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The Light That Shines When Things End

Iain S. Thomas   |   November 17, 2015   10:16 AM ET

I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it's about to end.

And if you're never going to see someone again, it'll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, "It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now."

And maybe if you're never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it'll shine and you can order everything off the menu you've never tried. Maybe, if someone's about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you're with a group of friends who'll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you'll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, "This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good."

This poem appears in the book, I Wrote This For You And Only You, a finalist for Poetry Book Of The Year on www.goodreads.com

Fall Poems

Poetry Foundation   |   September 14, 2015   12:12 PM ET

Poems to read as the leaves change and the weather gets colder.


"Autumn" by Grace Paley

"Autumn Song" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"The Beautiful Changes" by Richard Wilbur

"End of Summer" by Stanley Kunitz

"For the Chipmunk in My Yard" by Robert Gibb

"Beyond the Red River" by Thomas McGrath

"To Autumn" by John Keats

"My Autumn Leaves" by Bruce Weigl

"November for Beginners" by Rita Dove

"When the Frost is on the Punkin" by James Whitcomb Riley

"Final Autumn" by Annie Finch

"The Heat of Autumn" by Jane Hirshfield

"Among the Rocks" by Robert Browning

"Autumn" by T.E. Hulme

"November Night" by Adelaide Crapsey

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

"Sonnet 73: 'That Time of Year thou mayst in me Behold'" by William Shakespeare

"A Reminiscence" by Richard O. Moore

"Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright

"Neighbors in October" by David Baker

"Beginning" by James Wright

"The Thrush" by Edward Thomas

"September Tomatoes" by Karina Borowicz

"Theme in Yellow" by Carl Sandburg

"The Empty House" by Walter De La Mare

"Halloween Party" by Kenn Nesbitt

"Song of the Witches" by William Shakespeare

An Ear for Poetry: The Knottiness of a Prevalent Metaphor

Poetry Foundation   |   September 14, 2015   11:55 AM ET

By Julian B. Gewirtz and Rachel R. Kolb


The question occurred to me early in my literary studies: how could I, Rachel, have any sort of ear for poetry? I was deaf. Stumbling through the syllabic feet of poetic meter felt like tripping and falling down the stairs. I loved the lyrical artistry of poets such as John Donne, William Wordsworth, and Elizabeth Bishop. But would I ever find poetry fully accessible?

Listen for it: with those words, a good half-dozen high school English teachers and, later, college professors explained how I should approach meter. They described stressed and unstressed syllables and metrical patterns based on auditory quality. "Do you hear that? Do you hear the rhythm of the line?" I did not. How could I?

Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.

Forever Writing From Ireland

Poetry Foundation   |   September 3, 2015   12:48 AM ET

PROSE FROM POETRY MAGAZINE: On Billy Ramsell's The Architect's Dream of Winter, Tara Bergin's This Is Yarrow, Alan Gillis's Scapegoat, and Doireann Ní Ghríofa's Clasp.

By Maya Catherine Popa

What defines Irish poetry today? A survey of recently published Irish titles suggests the striking variety of voices, aesthetics, and anxieties emerging from the Emerald Isle. It should come as no surprise that a country that so prides itself on its literary heritage (poems still grace the pages of the Irish Examiner and The Irish Times) would inspire each generation to upkeep and further push poetic practice to new realms. And yet, we think of Joyce, Yeats, MacNeice, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and Heaney as roots in the Irish soil from which future generations have sprung, and from whose shadows poets still face the daunting task of emerging.

Many very fine contemporary Irish poets have found ways to inherit this legacy of genius while carving their own paths and reaching new international audiences. Paul Muldoon comes to mind (though he, too, gets compared to Heaney), as well as Eavan Boland. Notably, both have lived as expats in the United States while sustaining irrefutable, lasting literary ties to Ireland. Indeed, this speaks to one quality that begins to address the simplistic opening probe: inheritance must be reckoned with in Irish poetry, beyond the usual measure for poets. Whether sustained or challenged, tradition poses a question, and uncertainty is often a generative place from which to begin.

