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Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

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On Thursday night, I "attended" the Book Lovers Ball for Milkweed Editions. If this non-profit publisher is new to you, please go now and explore their site and the collection of amazing works they have ushered into this world. The evening was unobtrusive, unaggressive, and unquestionably inspiring. Ada Limón, published by Milkweed, was one of the featured authors, and I am still thinking about her words, her insistence in these difficult times that yes, we need food and shelter, and yes, of course, we need equity and justice. And yes, even now, always now, we need imagination.


My love of Ada Limón's poetry has been established for some time, but until today, I hadn't yet read her early collection Sharks in the Rivers. This collection does not rival The Carrying in my mind, the more mature collection singing more clearly for this reader. But it contains several shimmering examples of her excellence, such as "The Widening Road":


All winter the road has been paved in rain,

holding its form as if made of its own direction.


We have a lot of these days. Or not.


A woman in a car staring out, her hands going numb.

When did the world begin to push us so quickly?


A blue jay flies low over her into the madrones.

She can still see it -- its bright movements rocking a branch --

surely delighted that it matches the sky.


The honest clouds.


A tenderness grows like a fluttering in her hand.


She wants to hold it in her arms but not pin it down,

the way the tree holds the jay generously

in its willful branches. The spring is blowing

through her, pulling the dead debris free from her limbs.


She cannot decide what she desires, but today it is enough

that she desires and desires. That she is a body


in the world, wanting, the wind itself becoming


her own wild whisper.


Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

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That bit above is usually true on Sundays. Today, I offer a different kind of collection. Because sometimes, the very best way to encounter poetry is to be surprised by it, to catch it out of the corner of your eye.



The Poetry Unbound podcast from On Being is a lovely way to let a poem, a single poem take up all the space in the room. Too often, with a collection, we read poem after poem, letting the accumulated power of them do their important work. With this podcast, host Pádraig Ó Tuama guides listeners through a single poem, not belaboring it but opening it up, lifting it to the light for a closer look. New episodes arrive each Monday and Friday, which means I can always find a Sunday poem if I need it. My favorites are all here: Ada Limón and Ross Gay and a few favorites I hadn't met yet, like "Prayer" from Faisal Mohyuddin, which contains this perfect reminder of why I read poetry on Sundays:


. . . unfasten your cluttered mind from the tangible hold of secular trances bow down


before the cascading glow of God’s mercy submit to a centripetal course towards the gates of a more perfect emptiness


Sara Beth West

(@fiftytwowest)

is a reader and a writer, offering book reviews and interviews with leading writers and thinkers.

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