American Life in Poetry #100: The One I Think of Now by Wesley McNair
American Life in Poetry #99: New Water by Sharon Chmielarz
American Life in Poetry #98: Kissing a Horse by Robert Wrigley
...offering us a horse's head, up close,...
American Life in Poetry #97: Somebody Else's Baby by Mary Jo Salter
...the poignancy of the parent/child relationship...
American Life in Poetry #96: For Weeks After the Funeral by Andrea Hollander Budy
Grief can endure a long, long time. A deep loss is very reluctant to let us set it aside,...
American Life in Poetry #95: Young Man by John Haines
Literature, and in this instance, poetry, holds a mirror to life; thus the great themes of life become the great themes of poems.
American Life in Poetry #94: Silent Music by Floyd Skloot
...that's not to say I don't respect good writing done in traditional meter and rhyme.
American Life in Poetry #93: Common Janthina by Tatiana Ziglar
A group of elementary students in Detroit, Michigan, wrote poetry on the subject of what seashells might say if they could speak to us. I was especially charmed by Tatiana Ziglar's short poem,...
American Life in Poetry #92: Home Fire by Linda Parsons Marion
But it's the particulars of a home that make it ours.
American Life in Poetry #91: Driving Through by Mark Vinz
How many of us, when passing through some small town, have felt that it seemed familiar though we've never been there before?
American Life in Poetry #90: Bread Soup: An Old Icelandic Recipe by Bill Holm
What comes more naturally to us than to instruct someone in how to do something?
American Life in Poetry #89: No Children, No Pets by Sue Ellen Thompson
Loss can defeat us or serve as the impetus for positive change.
American Life in Poetry #88: My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono by Christopher Chambers
A Midwestern father transforms himself from a staid businessman into a rock-n-roll star,...
American Life in Poetry #87: Raking by Tania Rochelle
I especially like the image of the pair "bent like parentheses/ around their brittle little lawn."
American Life in Poetry #86: The Birds by Linda Pastan
...a master of the kind of water-clear writing that enables us to see into the depths.
American Life in Poetry #85: In November by Lisel Mueller
...the following lines, with their grace and humility, are representative of her poems of quiet celebration.
American Life in Poetry #84: Amaryllis by Connie Wanek
To me they seem unworldly, perhaps a little dangerous, like a wild bird you don't want to get too close to.
American Life in Poetry #83: Green Tea by Dale Ritterbusch
...more my cup of tea.
American Life in Poetry #82: Clean by Jeff Vande Zande
...adults make mistakes, even with children they love, and that parenting is about fear as well as joy.
American Life in Poetry #81: Under Stars by Tess Gallagher
But notice how closely she pays attention to this simple experience, and how she fits this one moment into the meaning of her life.
American Life in Poetry #80: Elegy for an Old Boxer by James McKean
...a colorful friend and neighbor.
American Life in Poetry #79: Work Shy by Alex Phillips
The news coverage of Hurricane Katrina gave America a vivid look at our poor and powerless neighbors.
American Life in Poetry #78: Moss by Bruce Guernsey
...as the moss moves from being a slipcover to wet dust on a gravestone.
American Life in Poetry #77: Early in the Morning by Li-Young Lee
...the understanding of love through the quiet observation of gesture.
American Life in Poetry #76: Reunion by Jeff Daniel Marion
I'd guess we've all had dreams like the one portrayed in this wistful poem...
American Life in Poetry #75: Love Worn by Lita Hooper
...the poet, a stranger in a strange place, observes the lives of others from a distance and imagines her way into them.
American Life in Poetry #74: In the Mushroom Summer by David Mason
...steps away from an undisclosed personal loss into another state...
American Life in Poetry #73: Planting a Dogwood by Roy Scheele
...that moment when the last spade full of earth is packed around the root ball and patted or stamped into place and we stand back and wish the young plant good fortune.
American Life in Poetry #72: My Father Teaches Me to Dream by Jan Beatty
If when I was young I'd told my father I was looking for fulfilling work, he would have looked at me as if I'd just arrived from Mars.
American Life in Poetry #71: August Morning by Albert Garcia
William Carlos Williams, one of our country's most influential poets and a New Jersey physician, taught us to celebrate daily life.
