These are poems by living Utah poets, gathered by Katharine Coles, former Utah Poet Laureate, and each of them takes one minute or less to read aloud.
The project features a Poem of the Month which is distributed throughout the state via an email blast. Video and audio recording are available at NowPlayingUtah.com, as well a text versions in emails.
Héctor Ahumada | Lisa Bickmore | Alex Caldiero | Rob Carney
Chris Cokinos | Katharine Coles | Jean Howard | Susan Howe
Kimberly Johnson | Lance Larsen | Joel Long | Jacquiline Osherow
Paisley Rekdal | Natasha Sajé | Michael Sowder
Poet and essayist Michael Sowder is an associate professor of English at Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. His poetry collection, The Empty Boat, was chosen by Diane Wakoski from over 600 manuscripts to win the T. S. Eliot Prize, was a finalist for the Utah Book Award, and several of its poems were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. He is also the author of a study of Walt Whitman’s poetry, Whitman's Ecstatic Union. His poems and essays, which explore the human relationship to the natural world and the intersections between religious mysticism, often Buddhist, and daily life, appear widely. Recently featured in Ted Kooser’s nationally-syndicated column, “American Life in Poetry,” his poetry is also forthcoming in the anthology, Poets of the American West. He is presently completing a manuscript currently titled, Prayer and Practice.
by Michael Sowder
More and more things
More and more edges
until all the transoms open
and you see how things
are sunk and set in light.
Then the heart
finds its mate
There are streams
where we are going.
Whenever the water bottle
goes in the water
it always comes out full.
I tell you, pretty soon, that which is inside
and that which is outside
are going to have that drink
they penciled in
a million years ago.
Héctor Ahumada is a Chilean artist and a naturalized US citizen. He received Salt Lake’s 1996 Mayor’s Award in Literature, first place in "Canto Hispano," Utah Humanities Council's Human Pursuits 1995, and an Honorary Mention from Arica University, Chile in a poetry contest for non academic poets. In Chile he studied at the Viña del Mar Fine Arts School, the State Technical University, and in the United States he studied at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Ahumada’s poems have been published in Great and Peculiar Beauty: A Utah Reader, Hispanic Cantos: A Collection of Utah Latino Poetry, The Crossroad Anthology and in the literary journals of Weber State University, and City Art Reading Series. Ahumada's work has also appeared in the Bluff Fandango Anthology 1998-1999, The Deseret News, Venceremos, The Canyon Echo and Mission San Francisco newspapers.
by Héctor Ahumada
As a boy I was told to go to sleep
But be alert,
Have the essentials packed
And be ready,
Because he will come as a thief
In the middle of the night.
I still see it as if it is today:
The red charcoals in the darkness of the room,
The white, soft ashes in the morning.
He never came.
I wait for him still.
Rob Carney is the author of two books—Weather Report (Somondoco P, 2006) and Boasts, Toasts, and Ghosts (Pinyon P, 2003), both winners of the Utah Book Award for Poetry—and two chapbooks: New Fables, Old Songs (Dream Horse P, 2003) and This Is One Sexy Planet (Frank Cat P, 2005). His writing has appeared in dozens of journals, such as The National Poetry Review and Quarterly West and in the anthology Flash Fiction Forward (W.W. Norton, 2006). His reading and interview for NPR’s “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress” is availabley online. He is a professor of English at Utah Valley University and lives in Salt Lake City.
The Mother of the Mountains
by Rob Carney
If a mama bear gets angry, imagine the Mother of the Mountains.
Mess with Her children, She’ll dust off an avalanche;
step out of line, She’ll realign your bones.
She’s a blue-eyed beauty,
and the mountains have their Mother’s eyes: deep lakes.
Gaze into them, you’ll see their thoughts like fish—
quick schools, slow rainbows—look deeper,
and you’ll learn to dream like a stone.
What does She feed them? Rain for breakfast.
Anything else? She peels them the sun for lunch.
And at night? Big helpings of quiet,
then the Mother of the Mountains sings them to sleep with snow.
The trees are Her grandkids; She brings them birds to play with.
Whenever it’s their birthday, She gives them an owl
’cause though She’s a blue-eyed beauty, She’s still kind.
Even soft . . . even fragile. . . .
Wolves howl to Her to show their gratitude. What about you?
