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Published July 12, 2016
American Life in Poetry: Column 589
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

We hope that you will visit, from time to time, our archived columns at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, where you may find other poems by the poets we feature. Today's is the third we've published by Sharon Chmielarz. a Minnesota poet with several fine books in print, including The Widow's House, just released by Brighthorse books.

Fisher's Club

sharon chmielarzA roadside inn. Lakeside dive. Spiffed up.
End of a summer day. And I suppose
I should be smiling beneficently
at the families playing near the shore,
their plastic balls and splashes and chatter.

But my eye pivots left to a couple;
he is carrying her into the water.
He's strong enough, and she is light
enough to be carried. I see
how she holds her own, hugging
his neck, his chest steady as his arms.

I have never seen such a careful dunk,
half-dunk, as he gives her. That beautiful
play he makes lifting her from the water.

And I suppose I should be admiring
the sunset, all purple and orange and rose now.
Nice porch here, too. Yeah, great view.

But I have never seen such a loving
carrying as he gives her. Imagine

being so light as to float
above water in love.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Sharon Chmielarz, “Fisher's Club,” from The Widow's House (Brighthorse Books, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Sharon Chmielarz and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Published June 27, 2016
American Life in Poetry: Column 587
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Someone told about a blind man who stood at a busy intersection, waving toward all the passing cars. When asked why he did that, he said that there might be someone in one of those cars whom he knew and he didn't want to miss the opportunity. Peter Everwine, a California poet, here gives us another such waver, from his book Listening Long and Late, from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

everwineThe Girl on the Bullard Overpass

The girl on the Bullard overpass
looks happy to be there, getting soaked
in a light rain but waving her hands
to the four o'clock freeway traffic
in which I'm anything but happy.

You might think she's too dumb
to come in out of the rain, but rain
or shine, it doesn't seem to matter.
She's there most every afternoon,
as if she does this for a living.

Some living, I'd say. Doesn't she ever
get bored, or wish someone would stop
and say, "Where to?" and her life would change?
That's how I'd be, hating the noise,
the stink of exhaust, the press of people.

I can't imagine what her life is;
mine is confused and often fretful.
But there's something brave about standing alone
in the rain, waving wild semaphores
of gladness to impatient passersby

too tired or preoccupied to care.
Seeing her at her familiar station
I suddenly grin like a fool, wave back,
and forgive the driver to my right,
who is sullen and staring as I pass.

I find her in my rear-view mirror,
then head for a needed drink and supper.
I don't know where she goes, but I hope
it's to a place she loves. I hope the rain
lets up. I hope she's there tomorrow.


American Life In Poetry does not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Peter Everwine, “The Girl on the Bullard Overpass,” from Listening Long and Late (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Published March 11, 2016
American Life in Poetry: Column 569
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

After my mother died, her best friend told me that they were so close that they could sit together in a room for an hour and neither felt she had to say a word. Here's a fine poem by Dorianne Laux, about that kind of silence. Her most recent book is The Book of Men (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012) and she lives in North Carolina.

Enough Music

doriann lauxSometimes, when we're on a long drive,
and we've talked enough and listened
to enough music and stopped twice,
once to eat, once to see the view,
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.
Maybe it's what we don't say
that saves us.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1994 by Dorianne Laux, “Enough Music,” (What We Carry, BOA Editions, 1994). Poem reprinted by permission of Dorianne Laux and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Published March 18, 2016
American Life in Poetry: Column 571
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I suppose some of the newspapers which carry this column still employ young people to deliver the news, but carriers are now mostly adults. I had two paper routes when I was a boy and was pleased to find this reminiscence by Thomas R. Smith, a Wisconsin poet. His most recent book is The Glory, published by Red Dragonfly Press.

The Paper Boy

TRsmithMy route lassos the outskirts,
the reclusive, the elderly, the rural—
the poor who clan in their tarpaper
islands, the old ginseng hunter

Albert Harm, who strings the "crow's
foot" to dry over his wood stove.
Shy eyes of fenced-in horses
follow me down the rutted dirt road.

At dusk, I pedal past white birches,
breathe the smoke of spring chimneys,
my heart working uphill toward someone
hungry for word from the world.

I am Mercury, bearing news, my wings
a single-speed maroon Schwinn bike.
I sear my bright path through the twilight
to the sick, the housebound, the lonely.

Messages delivered, wire basket empty,
I part the blue darkness toward supper,
confident I've earned this day's appetite,
stronger knowing I'll be needed tomorrow.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Thomas R. Smith, “The Paper Boy,” from The Glory (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Thomas R. Smith and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
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