Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Our National Poetry Month Series for 2020 Kicks off With What the Living Do

It’s National Poetry Month Again!  If you have been visiting here for a while, you know what that means—it’s our 10th annual round-up of daily doses of verse!  If you are new, here’s the scoop.  Every day all month I will feature poets and their poems.  I aim to be as broad and inclusive as possible to style, subject, period, gender, race, and neglected voices.  
I don’t want just a parade of the usual dead white men, but a lot of them did write some damn fine poetry, so they have their place here too.  As always, selections follow my own tastes and whims.  Yours may be different.  But I am open toeager for—suggestions, especially for contemporary writers.  I do not subscribe to dozens of little magazines or prowl the internet for poetry posts.  I often only stumble on new and unknown poets and I am sure I miss some great stuff.  Please feel free to turn me on to some—or be bold and submit your own.  
Here is a challenge—Poets, send me your responses to the Coronavirus pandemic be it personal, political, or polemical.  Everybody, send me pieces that catch your eye.  I don’t and can’t promise to use everything. E-mail me at .

Marie Howe.

Marie Howe wrote today’s poem in 1989 after the death of her brother of AIDS.  It speaks to us again today in the midst of another plague
Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in 1983. She has taught at Tufts University, Dartmouth College, and currently at New York University and Sarah Lawrence College.  She lives in New York City with her daughter.
She is the author of four volumes of poetry: The Good Thief (Persea Books) in 1988, What the Living Do (W.W. Norton) in 1997, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (Norton) in 2009, and Magdalene: Poems (Norton), in 2017.  She was also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.
Her honors include the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1988; grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts;  New York State Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014; and election as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2018.
Howe recently noted about poetry and every Day Life:
This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

What the Living Do
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

—Marie Howe

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