Featured Poem: The New Colossus

In celebration of the 4th of July, a poem about America:

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By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

via Poets.org

Featured Poem: Crosscurrent

By M.L. Smoker

The first harvest of wheat in flatlands
along the Milk startled me into thoughts of you
and this place we both remember and also forget as home.
Maybe it was the familiarity or maybe it was my own
need to ask if you have ever regretted leaving.
What bends, what gives?
And have you ever missed this wind?—it has now
grown warm with late summer, but soon
it will be as dangerous as the bobcat stalking calves
and pets just south of the river.
Men take out their dogs, a case of beer and wait
in their pickups for dawn, for a chance with their rifles.
They don’t understand that she isn’t going to make
any mistakes. With winter my need for an answer
grows more desperate and there are only four roads out.
One is the same cat hunters drive with mannish glory
and return along, gun still oil-shined and unshot.
Another goes deeper into Assiniboine territory:
This is the one I should talk myself into taking next.
I haven’t much traveled the third except to visit
a hospital where, after the first time,
my mother had refused chemotherapy.
And the last road you know as well as I do—
past the coral-painted Catholic church, its doors
long ago sealed shut to the mouth of Mission Canyon,
then south just a ways, to where the Rockies cut open
and forgive. There you and I are on the ascent.
After that, the arrival is what matters most.

Featured Poem: Losses

By Wesley McNair

It must be difficult for God, listening
to our voices come up through his floor
of cloud to tell Him what’s been taken away:
Lord, I’ve lost my dog, my period, my hair,
all my money. What can He say, given
we’re so incomplete we can’t stop being
surprised by our condition, while He
is completeness itself? Or is God more
like us, made in His image—shaking His head
because He can’t be expected to keep track
of which voice goes with what name and address,
He being just one God. Either way, we seem
to be left here to discover our losses, everything
from car keys to larger items we can’t search
our pockets for, destined to face them
on our own. Even though the dentist gives us
music to listen to and the assistant looks down
with her lovely smile, it’s still our tooth
he yanks out, leaving a soft spot we ponder
with our tongue for days. Left to ourselves,
we always go over and over what’s missing—
tooth, dog, money, self-control, and even losses
as troubling as the absence the widower can’t stop
reaching for on the other side of his bed a year
later. Then one odd afternoon, watching something
as common as the way light from the window
lingers over a vase on the table, or how the leaves
on his backyard tree change colors all at once
in a quick wind, he begins to feel a lightness,
as if all his loss has led to finding just this.
Only God knows where the feeling came from,
or maybe God’s not some knower off on a cloud,
but there in the eye, which tears up now
at the strangest moments, over the smallest things.

Featured Poem: Culture and the Universe

By Simon J. Ortiz

Two nights ago
in the canyon darkness,
only the half-moon and stars,
only mere men.
Prayer, faith, love,
existence.
                       We are measured
by vastness beyond ourselves.
Dark is light.
Stone is rising.
I don’t know
if humankind understands
culture: the act
of being human
is not easy knowledge.
With painted wooden sticks
and feathers, we journey
into the canyon toward stone,
a massive presence
in midwinter.
We stop.
                       Lean into me.
                       The universe
sings in quiet meditation.
We are wordless:
                       I am in you.
Without knowing why
culture needs our knowledge,
we are one self in the canyon.
                                                                    And the stone wall
I lean upon spins me
wordless and silent
to the reach of stars
and to the heavens within.
It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.

 

Featured Poem: Nothing is Far

By Robert Francis

Though I have never caught the word
Of God from any calling bird,
I hear all that the ancients heard.
Though I have seen no deity
Enter or leave a twilit tree,
I see all that the seers see.
A common stone can still reveal
Something not stone, not seen, yet real.
What may a common stone conceal?
Nothing is far that once was near.
Nothing is hid that once was clear.
Nothing was God that is not here.
Here is the bird, the tree, the stone.
Here in the sun I sit alone
Between the known and the unknown.

 

Featured Poem: Remember

By Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

 

via Poets.org

Featured Poem: Winter Branches

By Margaret Widdemer

When winter-time grows weary, I lift my eyes on high
And see the black trees standing, stripped clear against the sky;

They stand there very silent, with the cold flushed sky behind,
The little twigs flare beautiful and restful and kind;

Clear-cut and certain they rise, with summer past,
For all that trees can ever learn they know now, at last;

Slim and black and wonderful, with all unrest gone by,
The stripped tree-boughs comfort me, drawn clear against the sky.

 

via Poets.org

The Sun and Her Flowers

By Rupi Kaur

From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

I’ve seen Rupi Kaur’s poetry shared on Facebook and Instagram so I knew it was something I would like. I’d been wanting to get one of her poetry collections, but I’ve been on a book buying embargo (come to my house and you’ll understand). However, I received The Sun and Her Flowers as a gift from one of my bookclubs and immediately started reading it!

Kaur’s poetry is often criticized for not being “artful” enough for poetry, too cheesy, too simple, too Tumblr. But if you’re a regular reader of Isle of Books, you know that I love sharing poems similar to Kaur’s. I am a fan of more modern poetry, particularly those poems from Modernist and Language Poets. This was the kind of poetry I liked in my classes at college and it is the type of poetry that I also write when I’m struck with the urge to write a poem. I think of this poetry as being very accessible to the average reader. You don’t need to have had any instruction on how to read and interpret poems to enjoy poetry like Kaur’s. And that I think is why her poems are so popular with modern readers.

I liked that this collection was divided into sections that loosely interacted with a theme. Some poems were sad, some were empowering, some made you pause a moment, and others made you fold the page down to bookmark it and remember it. Overall, I think it was a good collection and the drawings were a great companion to the poems.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems from The Sun and Her Flowers:

 

i am of the earth
and to the earth I shall return once more
life and death are old friends
and i am the conversation between them
i am their late-night chatter
their laughter and tears
what is there to be afraid of
if i am the gift they give to each other
this place never belonged to me anyway
i have always been theirs

 

*I should also note that this collection is partially about Kaur’s rape and recovery from it. So if you’ve experienced sexual violence, some of the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers might be triggering.

Featured Poem: A Little Closer Though, If You Can, for What Got Lost Here

By Carl Phillips

Other than that, all was still — a quiet
so quiet that, as if silence were a kind of spell, and
words the way to break it, they began speaking.
            They spoke of many things:
sunset as a raft leaving the water in braids behind it;
detachment, the soul, obedience;
swans rowing at nightfall across a sky filled with snow;
what did they wish they could see, that they used to see;
to mean no harm, or to not especially, just now, be looking for it;
what would they wish not to see, could they stop seeing;
courage mattering so much less than not spooking easily —
maybe all nerve is; the search-and-rescue map wildflowers
make of a field in summer; deserving it, versus asking for it,
versus having asked, and been softly turned from.
            They said it would hurt, and it does.