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National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.
Each Monday, we’ll reveal our poet and poem of the week starting on April 5! National Poetry Month content will be available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so follow along on your favorite platform.
April 15 – Christine Chen, a senior at St. Andrew’s School
Self Portrait as a Lungfish
I wish I can survive droughts
burrow myself away and wait out
each time the world decides
I’m not worth it anymore
hug myself into a ball of
wetness like in my mother’s womb
and shut down
Nothing can hurt me now
My body my own shield
my energy source
even in the darkness
I can wait for years
if that’s what it takes
But when the rain comes
I’ll rise again
even if they’ve forgotten me
left me behind in a puddle
of mud to die
I will be there
biding my time
feeding on my demons
till I’m all I have left
Maybe I am a lungfish
in the desert
caked in mud and
trapped in a brick
gulping for air
reaching out my fins
for water to return again
even if it will drown me
even if I have to stop living
to stay alive
I’m not giving up
I will survive
April 12 – Christine Chen, a senior at St. Andrew’s School
“Poetry is both a lifeline and a lifetime.” Jane C. Miller talks about the importance of poetry in her own life:
April 28 – Julie Griswold, a senior at The Tatnall School
Prayer to St. Cupid
Here mom avalanches
shrieks like ice snapping, I recoil
because we watched “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
and I thought her heart would thaw
like the Warlock if I gave her my train, but no
because someone special is in the hospital, okay?
someone no mountain of trains
can melt, so, oh, grant me sanctuary
among your woodland creatures
the ones I sculpt from snow and seal
with ice, their faces drip like iv bags
and I will not come home
until the sun melts their wings, so
take my prayer beads, candy-coated, and
oh, baptize me and blue my skin
shoot arrows through my sobbing parka, and
oh, please, let my eyelashes sew me shut
my hands shatter, my bones freeze
let them find my corpse come springtime
blooming icicles instead of veins.
April 26 – Julie Griswold, a senior at The Tatnall School
to my mother, spinning
my mother sewed music between my lips
records to lawn chairs, to love, to dancing
stumbling like fireflies under kitchen lights
when the bulbs went out, we shivered
to moonlight. my mother never accepted
i did not dance. i grasshoppered here
cricketed there. i chirped and jumped
and god, i tried. i used the record needle
to unzip my shell so my bones could fall
freely. movement shed rhythm and rhythm bled
music. my mother stitched lullabies
into my antennae, the hems of my skirts
the groove of her smile, every one of her eyes.
but what will i do when you are gone?
she flapped her wings, pulled me close
six legs pulsed. record sung, go dancing
Rebecca will compete in the pre-recorded National Semifinals of Poetry Out Loud on Sunday, May 2 starting at 12 p.m. Good luck, Rebecca! Watch the Semi-Finals at https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/poetry-out-loud
April 14 – Iris Hwang, senior at St. Andrew’s School
Sounds with No Letters
“If I close my eyes and listen to you, I can tell
You’re not American, you know?”
The white boy at camp said,
Like he’s telling me I have dust on my jacket.
For the rest of camp,
I over enunciate each word
Stressing each syllable
The Korean creeps up my throat to coat my r’s,
To twist the crisp ‘th’ in ‘the cat’ to ‘duh cat.’
When my v’s regress into ‘b’s,
My tongue can’t grasp the geometry of these new sounds
That my first language has no letters for,
My voice crumpling, folding underneath the weight
Of the half-languages in my mouth.
This is also a study in shame.
When I mark that English is my first language
On every white box
Of every standardized test.
When my aunt gives birth an ocean away,
And Google’s translation comes out stilted, mechanical, and
My joy falls from me in stale Korean
Another distance between us.
My friends snicker at the waiter
Who asks if they want “duh chicken”
In halting English, and I
Examine the menu,
Afraid to mispronounce my anger.
April 15 – Christine Chen, a junior at St. Andrew’s School
At eight in the morning
four ginkgo trees
still dressed in summer green
rained their leaves
on this breeze-less November day
all at the same time
as if they agreed to it
in a secret ginkgo meeting.
Did they tap each other
on the roots as a reminder
of this important moment?
Did they whisper on a breeze
before the dawn could break
about their plan to shed?
Or did they make pinky promises
many a summer ago
with their tender tendrils
curled together, holding each other,
to enter the winter all at once,
four of them all as one?
The ginkgoes stand tall and watch
the leaves part their bodies
and embrace the ground,
their mother, once more.
