I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

From Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This poem is in the public domain.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Copyright © by the Estate of Archibald MacLeish and reprinted by permission of the Estate.

is a field 

             as long as the butterflies say 

                                                                       it is a field 

with their flight

                                         it takes a long time 

to see

                         like light or sound or language

                                                                                      to arrive

and keep 

                                       we have more

than six sense dialect

                                                                      and i

am still

              adjusting to time

                              the distance and its permanence

i have found my shortcuts

                             and landmarks

                                                          to place

where i first took form

                                                                                           in the field

Copyright © 2022 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


The needle this morning wavers indifferently


The median and mode of your days—

Impassive sky against your forehead blocking any chance of feeling eager,

But also dulling greed

Something approaches in the lull—

Not exactly beauty but the chance of an answer to your yes-or-no question,

The eightball’s icosahedron . . .

Am I even suited to this—

Writing to save your life—pushing on past every clumsy letter—

Hoping for a flower?

“The Magic 8 Ball contains a 20-sided die with 10 positive answers, 5 negative answers, and 5 vague responses”

Shake it, shake it!

That’s your sense of form

Copyright © 2023 by Chris Nealon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Ars Poetica

Copyright © 2023 by Nabila Lovelace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Because I know
Now: how it feels
To sip that small space
Between becoming
And being found.

Guggenheim Poet-in-Residence presented in association with the Academy of American Poets. Made possible by Van Cleef & Arpels. Reprinted with permission of the poet. 

Sustained by poetry, fed anew
by its fires to return from madness,
the void does not beckon as it used to.

Littered with syllables, the road does not loom
as a chasm. The hand of strangers on other
doors does not hurt, the breath of gods

does not desert, but looms large
as a dream, a prairie within our dream,
to which we return, when we need to.

Oh blessed plain, oh pointed chasm.

From Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners, edited by Joshua Beckman, CAConrad, and Robert Dewhurst © 2015 John Wieners Literary Trust, Raymond Foye, Administrator. Reprinted with the permission of The John Wieners Literary Trust. 

For the sentiment. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the sentiment.
For the message. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the message.
For the music. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the music.
For the spirit. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the spirit.
For the intelligence. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the intelligence. 
For the courage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the courage.
For the inspiration. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the inspiration. 
For the emotion. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the emotion. 
For the vocabulary. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the vocabulary. 
For the poet. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the poet.
For the meaning. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the meaning.
For what it stands for. — Then you don’t love the poem you love what it stands for.
For the words. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the words.
For the syntax. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the syntax.
For the politics. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the politics.
For the beauty. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the beauty.
For the outrage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the outrage.
For the tenderness. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the tenderness.
For the hope. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the hope. 
For itself. — Then you love the poem.

Copyright © 2022 by Charles Bernstein. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,

No poetry.  Plain.  No 
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I've ever made 
with these hands 
and life, less

substance, more rind. 
Mostly rim and trim,

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less. 

Fatted from the day, 
overripe and even
toxic at eve.  Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must 
know, if I must bend,

to that excruciation.  
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,

That loud hub of us, 
meat stub of us, beating us

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing, 
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting,
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is

for the pressing question. 
Heart, what art you? 
War, star, part? Or less: 

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,

From Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) by Brenda Shaugnessy. Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Shaugnessy. Used with the permission of the poet. 

                                  it  used  to  be  that  i  would  write  to  enact  a
                                  desire  for  isolation.  it  was  a  way  to  say.   i
                                  want  to  be  left  alone.  to  my  thoughts.  with
                                  my words.  i  want you to leave me alone.  cant
                                  you see  that im trying.  im trying  to write.  im
                                  thirsty. im  writing  these  words to quench my
                                  thirst.  i  write alone in the hopes  that i  would
                                  write  myself into exhaustion.  into sleep.  i did
                                  just that. and that  was  when  you came to me.
                                  carrying   water   in   your  mouth.  you  leaned
                                  into.   you  passed  it   along   from   mouth   to
                                  mouth.  our  lips  did not touch. this was not  a
                                  kiss.  a kiss would not  have led me  here.  you
                                  woke  me  from  sleep by  quenching my  thirst.
                                  this  lasted  but  a  minute.  i  am  thirsty  again.
                                  today  im  writing.  its  usually to someone.  im
                                  writing  something. i  want  to hear it read  out
                                  loud.   i  want to see it on a page,   in a book.   i
                                  want to see you inside  these words.  where are
                                  you. i am thirsty. how are you.

Copyright © 2022 by Truong Tran. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

the poem begins not where the knife enters
but where the blade twists.
Some wounds cannot be hushed
no matter the way one writes of blood
& what reflection arrives in its pooling.
The poem begins with pain as a mirror
inside of which I adjust a tie the way my father taught me
before my first funeral & so the poem begins
with old grief again at my neck. On the radio,
a singer born in a place where children watch the sky
for bombs is trying to sell me on love
as something akin to war.
I have no lie to offer as treacherous as this one.
I was most like the bullet when I viewed the body as a door.
I’m past that now. No one will bury their kin
when desire becomes a fugitive
between us. There will be no folded flag
at the doorstep. A person only gets to be called a widow once,
and then they are simply lonely. The bluest period.
Gratitude, not for love itself, but for the way it can end
without a house on fire.
This is how I plan to leave next.
Unceremonious as birth in a country overrun
by the ungrateful living. The poem begins with a chain
of well-meaning liars walking one by one
off the earth’s edge. That’s who died
and made me king. Who died and made you.

Copyright © 2019 by Hanif Abdurraqib. From A Fortune For Your Disaster (Tin House Books, 2019). Used with permission of the author and Tin House Books. 

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

From Sentences by Howard Nemerov, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1980 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov. All rights reserved.

To be or not to be, that is the question
To justify the ways of God to men
There was a time when meadow grove and stream
The dropping of the daylight in the west
Otters below and moorhens on the top
Had fallen in Lyonesse about their Lord.

There was a time when moorhens on the top
To justify the daylight in the west,
To be or not to be about their Lord
Had fallen in Lyonesse from God to men;
Otters below and meadow grove and stream,
The dropping of the day, that is the question.

A time when Lyonesse and grove and stream
To be the daylight in the west on top 
When meadow otters fallen about their Lord
To justify the moorhens is the question
Or not to be the dropping God to men
There was below the ways that is a time.

To be in Lyonesse, that is the question
To justify the otters, is the question
The dropping of the meadows, is the question

I do not know the answer to the question

There was a time when moorhens in the west
There was a time when daylight on the top
There was a time when God was not a question

There was a time when poets

                         Then I came

From A.R.T.H.U.R. by Laurence Lerner. Copyright © 1974 by Laurence Levine. Reprinted by permission of the University of Massachusetts Press. All rights reserved.

Painting is a person placed
between the light and a
canvas so that their shadow
is cast on the canvas and
then the person signs their
name on it whereas poetry
is the shadow writing its
name upon the person.

From I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014 by Bill Knott, edited by Thomas Lux. Copyright © 2017 by The Estate of Bill Knott.  Reprinted/Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

When you quietly close
the door to a room
the room is not finished.

It is resting. Temporarily.
Glad to be without you
for a while.

Now it has time to gather
its balls of gray dust,
to pitch them from corner to corner.

Now it seeps back into itself,
unruffled and proud.
Outlines grow firmer.

When you return,
you might move the stack of books,
freshen the water for the roses.

I think you could keep doing this
forever. But the blue chair looks best
with the red pillow. So you might as well

leave it that way.

From Honeybee (Greenwillow Books, 2008) by Naomi Shihab Nye. Copyright @2008 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with permission of the author.