American Life in Poetry #70: My Son the Man by Sharon Olds
As a man I'll never gain the wisdom Sharon Olds expresses in this poem about motherhood,...
American Life in Poetry #69: Ironing After Midnight by Marsha Truman Cooper
...doing a job to perfection, pressing the perfect edge, establishes a reassuring order to an otherwise mundane and slightly tawdry world.
American Life in Poetry #68: They Sit Together on the Porch by Wendell Berry
As close together as these two people have grown, as much alike as they have become, there is always the chance of the one, unpredictable, small moment of independence.
American Life in Poetry #67: Family Reunion by Catherine Barnett
The father tries to help his grown daughter forget for a moment that, a year earlier, her own two daughters were killed, that she is now alone.
American Life in Poetry #66: The Copper Beech by Marie Howe
Some of the most telling poetry being written in our country today has to do with the smallest and briefest of pleasures.
American Life in Poetry #65: Homecoming by Keith Althaus
Visiting a familiar and once dear place after a long absence can knock the words right out of us,...
American Life in Poetry #64: Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country by Lola Haskins
Storytelling binds the past and present together, and is as essential to community life as are food and shelter.
American Life in Poetry #63: The Dancer by David Tucker
Remember those Degas paintings of the ballet dancers?
American Life in Poetry #62: Bindweed by James McKean
Gardeners who've fought Creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize...
American Life in Poetry #61: The Education of a Poet by Leslie Monsour
...setting high standards for yourself can keep you from writing. And if you don't write you'll miss out on the pleasure of making something from words,...
American Life in Poetry #60: What I Learned From My Mother by Julia Kasdorf
...the imprint of her mother's life on her own.
American Life in Poetry #59: At Twenty-Eight by Amy Fleury
Her poem playfully presents her life as serendipitous, yet she doesn't shy away from acknowledging loneliness.
American Life in Poetry #58: There Is Another Way by Pat Schneider
A worm in an apple, a maggot in a bone, a person in the world. What might seem an odd assortment of creatures...
American Life in Poetry #57: Coins by Richard Newman
...the imaginary life of coins...
American Life in Poetry #56: At the Edge of Town by Don Welch
...a man who's been fixing barbed wire fences all his life.
American Life in Poetry #55: What We Need by Jo McDougall
...a couple of performers, drab and weary in their ordinary lives, away from the lights at the center of the ring.
American Life in Poetry #54: Tangerine by Ruth L. Schwartz.
...the glimpse of possibility, of something sweeter than we already have that comes to us, grows in us. The unrealizable part of it causes bitterness;...
American Life in Poetry #53: A Pot of Red Lentils by Peter Pereira.
Here the Seattle poet and physician, Peter Pereira, offer us a simple meal.
American Life in Poetry #52: Radiator by Connie Wanek.
Can there be anything quite so homely and ordinary as a steam radiator?
American Life in Poetry #51: Marching by Jim Harrison.
...Jim Harrison nods to Whitman with a sweeping, inclusive poem about the course of life.
American Life in Poetry #50: Against Lawn by Grace Bauer.
Thousands of Americans fret over the appearance of their lawns, spraying, aerating, grooming, but here Grace Bauer finds good reasons to resist the impulse...
American Life in Poetry #49: On A Moonstruck Gravel Road by Rodney Torreson.
...the world of boys arriving at the edge of manhood...
American Life in Poetry #48: Some Boys are Born to Wander by Walt McDonald.
Every parent can tell a score of tales about the difficulties of raising children, and then of the difficulties in letting go of them.
American Life in Poetry #47: Holy Cussing by Robert Morgan.
When the most intense revivals swept
the mountains just a century ago,...
American Life in Poetry #46: Geology by Bob King.
We constantly compare one thing with another, or attempt to, saying, "Well, you know, love is like...it's like...well, YOU know what it's like."
American Life in Poetry #45: Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet by Anne Caston.
Haven't we all been in this restaurant for the Sunday buffet?
American Life in Poetry #44: Mongrel Heart by David Baker.
...there is nothing disingenuous about the way a dog praises, celebrates, frets or mourns.
American Life in Poetry #43: To Play Pianissimo by Lola Haskins.
