Virtual Poetry Circle: Haki R. Madhubuti

Because all of us enjoy reading and love books of all kinds, I thought this poem was highly appropriate: From Haki R. Madhubuti:

So Many Books, So Little Time

For independent booksellers & librarians, especially Nichelle Hayes

Frequently during my mornings of pain & reflection
when I can’t write
or articulate my thoughts
or locate the mindmusic needed
to complete the poems & essays
that are weeks plus days overdue
forcing me to stop, I cease
answering my phone, eating right, running my miles,
reading my mail, and making love.
(Also, this is when my children do not seek me out
because I do not seek them out.)
I escape north, to the nearest library or used bookstore.
They are my retreats, my quiet energy-givers, my intellectual refuge.

For me it is not bluewater beaches, theme parks,
or silent chapels hidden among forest greens.
Not multi-stored American malls, corporate book
supermarkets, mountain trails, or Caribbean hideaways.

My sanctuaries are liberated lighthouses of shelved books,
featuring forgotten poets, unread anthropologists of tenure-
seeking assistant professors, self-published geniuses, remaindered
first novelists, highlighting speed-written bestsellers,
wise historians & theologians, nobel, pulitzer prize, and american book
award winners, poets & fiction writers, overcertain political commentators,
small press wunderkinds & learned academics.
All are vitamins for my slow brain & sidetracked spirit in this
winter of creating.

I do not believe in smiling politicians, AMA doctors,
zebra-faced bankers, red-jacketed real estate or automobile
salespeople, or singing preachers.

I believe in books.
It can be conveniently argued that knowledge,
not that which is condensed or computer packaged, but
pages of hard-fought words, dancing language
meticulously & contemplatively written by the likes of me & others,
shelved imperfectly at the level of open hearts & minds,
is preventive medicine strengthening me for the return to my
clear pages of incomplete ideas to be reworked, revised &
written as new worlds and words in all of their subjective
configurations to eventually be processed into books that
will hopefully be placed on the shelves of libraries, bookstores, homes,
& other sanctuaries of learning to be found & browsed over by receptive
booklovers, readers & writers looking for a retreat,
looking for departure & yes spaces,
looking for open heart surgery without the knife.

Listen to the poem.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Claudia Emerson

While our family attend a local Climate Summit for youth, I want to leave you with this poem in honor of Earth Day.

Environmental Awareness: The Right Whale

The whale was known as right because it was
magnificent with oil, slow and easy
to find and slaughter, floating even when dead.
But after it was no longer needed for fat,
men still hunted the whale for its rich mouth
of baleen, harvested for hairbrushes,
buggy whips, umbrella ribs, the stays
of corsets – vain things designed to mold the female
body, sculpt a waist so small a man's
hands could meet with ease around it. Crazy,
the girls agree, the way those women bought it.

Share your favorite Earth Day poem below.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Robert Herrick

To Daffodils

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain’d his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the even-song;
And, having pray’d together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Like to the summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Audre Lorde

by Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn't notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4'10'' black Woman's frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody's mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

Virtual Poetry Circle: Kenn Nesbitt

April Fool's Day

Mackenzie put a whoopie cushion
on the teacher’s chair.
Makayla told the teacher
that a bug was in her hair.

Alyssa brought an apple
with a purple gummy worm
and gave it to the teacher
just to see if she would squirm.

Elijah left a piece of plastic
dog doo on the floor,
and Vincent put some plastic vomit
in the teacher’s drawer.

Amanda put a goldfish
in the teacher’s drinking glass.
These April Fool’s Day pranks
are ones that you could use in class.

Before you go and try them, though,
there’s something I should mention:
The teacher wasn’t fooling
when she put us in detention.

What April Fool’s pranks have you played on family, friends, and dare I say in school?

Virtual Poetry Circle: Mary Oliver

Hello Everyone!

It’s National Poetry Month and in honor of April as National Canine Fitness Month, I’m going to share one of my favorite Mary Oliver Poems about dogs.

