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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 highlight 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.

On this, the Sunday where we celebrate or remember the fathers in our lives, I am happy to share my love for the winner of the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize: Worldly Things by Michael Kleber-Diggs. It is stunning and thought-provoking, gentle and full of reflections appropriate to the day. I share here the start of his poem "Coniferous Fathers," which may be my favorite of the collection though that choice is nearly impossible given how strong the whole thing is.

Let's fashion gentle fathers, expressive -- holding us

how we wanted to be held before we could ask.

Singing off-key lullabies, written for us -- songs

every evening, like possibilities. Fathers who say,

This is how you hold a baby, but never mention

a football. Say nothing in that moment, just bring

us to their chest naturally, without shyness.

Let's grow fathers from pine, not oak, coniferous

fathers raising us in their shade, fathers soft enough

to bend --

For the rest, you'll need to pick up a copy, available now from Milkweed. Or you could watch the Ritvo Prize launch event, where the author read the complete poem and talked about his process and his path with Tracy K. Smith.

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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