...presenting the gentleness of pianissimo...
American Life in Poetry #42: What Calls Us by David Bengtson.
...about the simple pleasure of walking through deep snow to the mailbox to see what's arrived.
American Life in Poetry #41: Family Album by Diane Thiel.
Those photos in family albums, what do they show us about the lives of people, and what don't they tell?
American Life in Poetry #40: A Yellow Leaf by Alberto Rios.
...a glimpse of how something small yet unexpected...
American Life in Poetry #39: December Notes by Nancy McCleery.
Many of us keep journals, but while doing so few of us...
American Life in Poetry #38: Fifteen by Leslie Monsour.
I'd guess that many women remember the risks and thrills of their first romantic encounters in much the same way...
American Life in Poetry #37: The Wind Chimes by Shirley Buettner.
Painful separations, through divorce, through death, through alienation, sometimes cause us to focus on the objects around us, often invested with sentiment.
American Life in Poetry #36: In The Black Rock Tavern by Judith Slater.
...we're delivered to a location infamous for brewing American stories...
American Life in Poetry #35: Tintype on the Pond, 1925 by J. Lorraine Brown.
This poem, like many others, offers us a unique experience, presented as a gift, for us to respond to as we will.
American Life in Poetry #34: Dim by Jim Daniels.
...a father struggles to heal his son's grief after an incident at school.
American Life in Poetry #33: Glucose Self-Monitoring by Katy Giebenhain.
Katy Giebenhain, an American living in Berlin, Germany, depicts a ritual that many diabetics undergo several times per day: testing one's blood sugar. The poet shows us new ways of looking
American Life in Poetry #32: Road Report by Kurt Brown.
Descriptions of landscape are common in poetry, but in "Road Report" Kurt Brown adds a twist by writing himself into "cowboy country." He also energizes the poem by using words we associate with the American West: Mustang,...
American Life in Poetry #31: In My Mother's House by Gloria G. Murray.
All of us have known tyrants, perhaps at the office, on the playground or, as in this poem, within a family.
American Life in Poetry #30: Boy and Egg by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas. Here she perfectly captures a moment in childhood that nearly all of us may remember...
American Life in Poetry #29: Cliff Swallows by Debra Nystrom.
Many of you have seen flocks of birds or schools of minnows acting as if they were guided by a common intelligence, turning together, stopping together.
American Life in Poetry #28: Speckled Trout by Ron Rash.
Although this poem by North Carolina native Ron Rash may seem to be just about trout fishing, it is the first of several poems Rash has written about his cousin who died years ago.
American Life in Poetry #27: Children in a Field by Angela Shaw.
In this lovely poem by Angela Shaw, who lives in Pennsylvania, we hear a voice of wise counsel: Let the young go, let them do as they will, and admire their grace and beauty as they pass from us into the future.
American Life in Poetry #26: Stable by Claudia Emerson.
Descriptive poetry depends for its effects in part upon the vividness of details. Here the Virginia poet, Claudia Emerson, describes the type of old building all of us have seen but may not have stopped to look at carefully.
American Life in Poetry #25: The Bethlehem Nursing Home by Rodney Torreson.
Emily Dickinson said that poems come at the truth at a slant. Here a birdbath and some overturned chairs on a nursing home lawn...
American Life in Poetry #24: Cicadas at the End of Summer by Martin Walls.
In this poem by New York poet Martin Walls, a common insect is described and made vivid for us through a number of fresh and engaging comparisons.
American Life in Poetry #23: Camping Out by E. G. Burrows.
In this fine poem about camping by Washington poet E. G. Burrows, vivid memories of the speaker's father, set down one after another, move gracefully toward speculation about how experiences cling to us despite any efforts to put them aside. And then, quite suddenly, the father is gone, forever.
American Life in Poetry #22: Of Some Renown by Jean L. Connor.
...Though the bird stands completely still, it has learned how to live in the world, how to sustain itself, and is capable of quick action when the moment is right.
American Life in Poetry #21: The Ashes by Karin Gottshall.
How many of us, alone at a grave or coming upon the site of some remembered event, find ourselves speaking to a friend or loved one who has died?
American Life in Poetry #20: The Woodpecker Keeps Returning by Jane Hirshfield.