I’m sharing one of my favorite poems about dogs:


He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or awake enough

he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.

“Tell me you love me,” he says.

“Tell me again.”

Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Earth Day Poems

Hello everyone!

It’s National Poetry Month and in honor of April as Keep American Beautiful Month and Earth Day celebrations on April 22, I’m sharing one of my favorite poems about the beauty of our world. A little reminder to slow down and protect the only home we have.

The Thaw by Henry David Thoreau

I saw the civil sun drying earth’s tears —
Her tears of joy that only faster flowed,

Fain would I stretch me by the highway side,
To thaw and trickle with the melting snow,
That mingled soul and body with the tide,
I too may through the pores of nature flow.

But I alas nor tinkle can nor fume,
One jot to forward the great work of Time,
‘Tis mine to hearken while these ply the loom,
So shall my silence with their music chime.

There’s a sense of desire to be part of nature around him, a seeping of the human self into that seamless flow. But he can merely sit and marvel. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have that time to sit and marvel at it all.

Check out these other Earth Day poems:

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Mahmoud Darwish

Hello everyone!

It’s National Poetry Month and in honor of April as Arab-American Heritage Month, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems from Mahmoud Darwish.

I Belong There

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and
    a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama 
    of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have
    a moon,
a bird's sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return 
    heaven to her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by 
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from 
    them a
single word: Home.

This poem is a reflection on the trauma and turmoil, but also the blessed things in a home torn by fighting. There a deep longing for the home in his mind, one filled with light and beauty, but the reality is that it is a country torn.

Please share one of your favorite Arab-American poets. Or take some time check find one on poets.org.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Naomi Shihab Nye

Hello everyone! It’s National Poetry Month and in honor of April as Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems from Naomi Shihab Nye.

Sometimes There Is A Day

Sometimes there is a day you just want
to get far away from.
Feel it shrink inside you like an island,
as if you were on a boat.
I always wish to be on a boat.
Then, maybe, no more fighting
about land. I want that day to feel
as if it never happened, when Ahmad was burned,
when people were killed, when my cousin was shot.
The day someone went to jail
is not a day that shines. I want to have a clear mind
again, as a baby who stares at the light
wisping through the window and thinks,
That’s mine.

In this poem, I see that island. Maybe there’s a large erupting volcano, much like the stress we can face from war, pandemics, etc. Even little eruptions that strike fear and deep loss in us, like the bills piling up or the dead end job or family drama, can seem overwhelming. In this poem, we get to journey away from that island on a boat, watch that stress shrink until we are babies discovering the world anew.

What are some of your favorite poems that provide you stress in times of solace or just speak to you about stress/turmoil in general?

Virtual Poetry Circle: Nikki Giovanni


Hello everyone! It’s National Poetry Month and in honor of Women’s History Month in March, I wanted to share one of my favorite Nikki Giovanni poems.


her grandmother called her from the playground   
       “yes, ma’am”
       “i want chu to learn how to make rolls” said the old   
woman proudly
but the little girl didn’t want
to learn how because she knew
even if she couldn’t say it that
that would mean when the old one died she would be less   
dependent on her spirit so
she said
       “i don’t want to know how to make no rolls”
with her lips poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
       these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and i guess nobody ever does

I love how the exchange here between the older woman and the girl is simple. It is a normal conversation between an elder looking to teach a child and a child’s response, but there is that undercurrent of fear and connection that I love so much about this poem.

The child wants to stay connected to this woman, but knows that death is nearing for her and she hopes that by rejecting the teaching, she can stave off that inevitable moment and disconnection.

What are some of your favorite poems celebrating women?

Virtual Poetry Circle: Langston Hughes

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem or listen to it if it is available.

I’ll leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Langston Hughes.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

I look are the lines in this poem and they ring so true. Dreams can be hard to hold onto in the face of adversity, but without them, life seems empty.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem or listen. I’ll leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

While I find this very egocentric in that poets can save the world, I do like that he reminds us how powerful words can be.