Lisa Bickmore's work has appeared in Quarterly West, Mudfish, Caketrain, Hunger Mountain Review, and Tar River Poetry, among other publications. Her book of poems, Haste, was published by Signature Press. She received the Mayor’s Artist Award for Literary Arts at the Utah Arts Festival and was a winner of the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition Award. She teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College.
by Lisa Bickmore
Late, when the sprinklers came on, I'd find myself
listening at the window for our dachshund,
ever surprised into song by the slosh of dishes,
late loads of laundry—
the staccato of his quick sprechgesang,
matching the water’s rippling jeux d’eau.
Trained in bel canto, he had perfect pitch.
And as the yard got wetter and wetter,
he swam among the staves
of delphinium and sweet bergamot,
baying adagio at the border
of lemon verbena, his frisky yipe
an allegro of catmint. His elegant snout
lifted to the moon. Each night
he unveiled from his blankets the dog-and-a-half
of his body into the dark rapt air,
and from his big chest, his rapid heart,
he drew the leitmotif of dog, of night,
and the long notes, impossibly long
—O Sigmund! O song!
A lifelong Utahn, Susan Elizabeth Howe was born in Provo and raised in Pleasant Grove. She has been a member of the BYU English Department faculty for over twenty years. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The New Yorker, Poetry, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, and The Southern Review. She has been a contributing editor to Tar River Poetry, the managing editor or The Denver Quarterly, and the poetry editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Her poetry collection Stone Spirits won the Charles Redd Center Publication Prize and the Association for Mormon Letters Award in poetry. Susan is married to Cless T. Young and lives in Ephraim, Utah. Photo by Jessie Evans.
My True Country
by Susan Howe
How I belong in the red desert,
morning hair like spiny Brigham tea, evening hair like the straw of rice grass,
veins in my wrists the blue-green of a buffalo berry bush.
As a juniper twists and survives,
one breast hangs lower and my hip protrudes,
my left eyebrow rises,
its question answered by my right.
Strong cliffs sit like a sound head over
and yes, erosion will
bring the cliffs
I am perfectly happy to settle, toes numb as sand.
Rubble has its beauty, and chipmunks
for humor, though little else
forgiving. Not the cougar stalking the deer.
Kimberly Johnson is the author of two collections of poetry, Leviathan with a Hook and A Metaphorical God (Persea Books, 2002 and 2008), and of a translation of Virgil's Georgics (Penguin Classics, 2009). Her poetry, translations, and scholarly essays have appeared widely in publications including The New Yorker, Slate, The Iowa Review, and Modern Philology. With Michael C. Schoenfeldt and Richard Strier, she has edited a collection of essays on Renaissance literature, and she has served as the editor for a fully-searchable online collection of John Donne's complete sermons. Recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sewanee, and the Mellon Foundation, Johnson lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
by Kimberly Johnson
With what stern determination I love
That wall!—: its red height so certain I must
Fling myself at it, an erratic
Embarrassment of a fling, chain-wobbling
Through my drunk parabola to kiss
The brick. Can I help it that I kiss
With all my force? Nuzzled
To dust, all my beloveds must wish
To have gone unregarded. What do
I wish for? The end of love.
Award-winning video and performance poet, organizer, producer, and participant in the original development of the internationally-acclaimed, “Poetry Slam”, Jean Howard has poetry published in over one hundred publications, including Harper's Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and her own book, Dancing In Your Mother's Skin (Tia Chucha Press).
In the Rear View Mirror (of a Harley)
by Jean Howard
With one fist of cloud,
the color of new water.
In the bottom left-hand corner
Scruffy and aching with green.
Above, my black earring.
And part of my cheek.
Your shoulder fills
Sun dropped on leather.
Fringe spastic with wind.
The sharp line of the highway
runs it’s stitch
through and through.
Our rear-view mirror
a glass bead
on it’s thread.
a trinket of
Natasha Sajé's first book of poems, Red Under the Skin (Pittsburgh) was chosen from over 900 manuscripts to win the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize, and was later awarded the Towson State Prize in Literature. Her poems, reviews, and essays appear in many journals, including The Henry James Review; Essays in Literature; Kenyon Review; New Republic; Paris Review; Parnassus; Chelsea; Gettysburg Review; Legacy: Journal of American Women Writers; Ploughshares; Shenandoah; and The Writers Chronicle. Sajé is an associate professor of English at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where she administers the Weeks Poetry Series, and also teaches in the Vermont College MFA in Writing Program.
by Natasha Sajé
O how we hanky panky harum
scarum in our happy home, dancing hootchy
kootchy. Sure, it makes for hugger mugger
but we give a hoot for happenstance.