Read the full article on the Poetry Foundation website.

Poetry and the Memory of Fame: On Accidental Anonymity

Poetry Foundation   |   September 3, 2015   12:36 AM ET

By Thomas McCarthy


I once felt quite famous as a poet. Indeed, now that I think of it, I have felt famous twice. These two periods of really unsettling fame came back to me recently as I dealt with a young poet at the lending desk of the public library where I've worked for over thirty years. The young poet had been coming into my city-center branch for over a year, dropping grease-stained envelopes stuffed with five or six poems and then returning a few days later to listen to my responses to his raw and energetic work. But there was this one morning when we'd had a very strenuous, useful exchange of ideas around his improving technique. In that pause when a conversation just ends and an older poet adroitly excuses himself, the young man suddenly said to me: "You know so much about poetry; you read it so closely. Have you ever thought of writing anything yourself?"

Read the full piece on the Poetry Foundation website.

POETRY Magazine Podcast: September 2015

Poetry Foundation   |   September 2, 2015   12:27 PM ET


"Things No Longer There"

The editors discuss new poems by Michelle O'Sullivan, Billy Ramsell, and Victoria Kennefick; plus a discussion with Patrick Cotter on contemporary Irish poetry. Listen to the full episode on the Poetry Foundation website.

In this monthly podcast, the editors go inside the pages of Poetry, talking to poets and critics, debating the issues, and sharing their poem selections with listeners. You can subscribe to the podcast here.

Emily Dickinson 101: Demystifying One of Our Greatest Poets

Poetry Foundation   |   August 28, 2015    4:34 PM ET


Emily Dickinson published very few poems in her lifetime, and nearly 1,800 of her poems of were discovered after her death, many of them neatly organized into small, hand-sewn booklets called fascicles. The first published book of Dickinson's poetry appeared in 1890, four years after her death; it was a small selection, heavily edited to remove Dickinson's unique syntax, spelling, and punctuation. A family feud led to dueling and competing volumes in subsequent years, and a complete, restored edition of Dickinson's poetry did not appear until 1998, more than 100 years after the original publication.

Despite their complicated history, Dickinson's poems are among the most read and beloved in the English language. Although Dickinson is often said to have been introverted and reclusive, her poems show both her internal struggles and her strong engagement with the natural and social worlds in which she lived.

View the full poem sampler on the Poetry Foundation website.

Call and Response: The Gifts of Women Poets (Part 1)

Poetry Foundation   |   August 26, 2015   11:50 AM ET

By Amy King


"When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak."
-- Audre Lorde

While I am very much a fan of recovery projects, this collaborative endeavor is not that. If, as the curator, I must frame it at all, this rich pageant of poets highlights the very worthwhile intersections we all reach individually in our lives: that of recognizing that women-identified poets are of intense, even transformative value, despite living in a culture that often devalues the feminine. Each writer sings out an older or no longer living poet who had a personal influence on them. What you will find is a series of anecdotes and lead-ins to the work & personhood of these female poets who have endured and brought forth, for us, words that have deepened, moved, and given us the gift to see otherwise.

An added bonus is how these personal impressions move attention away from valuing by accolade and dismissal by stereotype and, instead, focus on how poems can be as significant as any life-changing event and change individuals intimately--for the long term. These writers give us a glimpse into the significances they experienced at the point of poetry, of poet, of one life meeting another, at the juncture of alchemical moments that ignite our imaginative possibilities--both on the page and through the poet. Yes, women's words can actually do that!

Read the full piece on the Poetry Foundation website.

On Poetry: The Cultural Revolution -- and the Necessity of Culture

Poetry Foundation   |   August 26, 2015   11:45 AM ET

By Ai Weiwei


My father, Ai Qing, was an early influence of mine. He was a true poet, viewing all subjects through an innocent and honest lens. For this, he suffered greatly. Exiled to the remote desert region of Xinjiang, he was forbidden to write. During the Cultural Revolution, he was made to clean the public toilets. At the time, those rural toilets were beyond one's imagination, neglected by the entire village. This was as low as one's condition could go. And yet, as a child I saw him making the greatest effort to keep each toilet as clean and as pleasant as possible, taking care of the waste with complete sincerity. To me, this is the best poetic act, and one that I will never forget.

