Monday, February 29, 2016

American Life in Poetry (#Poetry Monday*)

Instead of sharing one of my poems, I want to share a great resource for discovering others’ poetry.

If you enjoy poetry as I do, you’re going to want to sign up to receive the weekly emails from American Life in Poetry from Ted Kooser.

Of all the poetry-sent-via-email services I’ve encountered, this is by far my favorite. Kooser carefully selects each poem and offers a brief intro. And the poems are all brilliant and -- this is the best part -- accessible.

By that I mean they are down-to-earth, evocative, real, vibrant; poems you can understand and relate to. I like these qualities in a poem.

So, here are a couple of recent examples I really liked, as well as all the information you need to go sign-up (click here) for yourself.


American Life in Poetry: Column 570 (2/22/16)

Here's a poem of loss by Jo McDougall, from her collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, from The University of Arkansas Press. Like many deeply moving poems, it doesn't tell us everything; it tells us just enough. Ms. McDougall lives and writes in Little Rock.

This Morning

As I drove into town
the driver in front of me
runs a stop sign.
A pedestrian pulls down his cap.
A man comes out of his house
to sweep the steps.
bright as raspberries.

I turn on the radio.
Somebody tells me
the day is sunny and warm.
A woman laughs

and my daughter steps out of the radio.
Grief spreads in my throat like strep.
I had forgotten, I was happy, I maybe
was humming "You Are My Lucky Star,"
a song I may have invented.
Sometimes a red geranium, a dog,
a stone
will carry me away.
But not for long.
Some memory or another of her
catches up with me and stands
like an old nun behind a desk,
ruler in hand.

Poem copyright ©2015 by Jo McDougall,“This Morning,” from In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems, (The University of Arkansas Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Jo McDougall and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2016 by The Poetry Foundation.

American Life in Poetry: Column 562 (12/8/15)
I love to have people come up to me and say, "You'll never believe what I saw this morning," and then go on to tell me. It's their delight that I like so much. Here's a poem in that vein by Kevin Cole, from the literary journal Third Wednesday. Cole lives in South Dakota.

Deer Fording the Missouri in Early Afternoon

Perhaps to those familiar with their ways
The sight would not have been so startling:
A deer fording the Missouri in the early afternoon.
Perhaps they would not have worried as much
As I about the fragility of it all:
Her agonizingly slow pace, the tender ears
And beatific face just above the water.
At one point she hit upon a shoal
And appeared to walk upon a mantle,
The light glancing off her thin legs and black hooves.
I thought she might pause for a while to rest,
To gain some bearings, but instead she bound
Back in, mindful I suppose
Of the vulnerability of open water.
When she finally reached the island
And leapt into dark stands
Of cottonwoods and Russian olives,
I swear I almost fell down in prayer.
And now I long to bear witness of such things,
To tell someone in need the story
Of a deer fording the Missouri in the early afternoon.

Poem copyright ©2015 by Kevin L. Cole, “Deer Fording the Missouri in Early Afternoon,” (Third Wednesday, Vol. VIII, No. 4, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Kevin L. Cole and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation.

* Its PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here. 

Are there poems-by-email services you use and like? What are they? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments! For more information about ALP, go to

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