The yard is full o’ hound and hares; the door
adorned by hammer and sickle; in the closets, hand-
me-downs. If Hammurabi and his Queen come
by, we won’t be hoity-toity, we’ll
offer haggis or humble pie. Our bed
floats on hocus-pocus (our corpore
wholly habeas) and the kitchen hums
a hymn, Hail to Higgledy-Piggledly.
If the world can’t call our hurly burly hunky
dory, let it hara-kiri if it dares.
Lance Larsen (Ph.D., University of Houston) is the author of three poetry collections: Backyard Alchemy (2009), In All Their Animal Brilliance (2005), and Erasable Walls (1998). His poems have appeared in New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Gettysburg Review, Poetry Daily, TLE, Quarterly West, Slate, The Pushcart Book of Poetry, Best American Poetry 2009, and elsewhere. He also publishes nonfiction, including two pieces designated notable essays in Best American Essays 2005 and 2009. He has received awards and fellowships from The Cultural Arts Council of Houston, the Joseph Campbell Society, Sewanee, Writers at Work, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He recently served as a poetry guest editor of Crazyhorse. In 2010 he will direct a BYU study abroad theater program in London. He is married to painter and mixed-media artist Jacqui Larsen.
by Lance Larsen
Some minutes pinch us in a crowd, some cheer us up,
some dangle us from the Golden Gate,
then at the last instant pull us to safety.
Some minutes wobble, then rise,
a homemade kite with a tail of torn pajamas.
In some minutes you say I do,
in some you vow In this life I would never . . .
Some teach us the difference between “oh” and “O.”
Some say, What’s the use, we’ll all get audited,
whether by God or a flunky at the IRS.
Minute one: you believe in bigfoot.
Minute two: you doubt your ability to boil water.
Minute five: you put on a paper crown.
Meanwhile, minutes three and four join
other unskilled minutes to compose a weekend
trapped inside a snowy misunderstanding
called Montana. In some minutes, a blind man
reads by the light of his wife’s snore.
In some, a tiny girl peeks into a birdbath
to see if she still has a face. Some minutes count
mistakes at a recital, some dream
in neon blue, some keep vigil with the dying
and write down every pause and sigh.
Napoleon whispers, “Josephine.” Oscar Wilde
says, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Anna Pavlova, ballerina, leans forward
to squeeze your hand: “Get my swan costume ready.”
After Rolf Jacobsen
Originally published in Margie 7 (2008): 236. Reprinted in Backyard Alchemy (University of Tampa Press 2009)
Joel Long’s book Winged Insects won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His chapbooks, Chopin’s Preludes and Saffron Beneath Every Frost, were published from Elik Press. His poems have appeared in Interim, Isotope, Gulf Coast, Rhino, Bitter Oleander, Crab Orchard Review, Karamu, Bellingham Review, Sou'wester, Prairie Schooner, Willow Springs, Hurricane Review, Poems and Plays, Greensboro Review, Evansville Review, New Orleans Review, Tulane Review, and Seattle Review and anthologized in American Poetry: the Next Generation, Essential Love and Fresh Water. He received the Mayor’s Artist Award for Literary Arts at the Utah Arts Festival and the Writers Advocate Award from Writers at Work.
The Fate of the Animals
(Franz Marc, 1913)
by Joel Long
is our fate, waxen next to flame.
Of what substance is the body in so brief
a thing as light, split by branches,
split by the angle of the planet
and wind? We forget the underskin,
the underhide, peeled back reveals
such danger, carnal and stinking red,
subject to burn, the burn that comes underneath.
Blame can be given to what is,
the fact of it being the fact of it,
stitched in every cell, the abrasion
of our animal life. Bang a drum for it-
elk skin rings in this rain, thunder
building in the stones of our eye. The animal
wakes in its body like some carnage
that will be, because it is awake and upright,
fracture of the already fractured, at its heart
the breaking and brilliance. What a surprise
that there might be joy and beauty in it
with all this smoke, all this shattering.