My father was punished for being a poet, and I grew up in its consequences. But even when things were at their most difficult, I saw his heart protected by an innocent understanding of the world. For poetry is against gravity. Reading Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, and Vladimir Mayakovsky at a young age, I discovered that all poetry has the same quality. It transports us to another place, away from the moment, away from our circumstances.

Read the full piece on the Poetry Foundation website.

Living Tradition: Clare Cavanagh Talks About The Joys and Challenges of Translation

Poetry Foundation   |   August 19, 2015    1:14 PM ET

By Alex Dueben


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Clare Cavanagh had no exposure to the Polish language. In graduate school, she says, she decided to take a class in Polish only because "it was a department requirement." There, her career as one of the premier Polish-to-English translators began. Earlier this year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published Map: Collected and Last Poems, by Nobel Prize-winner Wisława Szymborska, who passed away in 2012. Cavanagh, who translated Szymborska's poetry for more than three decades, edited the volume. She spoke with the Poetry Foundation recently about the benefits of lengthy collaborations and how manners were instrumental to Szymborska's work.

Read the full interview on the Poetry Foundation website.

Poem of the Day: "Golden Retrievals"

Poetry Foundation   |   August 10, 2015   11:51 AM ET

By Mark Doty

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don't think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who's--oh
joy--actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I'm off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?

Read the full poem on the Poetry Foundation website.

Mark Doty, "Golden Retrievals" from Sweet Machine: Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Mark Doty. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Sweet Machine: Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1998)

Poem of the Day: "A Woman on the Dump"

Poetry Foundation   |   August 7, 2015   11:57 AM ET

By Debora Greger

Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher's honeymoon, one finds
On the dump?
--Wallace Stevens

Out of the cracks of cups and their handles, missing,
the leaves unceremoniously tossed, unread,
from a stubble of coffee ground ever more finely
into these hollowed grounds,

the first shift coaxes bulldozers to life,
sphinxes to tease the riddled rubble
into fresh pyramids of rot. A staleness warms enough
to waft round the lord of all purveyed.

Read the full poem on the Poetry Foundation website.

Debora Greger, "A Woman on the Dump" from Off-Season at the Edge of the World. Copyright © 1994 by Debora Greger. Used with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Off-Season at the Edge of the World: Poems (1994)

Subscribe to POETRY Magazine

Poetry Foundation   |   August 5, 2015    4:22 PM ET


Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry magazine began with the "Open Door":

May the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free of entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.

The magazine has since published a new issue every month for one hundred years. Perhaps most famous for having been the first to publish T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Poetry also championed the early works of Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Marianne Moore. It was first to recognize many poems that are now widely anthologized by poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Frank O'Hara, Sylvia Plath, Carl Sandburg, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams, to name just a few.

Today, Poetry regularly presents new work by the most recognized poets, but its primary commitment is still to discover new voices. In recent years, over a third of the poets published have been new to the magazine. Annual translation issues deepen readers' engagement with foreign-language poetry, and regular Q&A features present conversations with poets about their work. Poetry is also known for its enlivening "Comment" section, featuring book reviews, essays, notebooks, and "The View from Here" column, which highlights artists and professionals from outside the poetry world writing about their experience of poetry.

Subscribe today to receive the print edition every month, as well as access to the complete digital archive of the magazine.

POETRY Magazine Podcast: July/August 2015

Poetry Foundation   |   August 5, 2015    4:20 PM ET


"Cranberry Cranberry Cranberry"

In this episode, the editors discuss Amy Newman's "Howl," Alice Notley's "This Fire," and a series of limericks by Anthony Madrid. Listen to the full episode on the Poetry Foundation website.

In this monthly podcast, the editors go inside the pages of Poetry, talking to poets and critics, debating the issues, and sharing their poem selections with listeners. You can subscribe to the podcast here.