flanks
each with railings and gardens,
roses from England
and dwarf araucarias,
Uruguayan pines.
Farther up, in the crater
within the crater’s walls
live peasant families
who cultivate flowers
their children can sell.
The cycle is closing,
Cuscatlecan flowers
thrive in volcanic ash,
they grow strong, tall, brilliant.
The volcano’s children
flow down like lava
with their bouquets of flowers,
like roots they meander
like rivers the cycle is closing.
The owners of two-story houses
protected from thieves by walls
peer from their balconies
and they see the red waves descending
and they drown their fears in whiskey.
They are only children in rags
with flowers from the volcano,
with Jacintos and Pascuas and Mulatas
but the wave is swelling,
today’s Chacmol still wants blood,
the cycle is closing,
Tlaloc is not dead.

Claribel Alegría
2018
poem

Untitled

          Dear Empire, I am confused each time I wake inside you.
                        You invent addictions.  
          Are you a high-end graveyard or a child?
                        I see your children dragging their brains along.
                        Why not a god who loves water and dancing
                   instead of mirrors that recite your pretty features only?

          You wear a different face to each atrocity.
          You are un-unified and tangled.
                        Are you just gluttony?
                        Are you civilization’s slow grenade?

             I am confused each time I’m swallowed by your doors.
Jesús Castillo
2018
Pullman National Memorial. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
poem

Flowers and Bullets

Cuba and Puerto Rico
are two wings of the same bird:
they receive flowers and bullets
in the same heart.

—Lola Rodríguez de Tió, 1889

Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder.
Stain the skin red, white and blue, not the colors
that snap over holiday parades or sag over the graves
of veterans in the States, but the colors of Cuba reversed:
a flag for the rebels in the hills of Puerto Rico, dreamt up
by Puerto Ricans exiles in the Cuban Revolutionary Party,
bearded and bespectacled in the sleet of New York.
Wise Men lost on their way to Bethlehem. That
was 1895, the same year José Martí would die,
poet shot from a white horse in his first battle.

Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder,
so if I close my eyes forever in the cold
and the doctors cannot tell the cause of death,
you will know that I died like José Martí,
with flowers and bullets in my heart.

Martín Espada
2018
poem

Xicano

as light
               shaped by trajectory.

a wind settles in the body.
Echécatl the breath, the flint & spark.
the house of prayers.

I am

when sounds exchange questions
when light enters the lung
when given

the noun:                a variable absence
a law               pinned to a quail's wing.

J. Michael Martinez
2010
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.

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.  

poem

I Walk Into Every Room and Yell Where the Mexicans At

i know we exist because of what we make. my dad works at a steel mill. he worked at a steel mill my whole life. at the party, the liberal white woman tells me she voted for hillary & wishes bernie won the nomination. i stare in the mirror if i get too lonely. thirsty to see myself i once walked into the lake until i almost drowned. the white woman at the party who might be liberal but might have voted for trump smiles when she tells me how lucky i am. how many automotive components do you think my dad has made. you might drive a car that goes and stops because of something my dad makes. when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell. all my people fold into a $2 crunchwrap supreme. the white woman means lucky to be here and not mexico. my dad sings por tu maldito amor & i’m sure he sings to america. y yo caí en tu trampa ilusionado. the white woman at the party who may or may not have voted for trump tells me she doesn't meet too many mexicans in this part of new york city. my mouth makes an oh, but i don't make a sound. a waiter pushes his brown self through the kitchen door carrying hors d’oeuvres. a song escapes through the swinging door. selena sings pero ay como me duele & the good white woman waits for me to thank her.  
José Olivarez
2017
collection

Lesson Plans for Hispanic Heritage Month

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in September and October—and all year long—browse this selection of teaching resources featuring poems by Richard Blanco, Juan Felipe Herrera, Pablo Neruda, and many more.

collection

Poetry & Translation

“As a poet, translation gives me the opportunity to engage directly with poetic strategies different from my own. In attempting to recreate them in English, I am also practicing them. It is a chance to work in the ‘clay’ of poetic language with my ego, experiences, preferences, left in the wardrobe closet,” says former Academy Chancellor and translator Marilyn Hacker. Whether it’s for National Translation Month in September or any time of the year, learn more about the art of the translation with this collection of texts, videos, poems, and more.

And if you’re a translator, learn more about how to submit to our translation prizes, the Ambroggio Prize, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, and the Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Awards.

browse poems in translation