Image by Kimberly Farmer

Sara Beth West


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

On Sundays, We Read Poetry

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.


Do you remember? That day in January, 2009, when Elizabeth Alexander leaned into that microphone and read "Praise Song for the Day"? Even if you were among the critics of that poem, wasn't that a remarkable thing? Poetry. Out loud. Honored with a spot on that most honored dais. Remarkable.

Her American Sublime from 2005 is equally remarkable. Wide-ranging in both theme and tone, it often confounds and easily inspires. Here is one of my favorites, "Ars Poetica #10: Crossing Over."

Like the low Shaker cradle

sized for a diminished adult

in which they rocked their elderly to death,

or the five evangelical nurses

who sang the Jewish woman to the precipice

then told her to let go, go to Jesus

in a humming circle.

Like the mother of two sons

who sent them away

so they would not see

their mother die,

who refused the Shaker cradle.

Like you, like our mother,

who kept us as close for as long as she could

then sent us away

so she could.

The best books spark the best conversations! If you have thoughts to share, please feel free to send me a message. I promise a reply. 


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