Looking up at the stars, I know quite well That, for all they care, I can go to hell, But on earth indifference is the least We have to dread from man or beast. How should we like it were stars to burn With a passion for us we could not return? If equal affection cannot be, Let the more
poems & poets
Mt. Rainier National Park
We are standing on the access road to Paradise.
Seven miles from the gates. We are standing
on the centerline, the moon on our faces, the mountain
at our backs. Were it less than full, we might see,
in its northwest
We read poems because they change us, and our reasons for writing them hover around that same fact. A poem, a good poem, speaks to and from a place that belongs to us—that elusive pitch of being some might call the soul, the psyche, the sub- or unconscious. We believe it’s there because we feel it working, but we’re powerless to tell it when, or how, or even why to work. Surely, as poets, most of us have discovered ways of "letting go" enough to embolden whatever it is that sends words and questions and inklings out from that space. And the best readers know that that place is where poems go when they hit us hard, teach us, reach home.
The Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, named the keeper of that space the duende—daemon, hobgoblin, mischief maker, guardian of "the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire that we all know and all ignore." Unlike the Muse or Angel, which exist beyond or above the poet, the duende sleeps deep within the poet, and asks to be awakened and
Open Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Some of the poems are short, others long, but they all have long lines.
Long lines are oceanic. They wash over you like waves, one after another, each of them full of shells and sand and fish and surfboards, sometimes pieces of wrecks and the bodies of sailors. The long line is more conclusive and inclusive than the partial, subdivided short line. If short lines are like quick pants, long lines resemble great, deep breathes.
That’s how I present long lines to students at first, as units of breath. I tell them, “Take a deep breath, then as you exhale, make up your line. When you take a new breathe, start a new line.” sometimes the long line will resemble a long sentence; other times it will look like a short paragraph. I try to demonstrate extemporaneously: I take a dramatic deep breath, then try to exhale some words that sound like poetry: “Outside it’s raining and I suspect that the roof is leaking. Oh no! It’s falling on that boy’s head
The Dark Room Collective was founded in Boston in 1988 by a group of African American poets led by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange. The mission of the Collective was to form a community of established and emerging African American writers. Major Jackson, John Keene, Janice Lowe, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Artress Bethany White, and Kevin Young were also members of this group.
Originally conceived as a reading series, the Collective became a small community of poets. Strange wrote, "It was the sustaining practice of writing in community just as much as the activism of building a community-based reading series for writers of color that kept us engaged in collectivity" (Painted Bride Quarterly 60).
The Collective invited a diverse group of writers with different aesthetics and at different points in their careers, including Young and Smith, who both joined while undergraduates at Harvard University. Visiting writers and early readers in the