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“A poem is not merely words; it is not merely lines or even statements and meanings. It is, perhaps, more about the openness that exists somewhere on that mysterious page. ”
—Juan Felipe Herrera, Academy of American Poets Chancellor (2011–2016)
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John Koethe
John Koethe

The Sin of Pride

Recorded for Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017.
About this Poem 
“This poem, like many of my poems, is basically a free-form musing on the status of the self and the feeling of time passing, subjects I find inexhaustible. Since the logic of poems like this is associative, there are often references and allusion, in this case to the Velvet Underground song ‘After Hours’ and to Stephen Spender’s poem ‘The Truly Great.’”
—John Koethe
 

The Sin of Pride

turns out not to be a sin at all, but in the guise
Of self-esteem a virtue; while poetry, an original
Sin of pride for making self-absorption seem heroic,
Apologizes again and shuts the door. O Small
Room of Myself, where everything and nothing fits,
I wish the night would last forever as the song assures,
Though it never does. I make my way not knowing
Where it leads or how it ends—in shocks of recognition,
In oblivion deferred, too little or too late, consumed
By fears of the forgotten and of the truly great. Morning
Brings a newspaper and an ordinary day, the prospect
Of a popular novel, though it's hard to read. I write to live
And read to pass the time, yet in the end they're equal,
And instead of someone else's name the name I hear is mine—
Which is unsurprising, since our stories all sound alike,
With nothing to reveal or hide. How thin our books
Of revelations, the essential poems of everyone
Mysterious on the outside, but with nothing to conceal—
Like the stories of experience I go on telling myself
And sometimes even think are true, true at least to a feeling
I can't define, though I know what I know: of a mind
Relentlessly faithful to itself and more or less real.

Copyright © 2017 by John Koethe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by John Koethe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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poem

gathering words

                            para mami

One day I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
I have heard
pop! pop! pop!
like little soap bubbles escaping
the animated mouths
of the women who share
pieces of gossip like bombones
in la lavandería every Sunday

One day I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
that blossom without thorns
in painted mouths, in someone else’s countries…
In my corner, I listen to how voices ring
without the sting of bofetadas
and how they undulate above
gushing water and swirling clothes
in machines that vibrate in la lavandería

One day, I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
and enough courage
to let them ring in my mute dreams
until they sing to me: Write us. Así.
In your childhood tongue. Recóbranos. Recover us.
At that time, I will be able to return without fear
to la lavandería with my bags of clothes
and enough words and surrender myself to the bubbles.


recogiendo palabras

                        para mami

una carta te escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras que he oído escapar
¡pum! ¡pum! ¡pum!
como burbujitas de jabón
que escapan de las bocas animadas
de las mujeres quienes reparten
bochinches como bombones
en la lavandería cada domingo

una carta de escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras que florecen sin espinas
en bocas pintadas, en tierras ajenas…
en mi esquina oigo como las voces suenan
sin la quemada de bofetadas
y como ondean sobre chorros de agua
y ropa arremolinándose
en las máquinas que bailan en la lavandería

una carta te escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras y bastante coraje
para dejarlas resonar en mis sueños mudos
hasta que me canten: escríbenos así
en la lengua de tu niñez recóbranos
y en ese momento podré regresar sin miedo
a la lavandería con mis bolsas de ropa
y palabras que bastarán y me entregaré a las burbujitas

María Luisa Arroyo
2016
collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

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Great Basin National Park. Courtesy of National Park Service
poem

What Now?

Where did the shooting stars go?
They flit across my childhood sky
And by my teens I no longer looked upward—
My face instead peered through the windshield
Of my first car, or into the rearview mirror,
All the small tragedies behind me,
The road and the road’s curve up ahead.

The shooting stars?
At night, I now look upward—
Jets and single-prop planes.
No brief light, nothing to wish for,
The neighbor’s security light coming on.

Big white moon on the hill,
Lantern on gravestones,
You don’t count.

Gary Soto
2016
poem

Latin & Soul

for Joe Bataan

1

some waves
                     a wave of now
                                               a trombone speaking to you
a piano is trying to break a molecule
is trying to lift the stage into orbit
around the red spotlights

a shadow
the shadows      of dancers
dancers     they are dancing    falling
out that space      made for dancing

they should dance
on the tables            they should
dance inside of their drinks
they should dance on the
ceiling they should dance/dance

thru universes
leaning-moving
                          we are traveling

where are we going
if we only knew

with this rhythm    with
this banging     with     fire
with this     all    this    O
my god i wonder    where are
we going
           sink into a room full of laughter
           full of happiness     full of life
           those dancers
           the dancers
           are clapping their hands
           stomping their feet

hold back them tears
                                     all those sentimental stories
cooked uptown       if you can           hold it for after

we are going
                     away-away-away
                     beyond these wooden tables
                     beyond these red lights
                     beyond these rugs & paper
                     walls beyond way past
                     i mean way past them clouds
                     over the buildings    over the
                     rivers    over towns    over cities
                     like on rails   but faster   like
                     a train    but smoother
                     away past stars
                     bursting with drums.


2

a sudden misunderstanding
                                                a cloud
                                                full of grayness
a body thru a store window
                                                a hand reaching
                                                into the back
                                                                      pocket
a scream
               a piano is talking to you
               thru all this
               why don't you answer it.
Victor Hernández Cruz
2001
collection

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

Calculations

“I don’t know what to tell you.
Your daughter doesn’t understand
math. Numbers trouble her, leave
her stuck on ground zero.”

                               Y fueron los mayas
                               quienes imaginaron el cero,
                               un signo para nada, para todo,
                               en sus gran calculaciones.

                Is zero the velvet swoop into dream,
                the loop into plumes of our breath?

“I suggest you encourage languages.
Already she knows a little Spanish,
and you can teach her more of that.
She lives for story time.”

                In the beginning there was nothing.
                Then the green of quetzal wings.

                               Las historias siguen cambiando,
                               sus verdades vigorizadas
                               con cada narración
                               como X x X = X2

Brenda Cárdenas
2016
collection

John Ashbery, 1927–2017: A Tribute

On September 3, 2017, John Ashbery died at his home in Hudson, New York, at the age of ninety. Ashbery had a long history with the Academy of American Poets, dating back to the 1960s when he read in our series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. He received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1985 for his poetry collection A Wave (Viking, 1984). From 1988 to 1999, he served on our Board of Chancellors, and over the years, Ashbery participated in numerous Academy of American Poets events, including readings at the Morgan Library and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In honor of Ashbery, and his important contributions to American poetry, we've gathered a collection of his poems, historic recordings of the poet reading his work, photographs from our archive, and more.