Friday, February 25, 2022

every month is black history month

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends.  We all make a fuss, don't we, when people act like April is the only month we should pay attention to poetry--but maybe we also fall into that fallacious trap, forgetting that Black history is important every month, women's history is important all year, indigenous and Latin American history is important every day.

You might say, "Well, I'M important every day of the year, but I'm good with celebrating just once, on my birthday."  And yes, practically speaking, there's only so much we can celebrate on any given day.  (I personally gave up long ago even acknowledging Groundhog Day in school--omg, there are a thousand more important things to do than make a fuss over a nonscientific and possibly animal-abusive event, although I do rate the movie as making an important contribution to the culture.)

But, in the same way that we now acknowledge the power of asserting that Black Lives Matter, I don't want to let February pass without saying Black History especially Matters, reparatively Matters, every month, because we have got some catching up to do, people.  So I'm grateful to for reminding me regularly to attend to Black voices, and to Afaa Michael Weaver for this poem of recent history, current events, today's rehearsal of historical pain and glory, the gift of Black history every month.

You may have received this too, but even so let's read it again, out loud.

Midnight Air in Louisville

Afaa Michael Weaver
for Breonna Taylor

Dear Breonna,
How many times, I ask,
           how many times
have I chased the thought
                      of writing to you,
of catching the poem where
                      it cannot leave,
of knocking open the door to a grief
           we all hold, our hearts
full of questions.
           We leave our houses to work,
to look for what we need to live,
                      or what we need
           to make the pain go away,
and your voice rises:
           “Oh hell to the no,
no he didn’t,
           Satan get behind me,
whatever, whatever
           the hell you think you are.”

I imagine that in leaving 
all of us you said:
           “I am done
I am let out into the world,
           breath I took in from it
breath that I give back in love.”

May I see you in flight
filling the space
           beyond clouds and stars
where there is no need
           of sun or moon, where
a grand city lives
           in prophecies beaten
by the wheels of history
where you are not invisible
           to ancestors who saw
these long roads down through time
to this one night in Louisville.

                      Bright Angel,
Luminescence, Woman Who Saved Lives
in Emergency Rooms,
                      Invocation of Heaven’s Law,
Living Song Riding
                                 the Eternal Dawn.

These titles I summon from license
given by Eternal Mysteries to hold you.
Fly now, in the woven air of the saints.

Enough said, or do I need to speak it again?  I do. 
"Fly now, in the woven air of the saints."

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect rounds us up today with some (oh dear) Exquisite Corpse play with the Poetry Sisters.


Friday, February 18, 2022

all we can save: truth, courage and solutions


Greetings, Poetry Friday audience! It's the 3rd Friday of the month, when you'll find me considering our response to the climate crisis. Now, I am no expert in much that's related to global warming--not the exact science of its causes, not the relative power of various solutions, not the numbers that quantify the damage--but I am an expert in CARING about it (and lots of other things. In general, when I see something, I say something--and my Outbox is full of Strongly Worded Letters to prove it).  And I've learned that it's of basic importance to climate action to CARE about the Earth and its beings.  

I'm pretty sure we are all past that basic level here; poets in general are poets because they've fallen hard for the wonders of nature, the miracles of life.  Much harder is to sustain attention to the truth about what's happening the climate and connect that to courageous actions that solve it. Anyone who can help us with that, we want to know them!

Today I want to introduce us all to a book I bought last summer and didn't get around to cracking open until this week, and girl am I sorry about that!  I thought I knew what was in it--essays--and what they were about--climate stuff--and I bought it mainly to support Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, whose podcast I have loved and written about before.

But friends, this book turns out to be a book of POETRY.  Yes, there are essays, and yes, it's about climate stuff, but when Ayana and her coeditor Katharine K. Wilkinson say ALL WE CAN SAVE: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, they are saying that in order to get to the solutions, we need the kind of truth and courage we get from POETRY.

