Essay

Poems of Gladness

Thanks to Catherine Pierce for the shout-out (to my Twitter!—a recent thread on happy poems) in this candid, moving piece, “On Mary Oliver and Resisting Poems of Gladness,” over on The Millions.

I, too, have been reflecting on my past reluctance to openly celebrate Oliver’s work, to recommend her poems to students, or especially to colleagues. I regret not speaking more often about what Oliver’s work means to me, while she was still alive. I’m determined, now, not to shy away from my enthusiasm, her gorgeous contribution.

Read Pierce’s entire essay here.

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

—Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese”

It’s been a stressful, difficult week, and to learn of Mary Oliver’s passing is so crushing. Hers were among the first poetry books I found as a high schooler, wandering the local library, starting to seek out poems on my own. Out of need. Today, I need these words of hers again.

Grateful also to Brandon Taylor for a beautiful essay on why this poem matters, “How Mary Oliver Helped Me to Breathe Again.”

& I’m thinking of, I’m breathing in, I’m saying out loud this line of Oliver’s (from “Don’t Hesitate”), as well:

Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Poem-a-Day in 2019

Thanks to Emily Polson for a shoutout in an article over on Book Riot, about the new Guest Editors for Poem-a-Day in 2019.

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The Poem-a-Day series played a vital role in helping me overcome my fear of contemporary poetry, so I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in exploring the genre but doesn’t know where to start. These daily poems introduced me to some of the poets who became a vital part of my love affair with contemporary poetry, including Hieu Minh Nguyen, Kaveh Akbar, Danez Smith, Safia Elhillo, Ada Limón, Chen Chen, and others […] Reading these individual poems led me to their full collections, and now contemporary poetry makes up 20% of the books I read.

—Emily Polson

So glad for this series on Poets.org and how it’s creating more and more voracious poetry readers. I’m also glad for this democratization of the selection process for Poem-a-Day—we need more people picking, more pickers of poems, more perspectives and tastes and delights. Read Polson’s full piece here.

And: read about the dozen Guest Editors for 2019, including TC Tolbert, Clint Smith, Victoria Chang, Paisley Rekdal, Samiya Bashir, Oliver de la Paz, and Sherwin Bitsui.