National Poetry Month

April 2019

The Internet (that vast purveyor of information) advises that April is National Poetry Month, and has been since it was designated as such by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. I adore poetry, in all its forms and guises, from the simple rhyming verses in store-bought birthday cards to the elegant poems of William Wordsworth, from the rebellious “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks to the meditative almost-hymns of Rainer Maria Rilke, from the novels written entirely in free verse such as Holly Thompson’s heartbreaking “Orchards” to picture books written in language so poetic as to feel fragile to the touch like Joseph Coelho’s “If all the world were …”

I too have attempted poetry, which can be read here  (“Life we can no longer see”). It is modest, and I am grateful for the kind, gracious individuals at Cha who gave me a voice, and an audience.

But the crown for poetry, in my view, can only be worn by the luminous Mary Oliver, who sadly passed from our world earlier this year. Her words have soothed, comforted, and inspired countless millions, and will continue to do so for years and decades to come.

So, to celebrate National Poetry Month, allow me to share with you Mary’s most beautiful poem, and may you too, bask in its glow and its aching beauty.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

 

 

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