And so this book--which "illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the US," features poems by names I know (Ellen Bass, Marge Piercy, Joy Harjo, Ada Limon, Patricia Smith, Jane Hirshfield, Damille T. Dungy, Sharon Olds, Alice Walker and Mary Oliver), and names that are new to me (Lynna Odel, Ann Haven McDonnel, Joan Naviyuk Kane, Ailish Hopper, Catherine Pierce, Naima Penniman).

Would anyone like to read it WITH me?  For all kinds of reasons, I know I'll jump in and stay in if others are expecting me to. It's 375 pages and 8 sections, with most essays  7-8 pages long, some shorter, some a few pages longer.  I know there are folks here who read several books per week, but I'm slow enough with everything else to propose reading (and digesting) maybe one section a week, and meeting to discuss once a month.  If you're interested, let me know in the comments or email me--a group of 4 would be a good minimum.

And now, to offer you both truth and courage, here's one poem from the book, also found at

Dead Stars | Ada Limon


From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018

Thanks to our host for today, Laura  Purdie Salas, who has perhaps wisely decided not to write the whole entire world for kids but to offer us "Small Reads for Brighter Days." Either way, it's always lovely over there!

Friday, February 11, 2022

love at all times, of all kinds


Greetings, Poetry Friday venturers! It's getting on for Valentine's Day--an annual celebration which, despite being weighed down with roses & chocolates & sappy Hallmark cards, is among my favorites.  What's not to love about love? Philial, erotic, agape, pragmatic, playful--I find I had some things to learn about the 8 kinds of love identified by the Greeks (yes, I'm directing you to!), and here's one for us all to know:  

PHILAUTIA, self-love...the good kind, the kind where we are compassionate and affectionate to ourselves, which then allows us to truly love others.

On my shelf is a wee British book called 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid (ed. Daisy Goodwin).  Look at that cover and you'll see why I thought of it this morning!  And inside, one of the best poems of philautia I know--maybe you do too.


Love After Love | Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Let us go forth, whatever our relationship status, whatever the state of our routines, our ambitions, our creaky, crooked, creative, colorful bodies, and greet ourselves with love. Linda, the lovely one of TeacherDance, hosts our Poetry Friday lovefest today.


P.S.  If I am slow to comment on your PF posts this weekend, it's because I'm attending the SCBWI Winter Conference online.  Some parts of it are free and open to the public.  See below for a couple of sessions you can attend virtually this evening.

1 pm-2 pm Pacific/4-5 pm Eastern
Orientation for Newcomers with Jolie Stekly
Free and Open to the Public!

2:30 pm-3:15 pm Pacific/5:30 pm-6:15 pm Eastern
Everything Changes, Nothing Ends:
Telling Stories with Brian Selznick
Free and Open to the Public!

Friday, February 4, 2022

no, no, nonet

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends, and happy February!  Many in this community are participating with others outside it in Laura Shovan's 10th Annual February Poetry Project.  The theme this year is TIME--which is apropos, in that this week I suddenly found myself with very much less time than I did in January, when the combination of weather and Omicron led to quite a few unexpected free hours.  All the February dailies of regular school and AFPP prompts have led me to a LaMiPoFri situation with the monthly challenge of the Inklings (which I remembered at 10:30pm last night. *sigh*).

This month, Catherine Flynn set us a worthy and welcome challenge:

Write a mathematical poem, such as a fib, pi poem, nonet, etc. Find inspiration here: or here: or here:  Feel free to interpret this challenge in any way that feels right for you. Have fun!


I'm saying yes, yes to the nonet, a (probably deceptively) simple-syllable count form you can read about with Billy Collins here: 9 lines, counting down from 9 syllables in the first line to 1 in the last--or, as amply demonstrated in Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems by our friend Irene Latham, the reverse. That allows for a total of 45 syllables either way....


Et voilà my naughty late nonet! One can always find something to say about the weather.




Wishing all our friends safe and cozy snow'n'ice days where that applies, thanking Catherine and the rest of the Inklings (see below) for the camaraderie of the challenge, and appreciating Elisabeth at Unexpected Intersections for hosting us today! 

-Catherine at Reading to the Core
-Linda at A Word Edgewise  -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche