Friday, April 01, 2011

Poetry Month + Poem: Camille T. Dungy

It's (Inter)National Poetry Month, and for all of April I'll be wearing a new hat, as the poetweeter at @harriet_poetry! (See the feed at right.) If you're on Twitter, please do join in.  Today I've asked people to tweet their secret cities (cf. Alberto Ríos) and what poetry book they'd print for free on McNally Jackson's Espresso Book Machine and give away if they could, while also quoting snippets of poets from Gwendolyn Brooks to Bhanu Kapil to Earl of Rochester to Gil Scott-Heron.  Also, I posted a link to Japanese-German poet Yoko Tawada reading her poetry, and links to other poems up today!

I'll still be tweeting when possible at @jstheater, and I'll aim to blog a poem here daily, though perhaps without the commentary of previous years. It's my 6th year in the blogiverse, by the way (actually back in February, if you can believe it!).

Also, a few congratulations are in order:

1) to my former student Michael Lukas, whose first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul (Harper, 2011), has appeared to great acclaim this past February!

2) to my former student Christopher Shannon, one of the houdinis behind CellPoems, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

3) to my former student Miriam Rocek, who will soon see one of the stories she wrote while an undergraduate published online!


Now, for the month's first poem, one of my favorites from the 2009 (was it two years ago that this book appeared?) anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (Athens: University of Georgia Press), by its visionary editor Camille T. Dungy, whom I first met at Cave Canem back in 2001. She is the author of two highly regarded books, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2011), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), and the forthcoming Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), winner of the Crab Orchard Review Open Book Prize, and, in addition to the Black Nature volume, has coedited with Matt O'Donnell and Jeffrey Thomson From the Fishhouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea Books, 2009).  She's Associate Professor at San Francisco State University. And now her poem!


Silence is one part of speech, the war cry
of wind down a mountain pass another.
A stranger's voice echoing through lonely
valleys, a lover's voice rising so close
it's your own tongue: these are keys to cipher,
the way the high hawk's key unlocks the throat
of the sky and the coyote's yip knocks
it shut, the way the aspens' bells conform
to the breeze while the rapid's drum defines
resistance. Sage speaks with one voice, pinyon
with another. Rock, wind her hand, water
her brush, spells and then scatters her demands.
Some notes tear and pebble our paths. Some notes
gather: the bank we map our lives around.

From Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille T. Dungy. Copyright © University of Georgia Press, 2009. All rights reserved.

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