poem index

Read This Poem: 826Michigan

826 Michigan826michigan is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The work of the participating poets in Read This Poem is a reflection of their own point of view and artistic expression, and does not represent the views of 826 National or its chapters. Some of the poems may address mature themes or contain adult language, and may not be suitable for all audiences, including students at 826 chapters.

Catherine Calabro and Hannah Rose Neuhauser Pick Casey Rocheteau

When Casey Rocheteau moved to Detroit in 2014, she jumped into 826michigan programs without hesitation, answering our students’ questions about her poetry and leading a collaborative writing exercise for a workshop of elementary and middle school students. It is with this same drive she tackles difficult themes of American history and everyday life in the poem “Two Byrds.” In this poem, she juxtaposes the points of view of two drastically different men, taking an imaginative leap similar to those we encourage our students to take in their writing, armed with empathy and curiosity. She asks the reader to consider historical injustices that have shaped our present: they cannot be dismissed as relics of the past. By giving voice to someone whose voice was deliberately silenced, she empowers readers to learn more, to consider a different angle, and to be curious about why history remembers only certain stories.  

Catherine Calabro and Hannah Rose Neuhauser

Hannah Rose Neuhauser is an Americorps VISTA serving at 826michigan as Program Assistant. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Centre College. Catherine Calabro is Education Director at 826michigan and holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan. They are poets and friends.

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Casey Rocheteau

Casey Rocheteau is a Callaloo and Cave Canem fellow, and the recipient of the inaugural Write A House permanent residency in Detroit. Her first collection of poetry, Knocked Up On Yes (Sargent Press, 2012) was scandalous, and her second collection The Dozen (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016) promises a more political brand of controversy.

Casey Rocheteau Picks Tarfia Faizullah

“The Interviewer Acknowledges Grief” is, to me, a pivotal poem in Faizullah’s collection Seam. It is pivotal in a dual sense—both crucial to the work, and a turning point, where the speaker delves into the interior in a way that exposes the reader to a new layer of vulnerability. There’s a graceful nuance in the way the interviewer simultaneously addresses and mourns the sister who cannot allay her self-doubt, which builds a wall around the poem. Instead of addressing the audience and acknowledging the fear of failure or misunderstanding, the interviewer allows us to glimpse the intimacy of her sisterhood and her anxieties. The porous barrier between the living and the dead becomes an “opaque window.” The generator going out becomes the powerlessness of grief, and when it flickers on again, the question asked is not rhetorical, but impossible to answer for anyone but the speaker herself. In many ways, this poem is Seam’s finicky generator, jostling the reader between the dark and light places of what it might mean to belong to a place or a person.

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Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) and Register of Eliminated Villages, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2017. She is the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor of Poetry in the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, and codirects the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press and Video Series with Jamaal May.

Tarfia Faizullah Picks Diane Seuss

I’ve been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a Jungian discussion of archetypes. An excerpt: “Sometimes a woman is so bound up in being the too-good mother to other adults that they have latched onto her tetas, teats, and are not about to let her leave them. In this case a woman has to kick them off with her hind leg and go on anyway.” This statement reverberates through my appreciation of Diane Seuss’s “Song in My Heart.” Lauren Slater writes in Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir that “Sin is the refusal of responsibility.” It is not obligation that drives the speaker in Diane’s poem, but the necessity of responsibility to the self: to look squarely back. To use it. To own it. To assert the heart’s song.

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Diane Seuss

Diane Seuss's second book, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press​, 2010), received the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and her third book, Four-Legged Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2015. She is Writer-in-Residence at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

Diane Seuss Picks Laura Kasischke

What is more ghostly than a carousel except for a recalled carousel, and what is more anxious and diaphanous than a poem about a recalled carousel by Laura Kasischke, whose images manage to be lacy, archetypal, creepy, and radiant at once? “Recall the carousel,” her poem implores. “Its round and round,” and from that point on, we spin in its gyre of vowel sounds. We are “our own young parents” watching ourselves circling the inevitable, as the blue-eyed hound hunts us and our children down, hostages to the carousel’s spiraling DNA, and our own.

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Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke has published nine collections of poetry, most recently The Infinitesimals (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). She teaches in the Residential College and Department of English at the University of Michigan.