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today's poet
Donika Kelly
Donika Kelly

The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 20, 2017
About this Poem 
“Often, I am thinking of how I can ground love—feeling it, being in it—and being present in my body and in joy, in my work. These moves feel so urgent to me as a black lesbian in this political and cultural moment, where the news each day seems to argue against my and my loved ones’ humanity.”
—Donika Kelly
 

The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs
 
and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead
 
on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow
 
feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.
 
I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot
 
feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls
 
skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.
 
To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white
 
petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am
 
in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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poem

from WHEREAS ["Whereas when offered..."]

WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
                        high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
                        me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
                        that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
                        each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
                        Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
                        I scold myself in the mirror for holding.

                        Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
                        with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
                        “I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”

                        Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
                        Echo.

                        If I’m transformed by language, I am often
                        crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
                        Where in the body do I begin;

Layli Long Soldier
2017
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.

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Weir Farm National Historic Site. Courtesy of National Park Service.
poem

America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
2016
poem

The Thanksgivings

Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer

 

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.
Harriet Maxwell Converse
1908
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.

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

Like Stride

We will live forever misaligning the changes
into further time stinted tricks
giving up post kickflip failures
scribbling prepared remarks to notebooks
unlocked over dry spells flooded with demand
salt crystals crushed, the past flashed
and I was a working writer, nursing the pools
in everyone’s hearts, disembarking
soothing the air around a final question
away in the country toweling off
my doing the most proper thing turned
somehow slick, of feminine wiles, a clap trap
case book, the dream at the end so delicate
and put out. Makes light so pained
two reclining long in the turn of the neck
in like stride, imparting poetic asides
(bored to tears in Taos) cross out words
and tunnel the line, the guts will sit atop
glistening, hand stamped valves really
toying with release, a lighted display
corresponding controls, to repave
an entire arcade in release of our well
whiskey texting back dimension
We are poor and not cheap, in love
with the same little song slashed booklet

Cedar Sigo
2017
collection

John Ashbery, 1927–2017: A Tribute

On September 3, 2017, John Ashbery died at his home in Hudson, New York, at the age of ninety. Ashbery had a long history with the Academy of American Poets, dating back to the 1960s when he read in our series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. He received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1985 for his poetry collection A Wave (Viking, 1984). From 1988 to 1999, he served on our Board of Chancellors, and over the years, Ashbery participated in numerous Academy of American Poets events, including readings at the Morgan Library and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In honor of Ashbery, and his important contributions to American poetry, we've gathered a collection of his poems, historic recordings of the poet reading his work, photographs from our archive, and more.