Monday, April 12, 2010

Poetry Suggestions from Mary Kay

Good morning Karen,
I share your love of poetry and find that it has been there for me at all the significant moments of my life. Like you, I always have a book of poetry at hand and look forward to reading something new or to re-read a favorite daily. After gardening, open a book of poems by Wendell Berry or Mary Oliver—they know just what you’ve been up to. Difficult conversations with my daughters have been helped along by Rilke, especially his insights in Letters to a Young Poet. My struggling marriage had me turning to John Ciardi with some frequency. My friends get a birthday poem along with their card from me, and our book group, at least annually, selects their favorite poem to bring to the table.

Poets were there when my dad died, when my daughters were born—and through all the momentous events in their lives. There is some wonderful poetry for fly-fishing, for taking a train in England, for my divorce, for passing (though not knowing when), the day you will die. Poetry is outrageous, cynical, comforting, in-your-face, amazingly beautiful, often cryptic, but it is always there for us.

Philadelphia is filled with poetry readings, open mikes and slams this month and Billy Collins is in town for a lecture on the 22nd. Derek Walcott, (Feast on Your Life is a favorite), is releasing a long-awaited compilation this month—reportedly his finest since, Omerta.

Finally, I was saddened earlier this year to hear of Lucille Clifton’s passing. I was sure that she wrote the following poem just for me to give to my beloved daughters…and she did—for all of our daughters, sons, family, friends…and for us.

blessing the boats by Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary's)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


  1. Mary Kay,
    Thanks so much for your suggestions and for the Lucille Clfton poem!