If you listen closely,
you can hear them crying.
To the couple in the kitchen across from my window
How I envy you
Bathed in the fluorescent light of your apartment kitchen
On a rainy November afternoon
When the city is a muddled ball of wet and cold
You are warm
In the company of each other
And your orange cat
The little tigress of the household
Marching on the snow-white counter
Under the bridge of your arms
Arched in the creation of a hearty meal
Fit for this wet winter day
Made long by work and rush-hour traffic
And the endless wait to finally be home again
With your cat perched on the window sill
Staring at the rain in a trance
Waiting for you too
To fill this space together
To make it a home together
To be the sun for one another
In this season without a sun
I hope winter stays
So each day you can feel the spring in your bodies
In your summer love
I hope you love each other for a long time
I hope you remember to tell these stories to the kids
While you still cradle each other at seventy
But first look
Dinner is ready
April 16 – Samantha Oliver, a sophomore at Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences
On Birdsong and Love: An Abecedarian
Birds nest on the rooftops of cathedrals.
Chicks snuggle against the lining of the nest and into the wings of their mothers.
Dining on scraps of the people below, they survive on other people’s garbage.
Even as they walk the ground, they soar through the air.
Great thinkers say that the mind is like a bird, but I believe that it is the soul that takes flight.
Hymns are to humans what warbles are to birds.
I wonder if it was the birds who first sensed the fire. If they saw the sparks usher the ancient structure to a collapse.
Just like that, it becomes a house of matches.
Kindness from strangers is the beginning of love.
Love is like a birdsong: it sounds ordinary but it’s noticed when it’s gone.
Murmuration is the collective noun for starlings.
Not much is left of the Cathedral.
Overthinkers: People whose thoughts are higher than others.
Pilgrims who come to cathedrals leave their bread behind for the birds.
Questions unanswered become prayers.
Riots in the streets surround the fire stained walls.
Scar: A shadow of a hurt. A burden left behind.
Today it seems as though the City of Lights had turned gray.
Until the pulse of the city is heard throughout the streets. A heartbeat.
Very few stop to listen, but when they do, they hear the birdsong.
When it happens, when the fires come, you must remember the birds on top of the cathedral. Eventually, they come home.
X is a variable, a signature, a place, a destination, a person, a hope.
Your heart is approximately the size and weight of a bird. It beats its own birdsong.
Zephyrs: soft breezes that blow everything back into place, winds that bring everyone back to life.
April 17 – Julie Griswold, a junior at Tatnall School
(the New Caledonian owlet-nightjar) Click images below to read.
This week we welcome Kari Ann Ebert, 2020 Individual Artist Fellow, Literature: Poetry as she recites her poem, “This is the Poem Where I Rewrite your Story.”
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Spring Can’t be Quarantined
By Mack Wathen
The sun rises early
The birds awaken and sing
The new warmth brings growth
The Daffodils shine atop tall green spires – Yellow and White
Crocuses join in harmony with a contrast of stunning purple
Like fireworks, Forsythia and Cherry Blossoms explode in the sky in bursts of yellow, pink and white
Spring has come in all its glory
Bask in the new Spring
Spring can’t be quarantined
Power of the arts
Let’s return to the place where humanity starts
Using the power of the arts
To place joy in hurting hearts
To help heal the trauma
To build our armor
To find atonement
To rescue us from this moment
Let’s close our eyes to the world’s lies
Open our ears to the world’s cries
Escape to a place where we don’t have to hide
Where the arts are alive
Let’s take the power of the arts across every border
Place it in the hands of the world’s sons and daughters
From poets on city streets
To distance learning art teachers
Visual artist lined along our beaches
Into our detention centers and prisons
Where the power of the arts unleashes
Artist helping our world to heal
Art therapist helping others to rebuild
Art showing veterans
The power of me
The power of we
Art overpowering PTSD
Silencing the cries of anxiety
Using our inner gifts
To overcome hardships
The power of the arts
Freedom from hatred
Freedom from division
Every man, woman and child
Free from the demands to conform
The power of the arts
Creatively making a new norm
Our efforts to change the world starts
With our unity
Collectively leaving our mark
With the power of the arts
Al Mills & Nnamdi Chukwuocha
State of Delaware- 17th Poets Laureate
Wilmington Our City
Wilmington our city big and small – in the middle of it all – for the love of the children let’s dare to dream of a city so grand & regal – it’s adored by its people
