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National Poetry Month

Resources to celebrate National Poetry Month!

Montco Family Recommendations

Recommended by Kate Pourshariati, AV Librarian


"Keeping Quiet"
by Pa
blo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

Extravagaria : A Bilingual Edition
by Pablo Neruda (Author), Alastair Reid (Translator)

 

Click here for an audio recording of this poem!

Recommended by Kelly Cox, Administrative Assistant for Libraries and Academic Support


"Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale"
by Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Recommended by Terri Sharif, West Campus Senior Librarian


"How the Light Comes"
by Jan Richardson

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.

What I know
is that it is more ancient
than imagining.

That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.

That it loves
searching out
what is hidden
what is lost
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.

That it has a fondness
for the body
for finding its way
toward flesh
for tracing the edges
of form
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still

to the blessed light
that comes.

 

© Jan Richardson from her website: http://adventdoor.com/2011/12/21/christmas-day-how-the-light-comes/

Recommended by Heather Plank, Academic Support Assistant

"It Was Early"
By Mary Oliver

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world
and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,
especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out
as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!
What do they mean?  In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving
the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,
and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
Little mink, let me watch you.
 Little mice, run and run.

Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.

 

From: Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
 

Recommended by Nicole Maugle, Technical Services Librarian


"Hesitations Outside the Door"
by Margaret Atwood

1
I’m telling the wrong lies,
they are not even useful.
The right lies would at least
be keys, they would open the door.
The door is closed; the chairs,
the tables, the steel bowl, myself
shaping bread in the kitchen, wait
outside it.

2
That was a lie also,
I could go in if I wanted to.
Whose house is this
we both live in
but neither of us owns
How can I be expected
to find my way around
I could go in if I wanted to,
that’s not the point, I don’t have time,
I should be doing something
other than you.

3
What do you want from me
you who walk towards me over the long floor
your arms outstretched, your heart
luminous through the ribs
around your head a crown
of shining blood
This is your castle, this is your metal door,
these are your stairs, your
bones, you twist all possible
dimensions into your own

4
Alternate version: you advance
through the grey streets of this house,
the walls crumble, the dishes
thaw, vines grow
on the softening refrigerator
I say, leave me
alone, this is my winter,
I will stay here if I choose
You will not listen
to resistances, you cover me
with flags, a dark red
season, you delete from me
all other colours

5
Don’t let me do this to you
you are not those other people,
you are yourself
Take off the signatures, the false
bodies, this love
which does not fit you
This is not a house, there are no doors,
get out while it is
open, while you still can

6
If we make stories for each other
about what is in the room
we will never have to go in.
You say: my other wives
are in there, they are all
beautiful and happy, they love me, why
disturb them
I say: it is only
a cupboard, my collection
of envelopes, my painted
eggs, my rings
In your pockets the thin women
hang on their hooks, dismembered
Around my neck I wear
the head of the beloved, pressed
in the metal retina like a picked flower

7
Should we go into it
together / If I go into it
with you I will never come out
If I wait outside I can salvage
this house or what is left
of it, I can keep
my candles, my dead uncles
my restrictions
but you will go
alone, either
way is loss
Tell me what it is for
In the room we will find nothing
In the room we will find each other

 

Source: Poetry Magazine (November 1970)

Recommended by Kevin Strunk, West Reference Librarian

"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

By Wallace Stevens

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,   
The only moving thing   
Was the eye of the blackbird.   
II
I was of three minds,   
Like a tree   
In which there are three blackbirds.   
III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   
It was a small part of the pantomime.   
IV
A man and a woman   
Are one.   
A man and a woman and a blackbird   
Are one.   
V
I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after.   
VI
Icicles filled the long window   
With barbaric glass.   
The shadow of the blackbird   
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in the shadow   
An indecipherable cause.   
VII
O thin men of Haddam,   
Why do you imagine golden birds?   
Do you not see how the blackbird   
Walks around the feet   
Of the women about you?   
VIII
I know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.   
IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,   
It marked the edge   
Of one of many circles.   
X
At the sight of blackbirds   
Flying in a green light,   
Even the bawds of euphony   
Would cry out sharply.   
XI
He rode over Connecticut   
In a glass coach.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook   
The shadow of his equipage   
For blackbirds.   
XII
The river is moving.   
The blackbird must be flying.   
XIII
It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.
Recommended by Cory Budden, Reference Librarian
"From Blossoms"
By Li-Young Lee
 
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward   
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
 
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into   
the round jubilance of peach.
 
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
 
Li-Young Lee, “From Blossoms” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee.
Source: Rose (BOA Editions Ltd., 1986) & poetryfoundation.org

Recommended by Kristyna Carroll, Reference Librarian


"Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems"
By Alice Walker

 

Hard times require furious dancing. Each of us is proof.

...the world has changed: it did not change without your prayers without your faith without your determination to believe in liberation and kindness; without your dancing through the years that had no beat.

 

Excerpts from: Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems, by Alice Walker, 2010, New World Library.
Click here to see Alice Walker perform a reading from her collection!
 

Recommended by Joanna Kohlbus

"Still I Rise"
By Maya Angelou
 
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
 
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
 
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
 
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
 
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
 
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
 
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
 
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
 
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
 
Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.  Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994

Recommended by Mary Beth Parkinson, Information Literacy Librarian


"Sonnet (1928)"

By Elizabeth Bishop

 

I am in need of music that would flow

Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,

Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,

With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.

Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,

Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,

A song to fall like water on my head,

And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:

A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool

Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep

To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,

And floats forever in a moon-green pool,

Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Recommended by Terri Sharif, West Campus Librarian
"In a Time of Distance"
by Alexander McCall Smith
 
The unexpected always happens in the way
The unexpected has always occurred:
While we are doing something else,
While we are thinking of altogether
Different things — matters that events
Then show to be every bit as unimportant
As our human concerns so often are;
And then, with the unexpected upon us,
We look at one another with a sort of surprise;
How could things possibly turn out this way
When we are so competent, so pleased
With the elaborate systems we’ve created —
Networks and satellites, intelligent machines,
Pills for every eventuality — except this one?

And so we turn again to face one another
And discover those things
We had almost forgotten,
But that, mercifully, are still there:
Love and friendship, not just for those
To whom we are closest, but also for those
Whom we do not know and of whom
Perhaps we have in the past been frightened;
The words brother and sister, powerful still,
Are brought out, dusted down,
Found to be still capable of expressing
What we feel for others, that precise concern;
Joined together in adversity
We discover things we had put aside:
Old board games with obscure rules,
Books we had been meaning to read,
Letters we had intended to write,
Things we had thought we might say
But for which we never found the time;
And from these discoveries of self, of time,
There comes a new realisation
That we have been in too much of hurry,
That we have misused our fragile world,
That we have forgotten the claims of others
Who have been left behind;
We find that out in our seclusion,
In our silence; we commit ourselves afresh,
We look for a few bars of song
That we used to sing together,
A long time ago; we give what we can,
We wait, knowing that when this is over
A lot of us — not all perhaps — but most,
Will be slightly different people,
And our world, though diminished,
Will be much bigger, its beauty revealed afresh.