To what purpose, April

by Lois H.

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
“Spring” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (lines 1-5)

April seems a fitting month for National Poetry Month. There’s something about the ever lightening days and the flowers blooming that sparks those powerful emotions inherent to poetry.

I have been consuming and creating poetry since I can remember. An eternal archivist, I have scraps of paper and notebooks full of my adolescent writings organized by year in a filing cabinet. For many years, I rarely shared my poetry with anyone. It wasn’t until my Grandpa, in his mid-80s, asked me to email him some of my writing. I nervously sent off my angsty teenage writing, unknowingly igniting a closeness between us that lasted until his death.

It also seems fitting that my Grandpa, a lover and writer of poetry, would be born in April, a month dedicated to celebrating the craft.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here are some collections of poetry to sample and savor:

Nine Horses by Billy Collins

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.
“Litany” by Billy Collins (lines 25-30)

 

Known for his humorous, yet thoughtful poetry, Billy Collins served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003. Nine Horses was published in 2002. This collection includes “Litany,” one of my favorite poems. It’s especially beautiful when recited by a three-year-old from memory.

Directed by Desire by June Jordan

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?
“These Poems” by June Jordan (lines 1-7)

 

I recently discovered June Jordan’s poetry and I’ve been eagerly reading through this collection ever since. Published posthumously, Directed by Desire encompasses June Jordan’s prolific career as a poet. Her poems reflect her life as an activist, teacher, and queer woman of color—weaving together the personal and the political.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson

When I hoped, I recollect
Just the place I stood—
At a Window facing West—
Roughest Air—was good—

Not a Sleet could bite me—
Not a frost could cool—
Hope it was that kept me warm—
Not Merino shawl—
“When I hoped, I recollect (768)” by Emily Dickinson (lines 1-8)

Emily Dickinson’s poetry instantly transports me back to my poetry classes at the UW—fervently analyzing every capital letter and dash. Her unique style for the era, somewhat morbid subject matter, and private lifestyle make her poems a mystery I constantly want to unravel.

Nepantla: An Anthology edited by Christopher Soto

Honey, our hive is built and ruled
by women. Honey, we were once wild.
Honey, look at the flowers. We raised
them into artichoke, pepper, squash,
and apple for you, Honey. You found
our hive and renamed it colony—or
a factory of Yellow, Black, and Brown
honey—we are the silent workers
“Last Words of the Honey Bees” by Jess X. Snow (lines 1-8)

Originally started as an online journal with Lamdba Literary, Nepantla is an anthology of poetry celebrating and promoting queer poets of color. The poem’s subjects vary widely, from mass incarceration to familial relationships to celebrating the queer experience. And the best part of an anthology is that I now have hundreds of poets to discover and enjoy.


Is there a poem that helped you understand the world a little better? Or a poet you just can’t get enough of? Let me know in the comments!

For more poetry recommendations, check out the list below:

To what purpose, April—National Poetry Month 2019


A doctor once
told me I feel too
much. I said,
“So does God.
That’s why you
can see the Grand Canyon
from the moon.”

from “Jellyfish” by Andrea Gibson, featured in Take Me With You

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Comments

2 responses to “To what purpose, April”

  1. Lisa C. says:

    Great list. My interest in poetry has been renewed recently and I really enjoyed, Only as the Day Is Long by Dorianne Laux. It includes older work and newer poems that frequently recall her deceased mother. Very honest and powerful!

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