“Not even waste
The day misspent,
the love misplaced,
has inside it
the seed of redemption.
Nothing is exempt from resurrection.”
― Kay Ryan, “Say Uncle”
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13 poets born this week,
chroniclers of the
unrecognized and translators
of the untranslatable
1883 – William Carlos Williams born in Rutherford, New Jersey; American physician, novelist, and poet, who managed to combine life as a small town doctor with being part of the modern imagist revolution in American prose and poetry. Though born in the U.S., his father was English and his mother was Puerto Rican, a rich and diverse cultural heritage. He later became a mentor to Allen Ginsberg. Williams had a series of heart attacks and strokes in 1948 and 1949, and died at age 79 in March 1963. Among his many poetry collections are: Sour Grapes; An Early Martyr; The Wedge, which was published in a pocket-sized edition for U.S soldiers to carry with them during WWII; the multi-volume Paterson; The Desert Music; and The Red Wheelbarrow.
This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
''This Is Just to Say'' from The Collected Poems: Volume I, 1909-1939, copyright © 1938 by William Carlos Williams – New Directions Publishing
1945 – Kay Ryan born in San Jose, California; American poet and community college English teacher. She called her childhood home a place of silence, where “being a poet would be thought of as putting on airs.” Ryan published Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends privately in 1983. The Niagara River, her 6th book, won the 2004 Ruth Lily Poetry Prize. She was a surprise choice for U.S. Poet Laureate (2008-2010). “I felt completely unequal to the task. I thought, no, never in a million years …” In spite of her self-doubts, and the diagnosis of her life partner, Carol Adair, with advanced stage cancer, she accepted, and during her tenure emphasized the value of community colleges. Adair died in 2009, during Ryan’s second term. Ryan won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with a National Humanities Medal.
by Kay Ryan
A chick has just so much time
to chip its way out, just so much
egg energy to apply to the weakest spot
or whatever spot it started at.
It can’t afford doubt. Who can?
Doubt uses albumen
at twice the rate of work.
One backward look by any of us
can cost what it cost Orpheus.
Neither may you answer
the stranger’s knock;
you know it is the Person from Porlock
who eats dreams for dinner,
his napkin stained the most delicate colors.
“Doubt” from The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, © 2010 by Kay Ryan – Grove Press
1709 – Samuel Johnson born in Lichfield, England; the ‘Dictionary Man’ and scholar, poet, essayist and literary critic
On Hearing Miss Thrale Consulting with a Friend
About a Gown and Hat
by Samuel Johnson
Wear the gown and wear the hat,
Snatch thy pleasures while they last;
Hadst thou nine lives, like a cat,
Soon those nine lives would be pass'd.
1952 – Alberto Ríos born in Nogales, Arizona, across Arizona’s southern border from the city of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora; American short story writer, academic, and poet. He has taught at Arizona State University since 1982, and was appointed as Arizona’s first poet laureate in 2013. His poetry collections include Whispering to Fool the Wind; A Small Story about the Sky; The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body; and The World Has Need of You: Poems for Connection.
by Alberto Ríos
These are immigrant times
And the lines are long,
The signs for jobs few,
The songs sadder, the air meaner.
Everyone is hungry.
Everyone is willing.
Jobs are not jobs but lives lived
Hard at the work of being human.
These are immigrant times,
And the lines are long again.
"Immigrant Centuries" from Not go away is my name, © 2020 by Alberto Rios –
Copper Canyon Press
1894 – Rachel Field born in New York City; American novelist, playwright, poet, and children’s author. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years won the 1930 Newbery Award, and was named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf. In 1935, the American Booksellers Association awarded Time Out of Mind with its inaugural National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel. She moved to Hollywood, where her novels Time Out of Mind, All This and Heaven Too, and And Now Tomorrow were made into films. But in March 1942, she died at age 47 of pneumonia following an operation. She faded from public memory until, when 2021 Robin Clifford Wood published The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found.
Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, — “Snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, — “Frost.”
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
“Something Told the Wild Geese” from Poems, © 1957 by Rachel Field – Macmillan
1928 – F.D. Reeve born as Franklin D’Olier Reeve in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but grew up near New York City; American academic, poet, author, Russian translator, and editor. He considered a career as an actor, but decided to devote himself to writing instead. He earned degrees from Princeton and Columbia, worked as a Hudson River longshoreman, and then in 1961, was part of one of the first exchanges between the American Council of Learned Societies and the USSR Academy of Sciences. In the summer of 1962, he accompanied Robert Frost to Russia for his meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, serving as Frost's translator. Reeve taught Russian language and literature at Columbia, then became chair of the Wesleyan University Russian Department, and also taught creative writing and literature at Wesleyan’s inter-disciplinary College of Letters. He married four different women, and was the father of five children, including Christopher Reeve, whose mother Barbara Lamb, was F.D.’s first wife. He and Christopher were estranged for many years, but reconciled after his son was paralyzed in an equestrian accident. F.D. Reeve was a founding editor of Poetry Review, and published over two dozen books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and translation. F.D. Reeve died at age 84 from diabetes complications in June 2013.
