May 31, 2020
In my writing group this past week, I read out two of my poems and Maddie said, “Wow, you really like birds.”
“All poets like birds,” I said. “It’s a thing.”
A year ago, I don’t think I would have labeled myself a poet with such facile, joking grace. I had just had my first publication (in borrowed solace, which I am still so grateful for). And three years ago, I had just written myself out of heartbreak by writing a poem every day in April. Now, poetry is part of my life. People know me as a poet. Not that I’m famous or anything, but there are at least a handful of people in my life whose primary interaction with me has been through poetry. I’ve taught whole semesters on poetry, and I’ve helped students find meaning in individual poems. I wrote 30 poems in April this year again, and I also read a poem every day that month.
I’ve done a “Sunday Poetry” post on and off a few times on this blog. I’d like to start it up again, posting the best poems I read every week, if only as an encouragement to myself to read more poetry. And I’ll accompany them with some thoughts about my writing process and what I’m learning.
I think a lot of us poets would agree that poetry can’t change the world on its own. I don’t think that poetry should replace protest, or politics, or that we should stay home and write. I’m angry and disappointed with the racial injustice in our country, and I need to do more. I think that for me, personally, writing is a part of that. It keeps me mentally healthy so I can feel empathy. It lets me process and grieve, so I can be stronger. It helps me figure out some of the things that seem unfathomable in the world out there. But it’s not going to save lives.
So my commitment is this: show you poems that I love, that inspire me, that make life more graspable. Take quiet time to write and share some of what I’m writing. Let this be a space for peace and for personal expression, so that these things are preserved.
I’ll start by sharing one of those “bird poems” from writing group. Hope you enjoy. See you next week.
I cut my hand
on the fence, once
leaning over into Tia’s yard
blood marked the spot on the ground
the chickens weren’t repulsed
their feed was all
their little eyes could behold.
Poems to Read this Week
My heart hurts because “Alternate Names for Black Boys” by Danez Smith remains relevant. The legacy of lynching, in its new guise of police brutality, should not rest easy with any of us. Christopher Soto gives us a view of death as a letter to his mother and a reflection on how little we can hope for. Finally, Victoria Chang’s “Obit” reminds me of the pages of obituaries in The New York Times. Too many. Let’s not forget that they are human.
Alternate Names for Black Boys
Concerning the Necropolitical Landscape
Christopher Soto, in Poetry, July/August 2018
Victoria Chang, in Poetry, July/August 2018
Thank you for reading! If you have the means, consider making a donation to Until Freedom, a national organization that supports protestors in Minneapolis, Louisville, and elsewhere.