Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Poem - Tools and Work

American Life in Poetry: Column 179

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I've always loved shop talk, with its wonderful language of tools and techniques. This poem by D. Nurkse of Brooklyn, New York, is a perfect example. I especially like the use of the verb, lap, in line seven, because that's exactly the sound a four-inch wall brush makes.



Bushwick: Latex Flat
2001

Sadness of just-painted rooms.
We clean our tools
meticulously, as if currying horses:
the little nervous sash brush
to be combed and primped,
the fat old four-inchers
that lap up space
to be wrapped and groomed,
the ceiling rollers,
the little pencils
that cover nailheads
with oak gloss,
to be counted and packed:
camped on our dropsheets
we stare across gleaming floors
at the door and beyond it
the old city full of old rumors
of conspiracies, gunshots, market crashes:
with a little mallet
we tap our lids closed,
holding our breath, holding our lives
in suspension for a moment:
an extra drop will ruin everything.

- D. Nurkse

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by D. Nurkse, whose newest book of poetry "The Border Kingdom," is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Poem reprinted from "Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn," ed., Julia Spicher Kasdorf & Michael Tyrrell, New York University Press, 2007, by permission of D. Nurkse. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Poem - Instinct

American Life in Poetry: Column 178

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

We mammals are ferociously protective of our young, and we all know not to wander in between a sow bear and her cubs. Here Minnesota poet Gary Dop, without a moment's hesitation, throws himself into the water to save a frightened child.




Father, Child, Water

I lift your body to the boat
before you drown or choke or slip too far

beneath. I didn't think--just jumped, just did
what I did like the physics

that flung you in. My hands clutch under
year-old arms, between your life

jacket and your bobbing frame, pushing you,
like a fountain cherub, up and out.

I'm fooled by the warmth pulsing from
the gash on my thigh, sliced wide and clean

by an errant screw on the stern.
No pain. My legs kick out blood below.

My arms strain
against our deaths to hold you up

as I lift you, crying, reaching, to the boat.

- Gary Dop

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2008 by Gary Dop. Reprinted from "New Letters", Vol. 74, No. 3, Spring 2008, by permission of Gary Dop. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Poem - Zoo time

American Life in Poetry: Column 177

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Kristen Tracy is a poet from San Francisco who here captures a moment at a zoo. It's the falling rain, don't you think, that makes the experience of observing the animals seem so perfectly truthful and vivid?


Rain at the Zoo

A giraffe presented its head to me, tilting it
sideways, reaching out its long gray tongue.
I gave it my wheat cracker while small drops
of rain pounded us both. Lightning cracked open
the sky. Zebras zipped across the field.
It was springtime in Michigan. I watched
the giraffe shuffle itself backwards, toward
the herd, its bone- and rust-colored fur beading
with water. The entire mix of animals stood
away from the trees. A lone emu shook
its round body hard and squawked. It ran
along the fence line, jerking open its wings.
Perhaps it was trying to shake away the burden
of water or indulging an urge to fly. I can't know.
I have no idea what about their lives these animals
love or abhor. They are captured or born here for us,
and we come. It's true. This is my favorite field.

- Kristen Tracey


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) Kristen Tracy, whose most recent teen novel is "Crimes of the Sarahs," Simon & Schuster, 2008. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 9/2007, by permission of Kristen Tracy. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Poem

Welcome to American Life in Poetry. I'm excited to be able to bring you a new poem every week via this column, along with a short introduction by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. (The photo is my contribution.)

Enjoy!

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American Life in Poetry: Column 176

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Hearts and flowers, that's how some people dismiss poetry, suggesting that's all there is to it, just a bunch of sappy poets weeping over love and beauty. Well, poetry is lots more than that. At times it's a means of honoring the simple things about us. To illustrate the care with which one poet observes a flower, here's Frank Steele, of Kentucky, paying such close attention to a sunflower that he almost gets inside it.



Sunflower

You're expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up. I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o'clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it's noon all day.

- Frank Steele

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2001 by Frank Steele. Reprinted from "Singing into That Fresh Light," co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed., Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001, by permission of Frank Steele. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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Read previous columns here.

Come back next Friday for another installment of American Life in Poetry.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Latest news


Two nice things have come about for me in the poetry department lately:

1. My rhyming poem "Broken Things" won an Honorable Mention in the "Christian Publishers Poetry Prize."

AND

2. I now write a monthly poetry column (called Poet's Classroom) at Utmost Christian Writers. My first column, "Who'd Want to Read Your Poems?" was posted August 1st.

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Something for you: Novice Christian Poetry Contest.

~ Deadline for entries is August 31st.

~ Prizes range from $500 for first to $50 for Honorable Mentions. Twenty cash prizes will be awarded in all.

~ Complete rules and entry form linked here.