The Moon and Other Failures
by F. D. Reeve
The stones of Paris smell of books
from bibles lighting up the Middle Ages
to romantic tales of unrequited love.
Every Sunday my grandfather winds his clocks
And checks the past for any uncut pages.
Time still presses hard upon his house
buttoned up against late winter snow.
The landscape cheapened, he’ll soon move away
because suddenly he fears an airplane crash,
like Montaigne who fled the plague in old Bordeaux.
As I walk along the Paris streets surprised
by the fanshaped stones and the butt of a Roman wall,
I fancy Grandpa waiting at a corner
and wonder of bishops still rise to Paradise
and every king is picketed in Hell.
Fresh bread on Easter morning would fill the air
with joy. (The Way of the Cross goes on and on.)
Meanwhile, the planets pass with cold indifference,
and documentaries of a thousand wars
(the latest technologies) compute the sun’s
position in the encyclopedia of matter.
The house of Heaven, like the Luxembourg full of statues,
with its old families who used to constellate the sky
burns to ashes. Wandering the streets of Paris,
no one remembers the moon and other failures.
“The Moon and Other Failures” from The Moon and Other Failures, © 1999 by F. D. Reeve – Michigan State University Press
1878 – Upton Sinclair born as Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. in Baltimore, Maryland; American writer of both fiction and nonfiction, muckraking journalist, socialist, political activist, and the 1934 Democratic nominee for governor of California. Best known for his novel The Jungle, which exposed the unsanitary and inhumane conditions in meatpacking in Chicago, and caused purchases of American meat to fall by 50% in 1906, the year of its publication. He wrote nearly 100 books in several genres. He also wrote the occasional poem and even a verse drama entitled Hell. He died at age 90 in November 1968.
On a Steamship
by Upton Sinclair
All night, without the gates of slumber lying,
I listen to the joy of falling water,
And to the throbbing of an iron heart.
In ages past, men went upon the sea,
Waiting the pleasure of the chainless winds;
But now the course is laid, the billows part;
Mankind has spoken: “Let the ship go there!”
I am grown haggard and forlorn, from dreams
That haunt me, of the time that is to be,
When man shall cease from wantonness and strife,
And lay his law upon the course of things.
Then shall he live no more on sufferance,
An accident, the prey of powers blind;
The untamed giants of nature shall bow down—
The tides, the tempest and the lightning cease
From mockery and destruction, and be turned
Unto the making of the soul of man.
1928 – Donald Hall born in Hamden, Connecticut; American poet, writer, editor, and literary critic. Author of over 50 books, from children’s literature, biography, memoir, and essays, to 22 volumes of verse. He was the first poetry editor of The Paris Review (1953–1961), and won the Robert Frost Medal in 1991. He and poet Jane Kenyon were married from 1972 until her death from leukemia at age 47 in 1995. Hall was appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate (2006–2007). His many poetry collections include Exiles and Marriages; The Happy Man; The One Day; Without; The Painted Bed; and The Back Chamber. Hall died of cancer at age 89 in June 2018.
by Donald Hall
when my father had been dead a week
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door
white apples and the taste of stone
if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes
"White Apples" from White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946-2006, © 2006 by Donald Hall – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
1936 – Janet Burroway was born in Tucson, Arizona; American novelist, memoirist, short story writer, translator, playwright, children’s author, poet, and how-to author. Her entry into college at the University of Arizona was made possible by scholarships from local men’s clubs, but she won the Mademoiselle Magazine College Board Contest in 1955, and that opened up other scholarships to Barnard College and Cambridge in the UK, where she earned her MA. Burroway then taught at the University of Sussex (1965-1970), and Florida State University at Tallahassee (1972-2002). Her 1969 novel The Buzzards was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but her best-known book, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, published in 1982, is in its 10th edition, and widely used as a textbook in writing programs across the U.S. Her best-known novel is Raw Silk, published in 1977. Her poetry has been published in magazines, including Granta, The Atlantic, New Statesman, and Prairie Schooner.
by Janet Burroway
I keep stepping on the ugly nap
of all our local comings and disappearings;
dingy—yellow, is it?—or I suppose
they call it "gold," with, surely, "garnet" flowers
or suns, whatever, and so do the tired arrivals
with their carry-ons, and the pickers-up
in their tanks and wrinkled shorts
and their carryings-on, the helium balloons
and welcome signs;
and us in our wrinkled shorts, already tired
to death of the, welcome, however, visitor—
he is not unwelcome, whoever he is, or she—
over the same carpet, from the same planes,
to the same luggage endlessly riding round
and round the creaking carousel.
arriving every time with him or her,
arriving every time
on your bouncing step
over the golden not-so-dingy-then,
and the luggage smelling leather-fresh,
and the carousel fresh-installed,
and your helium eyes
and your careless grin
into the wrinkled arms of my
“Airport”– from The Tim Poems, © 2006 by Janet Burroway, which appeared in the Prairie Schooner Fall 2006 issue
1895 – Babette Deutsch born New York City; American poet, critic, translator and novelist. She earned a B.A. from Barnard College in 1917. In 1921, she and writer Avrahm Yarmolinsky, an immigrant from Ukraine, were married. She taught at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University, where one of her students was Lawrence Ferlinghetti. She is noted for her critical work Walt Whitman: Builder for America, and her acclaimed English translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Her poetry collections include Banners; Honey Out of a Rock; Fire for the Night; and Collected Poems (1919-1962).
