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The Lover

New Delhi, 1965

I took the train from Patiala,
left the girls with Ayah, and lied,
I'm with Faye and Daisy.
       Had to say what he'd approve of.
Go then, Kiran said, crushing large rupees in my hand.

Have I been here a week?
I've slept so long I can't remember
who was with me last night in bed,
that figure leaning against the door?
Did he leave me this gold bangle?
I can feel its heft around my wrist,
knobs and crests, a design
from the high Mogul period of Aurangazeb.

I have come to Delhi
to remember our ancient past—so little, a bangle,
       what else?
When it slid over my hand,
I opened myself like a book and you hear its private pulsing.
In the quiet he said, Put your hand here
       to save your place.
I put my hand there, and he pressed it.
He sat with me a minute, and he went away,
left something to hinge me in the wind of myself,
to calm my legs.
Empire is large land and I can't touch it.
A smile is a root my mother said don't bother.
I am small.  I married a dark talent
from a small world.
Until he asked me to drop my shawl
and slid his finger on my shoulder,
let me taste our leisure.
I read him.  I peeled back lies.
I had harped on grandeur,
but the Taj Mahal and Rome are a fantasy.
What's left is my darkness. He spoke to me
of skin and I touched it.


Until he asked me to drop my shawl
and slid his finger on my shoulder,
let me taste our leisure.
It required my defiance of the small world.
He asked would you, and I said I would.
I read him.  I drank up my history and peeled back the glossy lies.
I had harped on former grandeur,
but the Taj Mahal and Rome are a fantasy.
What's left is my darkness. He spoke to me simply of skin and I touched it.

For so many years I kept my mantra:
they are great and I am small.
I've slept.  I've tasted my own milk.
I'll raise my girls, then I'll be back to taste the morning.

I Give a Convincing Sermon

I give a convincing sermon. I say The body
is a coat. It is a very dark and heavy coat
but worthless
. Mother Mary nods from the pews.
If I give Mary all my atoms she will plant them
in a garden where ripened women relinquish
their bones to make room for littler women.
It is dangerous to grow accustomed to a garden.
Just when the flowers soften you, they disappear.
Then you are a weepy fern among skyscrapers.
I don't want my soul exposed like that.
Neither can you make a garden stay. Don't even try.
Every plot becomes a dark city over time.
I have collected many dark ideas over time.
I have so many ideas they are a second coat.

THE LAKE —— TO ——

     In spring of youth it was my lot
     To haunt of the wide earth a spot
     The which I could not love the less—
     So lovely was the loneliness
     Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
     And the tall pines that tower’d around.

     But when the Night had thrown her pall
     Upon that spot, as upon all,
     And the mystic wind went by
     Murmuring in melody—
     Then—ah then I would awake
     To the terror of the lone lake.

     Yet that terror was not fright,
     But a tremulous delight—
     A feeling not the jewelled mine
     Could teach or bribe me to define—
     Nor Love—although the Love were thine.

     Death was in that poisonous wave,
     And in its gulf a fitting grave
     For him who thence could solace bring
     To his lone imagining—
     Whose solitary soul could make
     An Eden of that dim lake.

     1827.