poems & photographs
INTRODUCTION TO POETRY
BY BILLY COLLINS
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Listen to Poetry Foundation Chicago Podcast Tour at the Cultural Center
BY CARL SANDBERG
An open door says, “Come in.”
A shut door says, “Who are you?”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
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MAZE WITHOUT A MINOTAUR
BY DANA GIOLIA
If we could only push these walls
apart, unfold the room the way
a child might take apart a box
and lay it flat upon the floor—
so many corners cleared at last!
Or else could rip away the roof
and stare down at the dirty rooms,
the hallways turning on themselves,
and understand at last their plan—
dark maze without a minotaur,
no monsters but ourselves.
could bear to see it all? The slow
descending spirals of the dust
against the spotted windowpane,
the sunlight on the yellow lace,
the hoarded wine turned dark and sour,
the photographs, the letters—all
the crowded closets of the heart.
One wants to turn away—and cry
for fire to break out on the stairs
and raze each suffocating room.
But the walls stay, the roof remains
strong and immovable, and we
can only pray that if these rooms
have memories, they are not ours.
BY GWENDOLYN BROOKS
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.
THERE'S A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT, (320)
BY EMILY DICKINSON
There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
BY MATT DONOVAN
Surface engraved with a narrow stroke, path
imagined between two points. Of singular thickness,
a glib remark, a fragment, an unfinished phrase.
It is any one edge of a shape and its contours
in entirety. Melody arranged, a recitation,
the way horizons are formed. Think of leveling,
snaring, the body's disposition (both in movement
&repose). It has to do with palms and creases,
with rope wound tight on someone's hand, things
resembling drawn marks: a suture or a mountain ridge,
an incision, this width of light. A razor blade
at a mirror, taping out a dose, or the churn
of conveyor belts, the scoured, idling machines.
A conduit, a boundary, an exciting
course of thought. And here, the tautness
of the tent stakes, earth shoveled, the depth of a trench.
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