A city with the strength and humility – to place pride and hope -where there is crime and dope
Wilmington the best city in Delaware
Big enough to make a difference, yet small enough to see who really cares
Look at the love, the commitment on their faces as they drive-by or stare out the windows on the Dart bus – there is a desire to do better in the hearts of each of us – you’ll be hard-pressed to find another city like ours across this nation – so big / yet-so small we can fix things without the red tape or procrastination
Wilmington our city in the middle of it all so big / yet so small – that it could flood with love and burst it seams – a passionate place pushing children and teens toward their dreams – in Wilmington where the problem solvers unite –
where you see all sides of life
from 5th & Madison to the fancy mansions on Greenhill from the Riverfront to Riverside to Eastside to the Westside –
Pictures of faith & great people of grit as the teens say or city is lit
Wilmington a place for seniors & teens and everyone in between –
Wilmington our city so big so small Wilmington has it all
Kind residents / good people who want to plan to harvest & build gardens
just smile as April showers
bring forth the May flowers
Wilmington a city with flare
You can can go have a beer in Trolley Square
Or visit the Riverfront to dine
Or go relax at the IMAX with a glass of wine
Wilmington a city who’s entertainment is tough knotched
Where you can visit museums see some art or catch a-game with the 87ers, Blue Coats or Blue Rocks
Wilmington the wonderful city
so big so small
in the middle of it all
Wilmington just trust and believe we have no idea – how great our small -big city can be
Here in the glass boxes on the third floor
Of a university gallery
Black glitter encloses photographs
Of Asian bodies America harvested from across the Pacific
To sow train tracks
Into hundreds of miles of its flesh.
The museum tour plays over again and again like a prayer,
and my body no longer recalls the feeling
Of train rails snapping into place
With immigrant bones that stretch from coast to coast.
Because the only difference
between memorial and exhibition
is the softness of the body,
Displayed for prying eyes.
The very first yellow-rumped warbler who couldn’t sing,
A spectacle, an oddity, an other,
Wait until it stiffens and rots into the history
into the past tense, never present
Until the only blame is swallowed by
Dead wood floors and glass boxes
bound by the ghosts of black glitter.
This past year I visited a Chinese orphanage. The building itself was quaint, speckled with greenery and hand-painted murals, divided into libraries and miniature classrooms. It was surprisingly pleasant.
I asked an orphan if she liked it here. She twirled back and forth on her two slippered feet, then ran away.
At daybreak, daffodil and gerbera lip the concrete wall,
one line whole, curled up stemless beside the oaken tree.
The children awake rootless, old husks still
worn and stepping barefoot onto chilled mulch. They
spread across in the sandbox, retracing dampen soil into
fimbriate frames; unearthing names that were once
eroded away by a fateful wind. A gallery: where the
daughters and sons siphon off nectar from
the whiteness of lilies– indefinite and incised,
unmangled by the insects when hung to dry.
They devour peaches as devotions, then
search for another ripeness in their phased blossoms;
outside rosy fringe, escaping from its heart
pure soreness, slowly dripping. The pavement stains,
bitter branched rivulets flowing from serrate veins into
unfillable fissures; yet ground remains arid and
hooked to earth. Cicadas chirr the still forest.
In the warmth of dusk, the children
shadow into segments. They creep to the meadow,
crouching into supple bulbs, arms elbow-deep in
rigid dirt. Like rough gardeners– unburying themselves
as the seedless: a kindred order decaying
among the golden buttercups.
轻松 (Qīngsōng) [adj.] – relaxed, relieved.
This week we introduce Gemelle John, 2018 Emerging Artist Fellow in Literature: Poetry
I write often about the ways we manifest our grief. I think we’re in a particularly taxing time where we have to learn to feel these constant agitations, personal or perspective-based, but we also need to disconnect from it or we won’t survive. It’s a constant balance of feeling empathy and allowing it for ourselves.
A love, knowingly flesh toned
sours the way your lips
You swallow like
consumption has ever made
made you less afraid
of losing everything
color photographs in
with hollow songs
laugh a memory over a sob
a shiver is your sigh
you wait for it to lay cracked and
your knuckles soft and smelling of heat
your other friend eats
salad for three days straight
maybe you’ll tell her how nothing
she changes is that seismic
how fear isn’t that contemplative
how dying is
never as tense
as the resting palms
that another word for
this cycle is lust and
that lust has never
coated a bone
enough to make a lung
See former Poet Laureate, JoAnn Balingit’s full length column on Gemelle John here.
