Category Archives: Poem

A Hot Day in Agrigento

Molly Peacock

A Hot Day in AgrigentoTemples look like discarded alphabets.

We loved lying in their shadows lazily

deciphering and resting and laying bets
on what they really were for. Easily

caught by fantasy, we no longer cared

why they were there, just that they were. Happy
to sit down and drink the water we shared

(having lugged our plastic bottle, and hats,

and camera, through the human dung bared.
right there in the sun—where else could you get

relief with no toilets?) we guzzled it down

and rubbed it on our arms, hands, legs, and necks.
A girl in dirty, expensive clothes found

us with the bottle and asked us for some.

I said no. As she left, a gagging smell wound
its way from the bottle’s damp lung.

I’ve often been asked to give what I’ve saved,

but under the temple I said no, numbed
against the girl, like one of those bridesmaids

who kept her oil in the Bible story

and was safe for the night. I’d hated those maids
until I became one in my story,

the shape of the character I’d searched for

surprising me as the temples did: See
how golden but pocked they’ve become, nor

are they quite decipherable any more,

at least to those who forget what they’re for,
which is worship, the greed of prayer.

“So that’s who you are,” my friend said. “Thirsty?”

With him I drank, not quite the maid in the story.


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Gerry Dawe

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Today in 1936, Poet June Jordan is Born

Today in 1936One of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed African American writers of her generation, poet, playwright and essayist June Jordan was known for her fierce commitment to human rights and political activism. Over a career that produced twenty-seven volumes of poems, essays, libretti, and work for children, Jordan engaged the fundamental struggles of her era: for civil rights, women’s rights, and sexual freedom. A prolific writer across genres, Jordan’s poetry is known for its immediacy and accessibility as well as its interest in identity and the representation of personal, lived experience—her poetry is often deeply autobiographical. Jordan’s work also frequently imagines a radical, globalized notion of solidarity amongst the world’s marginalized and oppressed. In volumes like Some Changes (1971), Living Room (1985) and Kissing God Goodbye: Poems 1991-1997 (1997), Jordan uses conversational, often vernacular English to address topics ranging from family, bisexuality, political oppression, African American identity and racial inequality, and memory. Regarded as one of the key figures in the mid-century African American social, political and artistic milieu, Jordan also taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities including Yale, State University of New York-Stony Brook, and the University of California-Berkley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Her honors and awards included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and the National Association of Black Journalists Award.

Read the complete biography from the Poetry Foundation
Poem for My Love

By June Jordan

How do we come to be here next to each other   

in the night

Where are the stars that show us to our love   


Outside the leaves flame usual in darkness   

and the rain

falls cool and blessed on the holy flesh   

the black men waiting on the corner for   

a womanly mirage

I am amazed by peace

It is this possibility of you


and breathing in the quiet air

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The Winter After Your Death

by Sharon Olds

The Winter After Your DeathThe long bands of mellow light

across the snow

narrow slowly.

The sun closes her gold fan

and nothing is left but black and white–

the quick steam of my breath, the dead

accurate shapes of the weeds, still, as if

pressed in an album.

Deep in my body my green heart

turns, and thinks of you. Deep in the

pond, under the thick trap

door of ice, the water moves,

the carp hangs like a sun, its scarlet

heart visible in its side.

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Jean Starr Untermeyer

For Amy Lowell

We walked through garden closes

Languidly, with dragging Sunday feet,

And passed down a long pleached alley,

And could remember, as one remembers in a fairy tale,

Ladies in brocade, and lovers, and musk.

We surprised tall dahlias

That shrugged and turned scarlet faces to the breeze.

Further still we sauntered under old trees that bended with

         such a dignity

But hardly acknowledged our passing

Until at last—(and it was like a gift,

A treasure lifted from a dream of the past)

We came to a pond banded in lindens.
The bank curved under its crown of forget-me-nots;

They shone like blue jewels from the further shore.

And they were free! I could have had them all

To father and to carry in my arms!

But I took only a few,

Seven blue gems,

To set in the gold of my memory.