Jacqueline Osherow is the author of five books of poetry. Osherow has been awarded the Witter Bynner Prize by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and a number of prizes from the Poetry Society of America. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Twentieth Century American Poetry, The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Jewish-American Poetry, Best American Poetry (1995 and 1998), The New Breadloaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, The New Yorker, Paris Review and many others. She is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah.
by Jacqueline Osherow
Let stars reverse their courses – hallelujah—
Let plants flaunt their necklaces of ice –
Let suns confound eclipses – hallelujah –
Let moons’ scavenged radiance rejoice –
Let galaxies recluster – hallelujah –
Let nebulae uncloud and celebrate –
Let meteors spread banners – hallelujah –
Let black holes unleash astonished light –
Let comets jump their orbits – hallelujah –
To jangle inadvertent atmospheres –
With rumors of the distance – hallelujah –
Anecdotes – songs – suspicions – prayers
Chris Cokinos is the winner of a Whiting Award. His books, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds and The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars, are available from Tarcher/Penguin. He has won grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society and the Utah Arts Council. He also has won the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and the Glasgow Prize. His essays, poems and reviews have appeared in such venues as Orion, the Los Angeles Times, Poetry and Science. He lives in Logan, Utah, where he teaches at Utah State University
Fields with Signs
by Chris Cokinos
We drive past them, shaking our heads, unsure
how to blame or whom. I sure won’t shop there,
drivers say behind glasses, sipping coffee or tea
that steams their windshields. A backhoe’s just arrived.
At fencelines, dry woad and virgin’s bower.
A red-tailed hawk, fluffed, perches on a pole.
Then sun slices October’s particulate haze, dazzles
a frost of PM2.5, thin canyon-shafts
of light. It is a beautiful morning,
regardless of air and exhortations, of consequence
and pleas for purchase. We watch the fall on cruise,
yearning for vacancy, for some ancient vista
as, far below, the endoliths eke near creeping faults,
and everywhere something other than our meanest selves takes hold.
Alex Caldiero was born in 1949, in the ancient town of Licodia Eubea, near Catania, Sicily, he immigrated to the United States at age nine and was raised in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. He attended Queens College in Flushing, New York, and was apprenticed to the sculptor Michael Lekakis and the poet-bard Ignazio Buttitta. Caldiero has traveled through Sicily, Sardinia, Turkey, and Greece collecting proverbs, tales, and folk instruments. He is co-founder of Arba Sicula, the society for the preservation of the Sicilian language and traditions, and is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Performing Arts Tour, and the Best Poetry Award from the Association for Mormon Letters. Caldiero has lived in Utah since 1980 with his wife and children, and is Poet/Artist in Residence at Utah Valley University. Considered one of Utah's major poets, Caldiero received the 1998 AML Award for Poetry from the Association for Mormon Letters for his 64-page book Various Atmospheres: Poems and Drawings (Signature Books: Salt Lake City, 1998).
Alex Caldiero's Bite Size Poem
Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee (Pantheon 2000 and Vintage 2002), two books of poetry, A Crash of Rhinos (University of Georgia Press 2000), and Six Girls Without Pants (Eastern Washington University Press 2002), and a chapbook, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (Black Warrior Review 2003).
Her work has received a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, an NEA Fellowship, and American Library Association Award for Young Adult Nonfiction, the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, several Pushcart Prize nominations, and the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review. Her poems and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New York Times Magazine, NPR, Nerve, Ploughshares, Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Alaska Quarterly Review and Quarterly West, among others. She is currently the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Utah.
by Paisley Rekdal
So ignorant of the world I think it’s pleasure first
that makes them dip hallucinatory arcs
across this foggy, close-cropped field
and not the insects wet legs kick up:
here, and almost here, these
sharp darts that stop me in my tracks: poised, senseless
to their direction skimming
just below, the lingering white
only they see through and negotiates where I
am less than a stone to them, less than a flea
in the dun bellies flashing under a slick blue back-
Wings clip the brief air between us,
scythe the sweet middle where sea mist
seeps its yellow curls, the step ahead and behind me blurred
to the same cold capacities:
somewhere a twist of fence, a scar
of ragged earth a truck tore open
to work itself free.
Dark shank of hair
gleaming in the wet, skin frozen to the bone,
a pair of deer feeding at the wild
last hedge of raspberries.
Out Like A Lion
by Utah Poet Laureate Katharine Cole
A flock of tiny birds gusts
Wild—wind made flesh,
Feather and hard-flung heart;
On every pavement beneath
Glass facades, a finch
A quarter my fist’s size
Twists her head too
Far, as if in wonder
(People step around
Small death, their faces
Lowered to the gale)—still
Gazing at fast skies
Reflected so purely, she gave
Over to what moved her,
Believed in her last fling
She could blow right through.
RECEIVE BITE SIZE POEMS IN YOUR EMAIL IN-BOX EACH MONTH:
If you would like to receive the monthly emails with the Bite Size Poem of the Month, please send an email, with Bite Size Poems in the subject line to Jean Irwin.