In this fascinating poem by the California poet, Jane Hirshfield, the speaker discovers that through paying attention to an event she has become part of it, has indeed become inseparable from the event and its implications.
American Life in Poetry #19: Discovered by Shirley Buettner.
At the beginning of the famous novel, "Remembrance of Things Past," the mere taste of a biscuit started Marcel Proust on a seven-volume remembrance. Here a bulldozer turns up an old doorknob,...
American Life in Poetry #18: The Rain Poured Down by Dan Gerber.
...the frightening and paralyzing powerlessness of being a small child, unable to find a way to repair the world.
American Life in Poetry #17: The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry.
Nearly all of us spend too much of our lives thinking about what has happened, or worrying about what's coming next. Very little can be done about the past...
American Life in Poetry #16: Love Like Salt by Lisel Mueller.
There are thousands upon thousands of poems about love, many of them using predictable words, predictable rhymes. Ho-hum. But here...
American Life in Poetry #15: The Woman Who Collects Noah's Arks by Janet McCann.
Many of us are collectors, attaching special meaning to the inanimate objects we acquire. Here, Texas poet Janet McCann gives us insight into the significance of one woman's collection.
American Life in Poetry #14: Old Woman in a Housecoat by Georgiana Cohen.
Often everyday experiences provide poets with inspiration. Here Georgiana Cohen observes a woman looking out her window and...
American Life in Poetry #13: Turning Forty by Kevin Griffith.
Birthdays, especially those which mark the passage of a decade, are occasions not only for celebration, but for reflection. In "Turning Forty," Ohio poet Kevin Griffith conveys a confusion of sentiments.
American Life in Poetry #12: Grandfather by Andrei Guruianu.
Perhaps your family passes on the names of loved ones to subsequent generations. This poem by Andrei Guruianu speaks to the loving and humbling nature of sharing another's name.
American Life in Poetry #11: Peacock Display by David Wagoner.
Here David Wagoner, a distinguished poet living in Washington state, vividly describes a peacock courtship, and though it's a poem about birds,...
American Life in Poetry #10: More Than Enough by Marge Piercy.
The poet and novelist Marge Piercy has a gift for writing about nature. In this poem, springtime has a nearly overwhelming and contagious energy,...
American Life in Poetry #9: The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War by James Doyle.
In eighteen lines--one long sentence--James Doyle evokes two settings: an actual parade and a remembered one. By dissolving time and...
American Life in Poetry #8: Moonflowers by Karma Larsen.
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of poems have been written to express the grief of losing a parent. Many of the most telling of these...
American Life in Poetry #7: The Potato Eaters by Leonard Nathan.
Leonard Nathan is a master of short poems in which two or three figures are placed on what can be seen to be a stage, as in a drama. Here,...
American Life in Poetry #6: Sober Song by Barton Sutter.
Rhyme has a way of lightening the spirit of a poem, and in this instance, the plural, spirits, is the appropriate word choice. Lots of readers can relate to "Sober Song," which originally appeared in North Dakota Quarterly.
American Life in Poetry #5: Neighbors in October by David Baker.
Though many of us were taught that poems have hidden meanings that must be discovered and pried out like the meat from walnuts, a poem is not a puzzle, but an experience. Here David Baker makes a gift to us...
American Life in Poetry #4: Another Feeling by Ruth Stone.
None of us can fix the past. Mistakes we've made can burden us for many years, delivering their pain to the present as if they had happened just yesterday.
American Life in Poetry #3: Bessie Dreaming Bear by Marnie Walsh.
A poem need not go on at great length to accomplish the work of conveying something meaningful to its readers. In the following poem by the late Marnie Walsh, just a few words, written as if they'd been recorded in exactly the manner in which they'd been spoken,...
American Life in Poetry #2: At the Grave by Jonathan Greene
Many of us have felt helpless when we've tried to assist friends who are dealing with the deaths of loved ones. Here the Kentucky poet and publisher, Jonathan Greene, conveys that feeling of inadequacy in a single sentence.
American Life in Poetry #1: Neighbors by David Allan Evans.
We all know that the manner in which people behave toward one another can tell us a lot about their private lives. In this amusing poem...