Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Creative Drive

A recent study found that poems increased 
the sale price of a home by close to $9,000. 
The years, however, have not been kind to poems. 

The Northeast has lost millions of poems, 
reducing the canopy. Just a few days ago, 
high winds knocked a poem onto a power line 

a few blocks from my house. 
I had not expected to lose so many at once. 
"We've created a system that is not healthy 

for poems," said someone. Over the next thirty years, 
there won't be any poems where there are overhead wires.
Some poems may stay as a nuisance, 

as a gorgeous marker of time.


Copyright © 2019 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Thinking about literary influence, I wanted to write an ars poetica out of a day's New York Times. I turned first to the Real Estate section, which would, I figured, be least poetic and therefore most challenging. It was a fortuitous mistake—there I found Ronda Kaysen's thoughtful lament about the fate of trees in her New Jersey suburb; her article provided the raw material for this cento (with substitutions). I tip my hat to all of the Times reporters, to whom we are indebted for their excellent and very real reporting (along with environmentalist Mike Brick and forester John Linson, whose quotes also slip into the poem). I tip my hat to all trees, which, like poems, prove simultaneously fragile and resilient.”
—Catherine Barnett


Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Barnett is the author of Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018); The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004).

Of Barnett's work, April Bernard has noted, "With subtle and cumulative force, The Game of Boxes builds a complex poetic structure in which fundamental questions about motherhood, trust, eroticism, and spiritual meaning are posed and then set into motion in relation to one another. The mind is delighted, the spirit enthralled, by this wonderful book."

Her awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award. Barnett, who also works as an independent editor, is the Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, the Visiting Poet at Barnard College, and teaches in the creative writing program at New York University. 

She lives in New York City.


Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018)
The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012) 
Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004)

Date Published: 2019-04-22

Source URL: