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Barnegat Light, New Jersey—April 4, 2015

Because looking at myself w/ out you beside me is unnatural
& though the light is all wrong—your camera slung & up

the light feels right to me, warm & soft, your chest pressed
towards my back,


It’s not that we’re not dying.
Everything is dying.
We hear these rumors of the planet’s end
none of us will be around to watch.

It’s not that we’re not ugly.
We’re ugly.
Look at your feet, now that your shoes are off.
You could be a duck,

no, duck-


Your black coat is a door
in the storm. The snow
we don’t mention
clings to your boots & powders
& puffs. & poof. Goes.
Dust of the fallen. Right here
at home. The ache
of someone gone-missing. Walk it off
like a misspoken word.
Mound of


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In 1955, Sylvia Plath, who was then a student at Smith College, typed up a group of poems on onion skin paper and mailed them to the Academy of American Poets in New York City to be considered for one of its College Poetry Prizes. Founded in 1934, the Academy has recognized young poets for much of its history, and today awards more than 200 prizes to poets in undergraduate programs across the U.S.

Plath's poems won. Uplifted and inspired by the recognition, she wrote a letter to thank the donor, Mr. Harrison Eudy, who had endowed the prize in memory of his mother, an aspiring poet herself. "After this fruitful year," Plath wrote to Eudy, "I know that writing poetry will always be the richest, most rewarding part of a full maturing life."

During the next seven years staff at the Academy of American Poets and Plath remained in contact as her poetry life quickly blossomed. In 1961, Elizabeth Kray, the Director of the Academy at the time, invited Plath


Yi Lei astounded readers in China when, in 1986, she published a long poem entitled, “A Single Woman’s Bedroom.” In it, a female speaker unpacks her own private urgencies. She speaks of passion and sexual desire. Again and again, the speaker returns to the refrain “You didn’t come to live with me” as she laments her lover’s failure to make good on his promise—this at a time when cohabitation before marriage was still illegal in China. The poem goes still further, laying claim to a freedom of the mind and spirit, and openly criticizing the rigidity of law:

I imagine a life in which I possess
All that I lack. I fix what has failed.
What never was, I build and seize.
It’s impossible to think of everything,
Yet more and more I do. Thinking
What I am afraid to say keeps fear
And fear’s twin, rage, at bay. Law
Squints out from its burrow, jams
Its quiver with arrows. It shoots
Like it thinks: never straight. My

on Teaching Poetry

I think as readers it is our task to try very hard, despite what seems natural or what we may have been taught to do when we read poetry, not to begin immediately to paraphrase or translate such poems to ourselves in order to understand. To truly experience poetry, we need to try just to be in the poem for a while. Maybe even having unfamiliarity, resistance, not understanding at times pass through us. Which is hard for me, at least, as it might be for you.

In such cases, it is often helpful for me to remember that the word stanza comes from the Greek word for room, and verse from the Greek word for turn. If I think of the poem as something I am actually physically moving my consciousness through, from one line down to the next, and from one room to another, it helps me stay there, within what is being said. Giving myself that task to do helps keep me from translating and explaining everything in the poem as I am going along.

Now we are there. And maybe also now


Children's Book
On the Wing
Singing School:  Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters by Robert Pinksy
Isn't It Romantic: 100 Love Poems by Younger American Poets