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Joan Houlihan
Joan Houlihan

What Does Your Seeing Want?

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 25, 2017.
About this Poem 

“This poem is part of an elegiac book-length sequence called Shadow-feast. The poem enacts the thoughts of a caregiver in the presence of a terminal illness.”
—Joan Houlihan

What Does Your Seeing Want?

Your scrunched eye seizes, sizes
me up: pulley-roped palliatives, craft and lies.
Washing my hands in the back, I wonder:
what's a good death?
Of course you held on and I held on to you.
We had married ourselves to a trance.

Copyright © 2017 by Joan Houlihan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Joan Houlihan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Writing from the Absence
poem

[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.
Christina Rossetti
1881
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.

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.  

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Mount Rainier National Park
collection

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

poem

Morning Song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Sylvia Plath
1966