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poems

poem

Never, never, never, never, never.
—King Lear

Even now I can’t grasp “nothing” or “never.”
They’re unholdable, unglobable, no map to nothing.
Never? Never ever again to see you?
An error, I aver. You’re never nothing,
because nothing’s not a thing.
I

poem
If I should die, think only this of me:
   That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
   In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
   Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England
poem

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

texts

text
Essays
2014

There was a man, Walt Whitman, who lived in the nineteenth century, in America, who began to define his own person, who began to tell his own secrets, who outlined his own body, and made an outline of his own mind, so other people could see it. He was sort of the prophet of American democracy in the sense that he got to be known as the “good gray poet” when he got to be an old, old man because he was so honest and so truthful and at the same time so enormous-voiced and bombastic. As he said: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,” writing in New York City probably then, thinking of the skyline and roofs of Manhattan as it might have been in 1853 or so. He began announcing himself, and announcing person, with a big capital P, Person, self, or one’s own nature, one’s own original nature, what you really think when you’re alone in bed, after everybody’s gone home from the party or when you’re looking in the mirror, shaving, or when you’re not shaving and you’re looking

text
Poetic Terms/Forms
2014

In April 2014 A Poet’s Glossary by Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch was published. As Hirsch writes in the preface, “This book—one person’s work, a poet’s glossary—has grown, as if naturally, out of my lifelong interest in poetry, my curiosity about its vocabulary, its forms and genres, its histories and traditions, its classical, romantic, and modern movements, its various outlying groups, its small devices and large mysteries—how it works.” Each week we will feature a term and its definition from Hirsch’s new book. 

oral-formulaic method: Milman Parry (1902–1935) and his student Albert Lord (1912–1991) discovered and studied what they called the oral-formulaic method of oral epic singers in the Balkans. Their method has been variously referred to as “oral-traditional theory,” “the theory of Oral-Formulaic Composition,” and the “Parry-Lord theory.” Parry used his study of Balkan singers to address what was then called the “Homeric Question,” which circulated around the

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Essays
2014

Daniel Johnson's poem "In the Absence of Sparrows,” written for his friend—the journalist James Foley—was featured in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2014.

American reporter James Foley, who was killed in Syria on August 19, was—and is—a brother to me. In the wake of his senseless slaughter, I am publishing “In the Absence of Sparrows,” which I wrote during his 656-day captivity. In so doing, I intend to reclaim his image and memory. And I hope to stamp out the numbing vision of Jim in an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in a desert expanse, his captor clad in black, standing above him.

I first met Jim in 1996 when we signed up for Teach for America. Following a stint as a ski lift operator in the Rocky Mountains, I arrived at our teacher training in Houston. Jim shipped in from Milwaukee after spending the summer working at a bottling factory. “Good to meet you, bro,” Jim remarked when we first met. Broad-shouldered and smiling, he was wearing a Milwaukee Bucks jersey and high