Three Yaddo Poets Light the Torch of Resilience

April 1, 2020

A moment of stillness, a zing of recognition, a window opened on the soul— these are among the rewards of poetry, each of them sorely needed right now. Join us here for an occasional Yaddo series, curated by Soren Stockman.

Jean Valentine Photo: Max Greenstreet

“Hospital: strange lights” by Jean Valentine

From Little Boat by Jean Valentine. Copyright © 2008 by Jean Valentine. Reprinted with permission of Wesleyan University Press.

We are removed from time, and then thrust back into the coming seconds. We retreat from the mind, and then cascade abruptly into each passing thought. Valentine tracks her speaker’s reconciliation of the bizarre path each hour takes within its natural, linear arrangement. Every step backwards begets a wider perception: “not just the other room, / another frame,” in which each feeling is “blue / or brighter blue.” At the end of both past and future, there is precise, human detail: “you turning and turning my coat buttons.” — SS

Gwendolyn Brooks Photo: Getty Images

“To Prisoners” by Gwendolyn Brooks

From To Disembark (Third World Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.

Many of us feel we are “dark gardening / in the vertigo cold,” reaching into the earth, hoping our efforts produce a harvest. Others are reaching madly while the soil poisons their hands. When we care for those most vulnerable among us, wherever they are, we cultivate our own “particular silences” into songs. Brooks is the ferocious ally one never forgets “in the non-cheering dark, / in the many many mornings-after.” Though the “long blows” are indeed devastating, we are endowed with tenderness for one another that is equally fierce. — SS

Mark Strand Photo: Lawrence Schwartzwald

“The Coming of Light” by Mark Strand

Excerpted from The Late Hour by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2002 by Mark Strand. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The more difficult it becomes to permit oneself even tempered, brief sketches of happiness within a greater dread, the more crucial it is to find those illuminations that may sustain perseverance. “Even this late,” Strand tells us, “the candles are lit.” They warm the air. There are dreams to be remembered and followed, still. Tomorrow, our breath and bones will flare to meet what’s needed. Tonight, there is room for both to rest. — SS