April is National Poetry Month

One of my favorite aspects of poetry is that is often feels personal. When I am reading a poem I am aware of the poet, the gulf of time and distance between us, and how between reader and writer, we can build a bridge that connects us. All writing does this to a degree, but for this writer at least, poetry feels the most immediate–there are things you can say in poetry that cannot be said in other genres. I am reminded of a poem by Jack Spicer:

“Thing Language”

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

(My vocabulary did this to me, 373).

I love how for a moment the ocean is present in my mind, it is poetry, and whether I choose to hear it or not, I still do. Poetry is like that. Unlike a lot of writing, poetry doesn’t often assume a prime perspective from which it can tell the objective truth–instead it is often fragmentary, experiential, and by these qualities, is radically honest. Anne Lauterbach writes in her book, The Night Sky, “Poetry protects language from serving any master. One can see better from the periphery than from the center” (3). This idea of poetry protecting language is important: it is a form that belongs to the people, resists consumerism, and is quite capable of speaking truth to power in creative and impactful ways.

If you’d like to read some poetry this month, the MA Library’s collection is pretty robust! Take a look here at just some of our titles!  Or just come on in and take a look at our display!



Here just a few of my personal favorites I’d like to highlight:

Bay Poetics — a great collection of Bay Area poets! Read local!

The Black Reeds by mark McMorris — a lyrical and moving intersection of the individual and history.

The Night Sky by Ann Lauterbach —  terrific essays on writing and art’s necessity to our “human conversation.”

The FSG Book of Contemporary Latin American Poetry — IMHO the best bilingual anthology of Latin American poetry.

The Man Suit by Zachary Schomberg — Recommended by an alum; accessible, surreal, tender and funny.

The Angel Hair Anthology — In the ’60’s Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh started an journal that shaped American poetry; this collects it.

I’ll leave with you with Alberto Blanco:

“My Tribe”

The earth is the same
the heavens are different.
The heavens are the same
the earth is different.

From lake to lake,
from one forest to another:
which is my tribe?
–I ask–
which is my place?

Perhaps I belong to the tribe
of those with no tribe;
or to the tribe of black sheep;
or to a tribe whose ancestors
come from the future:
a tribe yet to come.

But if I am to belong to a tribe
–I tell myself–
let it be a large tribe,
let it be a strong tribe,
a tribe where nothing and no one
is left outside,
where everyone,
everything, and always
have a holy place.

I don’t mean a human tribe.
I don’t mean a planetary tribe.
I don’t even mean a universal tribe.
I mean a tribe about which one cannot speak.

I mean a tribe that forever lived
but whose existence is yet to be proved.

A tribe that has never lived
but whose existence
might now be proved.

(FSG Book of 20th Century Latin American Poetry, 600)

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