Poems to Perform


dont worry about it.

Tuesday & Wednesday, the Poetry Out Loud Nationals will be in DC. High school students from around the country will compete by reciting memorized poems. I’m super honored to be a semi-finals judge this year, and will be at the Lisner Auditorium on Tuesday evening (4/25) at 5 pm. If you’re interested in the performance aspect of poetry, this is a really great opportunity to study that–it’s free and open to the public.

I’ve gotten to see/catch up with some of my most beloved people over the past week. I have woken up tired pretty much every morning as a result, but it’s been worth it. There’s been a lot of head-clearing and priority tidying that’s come of it. Some help boxing up shit I don’t need. Over coffee one morning last week, my friend J said, “You’re really good at words.” I replied, “Thanks. That’s what I want most of all.” (duh, not like I didn’t know this, but when it emerged in conversation that simply, it felt like something worth writing down).

If I realllllllly want to be good at something, what am I doing to get there? The very next day I got an email offering a scholarship to study at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown this summer. Just what I needed. But of course, not a gift from the gods falling from the sky. I applied for a scholarship a few weeks ago, made it the top priority on some other over-booked busy days and did it. There are a ton of deadlines for scholarships and writing contests that I put into my calendar and then don’t manage to submit to. There are lots that I submit to and don’t receive (boo, rejection). But I definitely can’t bitch if I don’t submit or apply and don’t receive, right? No one is going to call me at my house and be like, “Hey–all these motivated, talented people applied, but we wanted to check with you first, Seema. Do you want some free money to do the thing you love doing?” So cheers to meeting the deadline, to recalibrating priorities.

Our poem of the week is by Linda Pastan. It’s one of the poems that will be read by a student competing in Poetry Out Loud. These cycles by which we abandon the world and then allow it to reclaim us. We are going to use the turn of the poem as our opening line “But morning comes…” We know the darkness, the ways we close the shades and go in, refuse light and beauty when it all seems too fragile to count on, when it seems poised to abandon us. But morning comes, entering with small reprieves, like coffee.

I have had so many inbox poems in the past week. And some nights I couldn’t fall asleep because I remembered hilarious things people have said and lay there laughing aloud. The people in my life make up the morning for me. I love the hell out of you.

I Am Learning to Abandon the World

By Linda Pastan

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.


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