Lizard at Pompeii
by Babette Deutsch
Little finger of fiery green, it
flickers over stone. Waits
in a weed's shadow.
Here once horror poured so hot, heavy, thick,
everyone was dead before he was sick.
Now here is no heat but the sun's
on old stone treads;
no motion but that rippling inch of whip:
yours, you little live jewel, who slipped away
into silence. Yet stay on to haunt memory,
like those dead.
“Lizard at Pompeii” from Collected Poems 1919-1962, © 1962 by Babette Deutsch – Indiana University Press
1947 – Mary Fell born Worcester, Massachusetts; social worker, educator, and poet. She teaches English at Indiana University’s East Campus. She was honored in 1997 with the Helen Lees Award for Excellence in Teaching at IUE. Fell has published a chapbook, The Triangle Fire: a poem, and a poetry collection, The Persistence of Memory.
Picket Line in Autumn
by Mary Fell
This face getting brown
as morning falls
just ripe out of the sky --
a change from last night's
cold, warm gloves and
frost poured into
these empty coffee cups —
you've never been so much
in the world as now,
spending all daylight
and all night too outdoors,
going in circles like the world does,
though sometimes it seems
standing still, getting nowhere —
except you know your tired feet
are turning the earth
and someday the sun
will give itself up to you,
the leaves surrender --
you know they will, if
you keep on walking long enough.
“Picket Line in Autumn” from The Persistence of Memory, © 1983 by Mary Fell – Random House
1975 – Shane McCrae was born in Portland, Oregon, to a white mother and a black father; American poet and memoirist. His mother’s parents kidnapped him when he was three years old and raised him to believe that his father had abandoned him. His grandfather was a white supremacist who abused him. They moved to California when he was 10 years old, and he lived in California and Texas. He did not see his father again until he was 16. He dropped out of high school but later earned a GED certificate. He went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. McCrae was an assistant professor in Oberlin College’s Creative writing program (2015-2017), and is currently an assistant professor in Columbia University’s Creative Writing MFA program. His poetry collections include Mule; Blood; The Animal Too Big to Kill; In the Language of My Captor, which won a 2018 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and Sometimes I Never Suffered. His book, Pulling the Chariot of the Sun: A Memoir of a Kidnapping, was published in 2023.
by Shane McCrae
How awful to be anywhere obliged
As if preferring there to other places
Because I only have one body where
It is, though my mind goes where my mind goes
Though I would be a fountain’s lace, its
Lace plume, like an external memory
Flood the air rising, then fallen rush down
Stone channels out, away to anywhere
Thinking goes. Awful not to be the water
But how awful to be the stone
“Anywhere Obliged” © 2022 by Shane McCrae, appeared in BOMB Magazine in October 2022
1948 – Maggie Anderson born in New York City, American poet and editor. She earned a BA, an MA, and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from West Virginia Wesleyan College, then worked as a rehabilitation counselor for blind and visually impaired clients at the West Virginia Rehabilitation Center (1973-1977). In 1979, she published her first book, The Great Horned Owl, and became a poet-in-residence at schools, senior centers, correctional facilities, and libraries in West Virginia. In 1989, Anderson began teaching creative writing at Kent State University and was appointed coordinator of the Wick Poetry Program in 1992. When the Wick Poetry Center in the College of Arts and Sciences opened in 1984, Anderson was its director until her retirement in 2009. She also co-founded and edited (1971-1981) the poetry journal Trellis. Her poetry collections include Years That Answer; Cold Comfort; A Space Filled With Moving; and Dear All.
by Maggie Anderson
This is going to cost you.
If you really want to hear a
country fiddle, you have to listen
hard, high up in its twang and needle.
You can't be running off like this,
all knotted up with yearning,
following some train whistle,
can't hang onto anything that way.
When you're looking for what's lost,
everything's a sign,
but you have to stay right up next to
the drawl and pull of the thing
you thought you wanted, had to
have it, could not live without it.
Honey, you will lose your beauty
and your handsome sweetie, this whine,
this agitation, the one you sent for
with your leather boots and your guitar.
The lonesome snag of barbed wire you have
wrapped around your heart is cash money,
honey, you will have to pay.
“Ontological Poem” from A Space Filled with Moving, © 1992 by Maggie Anderson – University of Pittsburgh Press
Visual: Greylag geese taking off