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The Secret

John Clare

I loved thee, though I told thee not,

Right earlily and long,

Thou wert my joy in every spot,

My theme in every song.
And when I saw a stranger face

Where beauty held the claim,

I gave it like a secret grace

The being of thy name.
And all the charms of face or voice

Which I in others see

Are but the recollected choice
Of what I felt for thee.
John_ClareThis little poem by John Clare (1793-1864) is not his most famous, but it’s worth sharing here because it so perfectly puts into words the power of untold love. ‘I loved thee, though I told thee not’: undoubtedly we could all tell a similar story, especially during those powerful years when we’re in the grip of first love.

Read the short analysis of this poem

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by Laura McKenna

What then is the signal to go?

The sun low in its arc, the yellowing moss

Or the drift of downy white,

A scrim of ice on tundra pools?

Do you shuffle forward, seaward

Ruffle feathers, ruk ruk, stretch your wings

Out, up? Is it the pull of go,

The push of fly, the open sky

That leads to this, beat on beat,

Over the seas of Baffin Bay

Coasting the fjords of Greenland

Soaring over icecaps, heart pumping

To push, push to three thousand metres

Find the current, to bring you down

The Denmark Strait, to Iceland, a time

At least to feed on eel grass,

Then gather the last reserves,

Fly low, follow the stars? Or is it the sun

That spurs you on, through Atlantic gales

To land at last at Strangford Lough

Or a stretch of Darndale wasteland

To graze with Travellers’ piebalds?

So what went wrong, that brings just one

to Coulagh Bay, in September?

Were your fellows prey to kestrels,

Or hunters’ guns in Iceland

Or did your compass point you here

For a solitary journey’s end?
From The Irish Times:

BrentLaura McKenna lives in Cork where she is completing a novel as part of a Creative Writing PhD at UCC. Her poems have been published in New Irish Writing, The SHOp, and the Irish Examiner among others. She is a past Hennessy Award and Forward Prize nominee and this year she received a commendation in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. Her first (unpublished) novel was a winner at the Irish Novel Fair, and longlisted in 2016 for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have been published in The Litro Anthology of New Fiction, Southword and Banshee and she is a past winner of the Penguin/RTÉ Guideshort story competition.

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by Marie Howe

         (after Stephen Hawking)

SINGULARITYDo you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity

we once were?
so compact nobody

needed a bed, or food or money —
nobody hiding in the school bathroom

or home alone
pulling open the drawer

where the pills are kept.
For every atom belonging to me as good

Belongs to you.   Remember?
There was no   Nature.    No

them.   No tests
to determine if the elephant

grieves her calf    or if.

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed

oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up   to what we were

— when we were ocean    and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was

liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important

before this awful loneliness.
Can molecules recall it?

what once was?    before anything happened?
No I, no We, no one. No was

No verb      no noun

only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is
All   everything   home


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“The Darkness and the Light Are Both Alike to Thee”

Psalms 139:12

Anthony Hecht

The Darkness and the LightLike trailing silks, the light

Hangs in the olive trees

As the pale wine of day

Drains to its very lees:

Huge presences of gray

Rise up, and then it’s night.
Distantly lights go on.

Scattered like fallen sparks

Bedded in peat, they seem

Set in the plushest darks

Until a timid gleam

Of matins turns them wan,
Like the elderly and frail

Who’ve lasted through the night,

Cold brows and silent lips,

For whom the rising light

Entails their own eclipse,

Brightening as they fall.

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Stanzas for Music


ByronThere be none of Beauty’s daughters

With a magic like thee;

And like music on the waters

Is thy sweet voice to me:

When, as if its sound were causing

The charmed ocean’s pausing,

The waves lie still and gleaming,

And the lull’d winds seem dreaming:

And the midnight moon is weaving

Her bright chain o’er the deep;

Whose breast is gently heaving,

As an infant’s asleep:

So the spirit bows before thee,

To listen and adore thee;

With a full but soft emotion,

Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.
On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.


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