Your Library Staff at Home- Our Favorite Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month from all of us at Rocky River Public Library! National Poetry Month was launched in April of 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. You can read more about National Poetry Month and ways to get involved here!

Below you will find some favorite poems and poetry collections curated by RRPL staff we hope you will enjoy, along with lots of links so you can explore our favorite poets from home.

Dori’s Poetry Pick: “Sorrow Is Not My Name” from Bringing the Shovel Down, by Ross Gay

You can find more of this Ohio born poet’s work on his website, in our digital library collection, and through the Poetry Foundation website.

Megan’s Poetry Pick: “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats

You can read more from Yeats, widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, through the Poetry Foundation, or choose from four of Willam Butler Yeats poetry collections in our digital collection, including some of his early poems and an audiobook.

Greg’s Poetry Picks: Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith and
Bury it by Sam Sax

Read more of Smith’s award-winning poetry on his website and on the Poetry Foundation website. You can find more of Sax’s work on his website, through the Poetry Foundation site , and you can check out his debut collection of poems, Madness, from our digital library collection.

Nicole’s Poetry Pick: Blud by Rachel McKibbens

You can listen to audio performances of some of McKibbens’ poetry on her website or read some of her poetry through the Poetry Foundation.

Carol’s Poetry Pick: “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William Carlos Williams

You can check out a collection of Williams’ early poems from our digital library in addition to reading more of Williams’ poetry through the Poetry Foundation.

Stacey’s Poetry Pick: “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems by Maya Angelou

We offer quite a few of Angelou’s amazing poetry collections in our digital library, and many of her poems are available on the Poetry Foundation website.

We’ll be celebrating poetry all month long over on the library’s social media, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more staff favorites, book spine poetry, and more. If you want to participate, consider recording yourself reading a favorite poem and sharing it on social media! We can all #shelterinpoems while we shelter in place- thanks to the Poetry Foundation for that wonderful hashtag!

Ohio Poet Stanley Plumly: 1939-2013

Image result for stanley plumly

Ever year, it is inevitable, we come across the news of the passing into elsewhere of our heroes.  We don’t know where they go, but we know that we felt blessed to have had them here when they were here.  That’s how I feel today, on hearing about the death of American poet Stanley Plumly.  He was a deep and strong and elegiac poet, who wrote remarkable poems about the natural world and the worlds of human beings who shaped him.  He was the first poet I ever came across, with the exception of Philip Levine, who wrote utterly brooding and moving poems about his parents, how they were who they were, how they danced across the vista of his life and influenced him indelibly.

Sometimes I feel very sad when a beloved poet dies.  There is something, to my mind, very holy about the art of poetry, of speaking and bringing into being one’s own deepest, most vital thoughts and feelings, expressed into a durable form (language) that somehow miraculously outlasts and transcends civilizations.  There is comfort, I think, in encountering these various voices of poetry, for they suggest that something does live on after death, something beautiful about the soul and the spirit, something rich and flowering and fresh and familiarly strange.

But enough of the talk.  I wanted mostly to share a poem by Plumly, who wrote many.  Here is one from Poets.org, called “At Night”:

When did I know that I’d have to carry it around
in order to have it when I need it, say in a pocket,

the dark itself not dark enough but needing to be
added to, handful by handful if necessary, until

the way my mother would sit all night in a room
without the lights, smoking, until she disappeared?

Where would she go, because I would go there.
In the morning, nothing but a blanket and all her

absence and the feeling in the air of happiness.
And so much loneliness, a kind of purity of being

and emptiness, no one you are or could ever be,
my mother like another me in another life, gone

where I will go, night now likely dark enough
I can be alone as I’ve never been alone before.

 

What is the “it” in the first line?  What does it mean to add to the dark?  What is the relationship between loneliness and “a kind of purity of being / and emptiness”?  And what does it mean to be alone in a different, new way, “as I’ve never been alone before”?  Plumly raises these important and fascinating questions, and the poem, in its own unfolding, gestures towards answers that are perfectly capable of being and living and answering themselves within the form and content of the poem, and therefore within us, its readers.  The writing of the poem, as Plumly knew, was an embodiment of the poet’s spirit seeking to understand itself through the weaving and conjuring of a shape adequate to its own great longing.  Plumly was able to convert this longing into a form that seems to understand and speak to and assuage our own longings.  He was a poet who deserves a wide audience.  He will be missed.