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Katie Willingham
Katie Willingham

Darwinist Logic on Unrequited Love

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 27, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I see Darwin’s work as such an important lens for how to understand our world, so I wondered what would happen if I leaned on him further, in more unusual contexts. One way to see this is that he provides the backbone of the poem, but at the same time, the speaker makes this happen, such that they become inextricable.”
—Katie Willingham

Darwinist Logic on Unrequited Love

To begin with the end, what the rain
          did not uncover. A teacup overflows,
we call it a spill; a riverbed overflows, we
          call it a flood, what it is to be

swept away. Great is the power of steady
          misrepresentation, writes Darwin. I like
things that light up on their own—
          the headlights on my new car when we

drive under a bridge. I like how
          it doesn’t distinguish between different types
of darkness. Darwin again: I am not
          the least afraid to die. Well,

I burned my thumb last night
          on the kettle, distracted
by the buzzing of my phone—
          my mother again. There is still some pleasure

in dissection—what admirably
          well-adapted movements
the tip of a root possesses. I like things
          that come apart easily

in my hands—dried leaves, clumps of sugar—
          Do you remember, before wireless,
when to unplug meant getting
          on your knees to jerk the cord from the wall? Now

if you want to disconnect,
          you have to ask nicely. Off/on;
let go/resurrect—the game your mind plays
          in dreams, holding him up—no, a simulacrum

slipping its cage in my consciousness. Daytime
          calls me to wakefulness, its dog home
from the walk, from the bewildering folly
          of weather. Turns out these purple statices

on the dresser stand for
          remembrance but I don’t need
any help remembering. They are right
          in front of me—they have fully loaded.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Willingham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Willingham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

National Poetry Month 2017 Poster
Writing from the Absence
poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou
1978
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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Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Robert Lowell's "Epilogue" Manuscript
poem

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
Anne Sexton
1981
collection

Robert Lowell: A Centennial Celebration

This year marks the centennial of Robert Lowell, who was born on March 1, 1917, in Boston. Known for his somber, deeply personal poetry that grew out of the tradition of form poems, Lowell helped shape the story of modern American poetry with works such as Lord Weary’s Castle (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and his watershed collection Life Studies (Faber and Faber, 1959). In celebration of Lowell, his life, and his legacy, we’ve compiled this collection of poems, essays, and ephemera featuring the poet.