This week we introduce David P. Kozinski, 2018 Established Artist Fellow in Literature: Poetry
Each poem makes its own rules. The poet’s job is to find it, shape it so it moves on sturdy legs and speaks with confidence, and then send it out into the world. Someone said, “The poem is the arm, the poet the sleeve from which the arm emerges,” or some such. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s pretty good.
This is about the kindness
of a dog and how a human should be,
a little about cruelty,
but mostly about scale – how vast
it all appears; the indifference
of the bluest fields
and the nearest, newest moon.
Friends, when I say this is about
I mean history; the day and night, sleep
and travel, tenderness and the grinder.
In another hour the sands might still,
the glass stopper itself; hands
gesture to nothing
but nothing unstopped stays the same.
The silo empties as regularly
as a lab rat’s feeder.
Whatever first lifts us up
from then on pulls down – the perpetual
drizzle, the unsolvable
argument of a trench seen from space
and the chasm so deep under water
where every story runs in its own time.
Meet David P. Kozinski and Shannon Connor Winward, 2018 Emerging Artist Fellow, Fiction at their upcoming reading at the 2nd Saturday Poets series in July!
This week we introduce Sophia Zhao, 2018 Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Medalist, Poetry.
Poetry is a register of my thoughts, liberated. It allows me to share stories through unconventional, sometimes paradoxical language where death can be more meaningful than life and gardens outlive their growers. It is where I can celebrate my culture or critique my history, pushing me to speak and study with hard consideration and empathy. It is a deep foxhole blurred at my corners of reality and fantasy, memoir and fiction– where the real is unreal, driving me to depict not the truth, but a perspective.
of mandarin oranges and
mandarin ducks on the
baba tells it, larks flew there
as if searching
for paradise. their
velvet leaves–robes on branches–
for royal reality,
bona fide oak and maple and
roots, just tart sugar. with
fingertips in barkholes,
fervor crushing copper rush–
roaring pulp an
unripe boys and girls
tanned, left in
he tells me to imagine
my fingernails stained.
as acrylic as his country’s
at the cusp of integrity a deaf goddess asks:
what do you make of it?
naked boars amongst wild boys,
and girls who clutch gala–
trailing with fake momentum under eternal
gravity, to sideways freefall. there
is a dead beagle on the highway’s edge,
sunken into calcium and
hoping that vultures are prey.
mangled. collapsed into slippery
sleep and factory smoke.
listening to truth– the consummation
of invisible petroleum and flying
cicadas. if we believed in the healer,
dead hearts powering dried blood,
barbed wire would be laced with camellias,
countryside twine to encapsulate
noble dogwood. young people should go
beetle-hunting ghostly, so as to skip
celestial sundays. for those cold
peals of his windchime: unsettled
against stagnant wind, an
overwhelming flood purging the
palace’s fake divinity.
This week we introduce Dominique Kendus, 2018 Scholastic Writing Awards Gold and American Voices Medalist, Poetry.
Poetry is what forces me to find the beauty in everything, no matter how small or mundane. It pushes me to turn normal, everyday occurrences into something much larger and more profound. It is a tool that helps me to better appreciate life and relationships I’ve formed. It is a part of what makes me who I am. So what does poetry mean to me? Absolutely everything.
all we have to separate the mind from the body
is light and dark, the stretching of god’s hands
over the world and ourselves. sometimes I imagine
that even the sun asks to be tucked in at night because she
doesn’t want to fall asleep alone either. and there lies the
ultimatum. her fears versus ours. but how could we expect god
to refuse another bed time story: a chance to be heard,
a chance to say “I know exactly why you exist, I know
why you need to be touched just to make sure
that you are still here.” he knows we are not all light.
I know a boy so empty his father’s fists
pass right through him as if punching the dust
from his ribcage. his broken breath a reminder
that he still has something to lose in this world.
and I know a father broken and praying to a god
he cannot recognize as his own,
holding the darkness in his church-shaped hands
which soften in daylight.
he kisses the blood off his stained glass knuckles
and prays for morning. his god is heavy with
the weight of history, with the burden we know as genesis.
but how could the body, graceful and vulnerable, refuse to touch
darkness. how could the body not repeat its own muscle
memory like a communal prayer, the repetition of beliefs
that course through its folded hands. and how could the body,
almightily dark and wholly light, refuse to know that it is still here.
This week we introduce the Delaware Poets Laureate, also known as the Twin Poets.
Check out DelawareScene.com for additional literary and poetry events now, soon, and near you.