It’s National Poetry Month and the Academy of American Poets have come up with 30 different ways to celebrate it. The ideas are creative and include subscribing to a daily digital poetry series featuring more than 200 previously unpublished poems, chalking a poem on a sidewalk or memorizing one, and listening to Mark Doty’s talk, “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now.” NPR has claimed that “you can bet we’re not letting April slip by without a nod to the art of the verse,” inviting listeners to submit a 140-character poem on Twitter together with the hashtag #NPRpoetry, and at Cornell University Press, we feel the same.
Our 1869 podcast interviewing author Susan Eisenberg on her latest book, Stanley’s Girl, a collection of touching poems about gender inclusion, sexual violence and women in the workplace, has inspired us to add one more idea to the list. And for that purpose, we have invited two women at the Press to contribute their own poetic visions of the world. The result is insightful and exciting, and together with our selection of fine poetry books, they make us part of what has become the largest poetry celebration in the world:
Baltimore, You Are a Pocket Full of Copper Nails
by Cheryl Quimba
A lot of the time I want to push people
into giant manholes then fly down
to save them, introduce myself as their
long-lost sister who has finally sold everything
to come home. They would be confused but then
so happy for having found something they didn’t know
was lost, and it would feel like a piano playing
beams of colored light against the wall.
In your poems I’m always sad and saying
sad things but in real life I say I am the mountain
sitting on this park bench, so small a microscope needs
binoculars to find me. Baltimore is filled with dirty bathrooms
but no one cares because fun is happening.
Where I live the places where
people die are marked with stuffed animals tied
to lamp posts. There is a store called Hair Strategies
and little kids push strollers filled with
cans of soda up and down the medians.
I like to cross the street like
I’m walking through a casino.
The bells are ringing and ringing
and ringing goodbye.
Quimba, Cheryl. (2015). Nobody Dancing. Publishing Genius Press
by Ana Carpenter
Here in the passenger side lie Wendy’s bags crumpled by boots
The gentle pungent mulch compacts beneath each nail
Picking at the leather seats to stroke the tattered brail
And decode Dad’s lesson of the day like stringed stray roots:
The ones you mulched over the mornings of summer through July.
Disembarking the diesel F450 with silver smokestacks,
You’re mapping on your hands the clay-dried, thorn-bruised cracks
Wiping the Wendy’s grease on your sister’s off-brand “Nike” slacks
Step out into the cicada-thick air where, like Wendy’s, you fry.
You let the grass prick your bare calves and adjust in the sticky bed
Wiping soil across your forehead, swatting away flying things
And quietly recoiling from the grubs unearthed as dad sings,
Something he beat-boxed under his breath about marriage and rings-
Wash your hands in the cold hose-water until they turn Wendy-hair red.
Other suggested media for our readers on #NationalPoetryMonth:
Cheryl Quimba is the Publicity Manager at CUP. She eats, sleeps, and breathes books (but loves a good movie or music debate any day). Follow her on Twitter @ cheryl_quimba.
Ana Carpenter is a member of the Cornell University Class of 2019 and Student Publishing Associate at Cornell University Press. In her free time she likes to sing, salsa, be in the company of dogs of all shapes and sizes, and collect mugs to home-brew cheap coffee.