Alumni Blog

Every day of the week, Yaddo artists’ work is presented, exhibited, read, published, and performed in venues around the world. You can tell other Yaddo artist alumni and other visitors to the website about your upcoming events on this blog. Simply fill out the form here. Once the listing is approved by the communications manager, it will be posted, with the most-recently approved at the top. The maximum file size for images is 128 MB. We’ll also add events on our own, as they come to our attention.

You may only submit one entry per event. Multiple engagements to promote a single work (for example, multiple appearances on a book tour), or announcements for classes or workshops on craft, will not be posted. We reserve the right to exercise our discretion in sharing submitted posts to the Yaddo community.

We also encourage you to follow us on Twitter (@YaddoToday) and to use the hashtag #YaddoArtist or #YaddoArtists to share news with us and your fellow alumni.

January 2023

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January 1, 1970

What exactly is Yaddo and why does it matter? Jonathan Ames raises his hand. Plus: Odili Donald Odita on art and activism, and Jonathan Lethem on his secret to success…


January 1, 1970

Cats, dogs, horses, a squirrel named Lucille, and the allure goats: How the global crisis has brought us back to the wild, with Mary Gaitskill and Brad Kessler, among others.

Shadow // Yaddo hosted by Elaina Richardson—broadcasting stories of hope, resistance, humor and curiosity in our new podcast!

Dogs, cats, and the allure goats: How the global crisis has brought us back to the wild, with Brad Kessler and Mary Gaitskill. Contributing artists: Joseph Keckler, Myrkur, Steven Burke, The Wingdale Community Singers (Hannah Marcus, Rick Moody, David Grubbs).


January 1, 1970
Officers of the Women’s League, Newport, R.I., 1899; Image, courtesy of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Illuminating Our Path Forward


In 1899, our co-founder Katrina Trask envisioned Yaddo as a place intended for “men and women—creating, creating, creating!” Some 26 years later, the first group of guests arrived at Yaddo, with men and women artists equally represented.

Inclusion has long been integral to our credo and, this year we’re delighted to partner with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote.

On Wednesday, August 26th, Yaddo will be participating in the Forward into Light Campaign, a nationwide public art project encouraging artists to express themselves in the official suffrage colors of purple and gold. Many arts organizations and other landmark buildings are participating, including the Library of Congress, National Archives and the National Park Service.

We’ll soon be unveiling our historic Yaddo Mansion awash in purple and gold on all our digital platforms. Post your own “light art” tagging @WomensVote100 and Yaddo—@yaddocommunity on Facebook or @yaddotoday on Instagram & Twitter—with the hashtags #ForwardIntoLight or #PurpleAndGold, and we’ll share your posts.

Let’s pay homage to all the women who came before us!


January 1, 1970

Today’s pick-me-up: The incomparable #YaddoArtist David Sedaris reads from “Company Man,” an essay in his 2018 collection, Calypso. #TuesdayTreat.


January 1, 1970

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.

Roberto Sosa Photo: Evaristo López Rojas

“The Poor” by Roberto Sosa, translated by Spencer Reece

Source: Poetry (March 2012)

Sosa manipulates the expectation that a poem whose subject is “the poor” will flatten the toxic circumstances that enable and sustain poverty into merely a celebration of those who survive it. The lines “They see the buildings / where they wish / they could live with their children” foreground a previously understood, and thereby calming, simplicity. Sosa’s expected lament turns to an unexpected, and almost fearsome, empowerment, as “They / can steady the coffin / of a constellation on their shoulders. / They can wreck / the air.” While the disenfranchised “enter and exit through mirrors of blood,” those who are witness to their dormant power “cannot forget them.” — SS

Eliza Griswold Photo: Antonin Kratochvil

Landay by the poet known as Rahila Muska, translated by Eliza Griswold (pictured)

Source: © 2018 Poetry Foundation

The landay form, in which one nine-syllable line is followed by one thirteen-syllable line, has long folk traditions within the community of Pashtun women across Afghanistan and Pakistan. The lone surviving landay by Rahila Muska (a pseudonym translating to “love smile”), who was beaten after her poetry was discovered, and died after setting herself on fire in protest, appears below in full:

I call. You’re stone.

One day you’ll look and I’ll be gone.

The poem is an alchemy, transforming the vulnerability of her speaker’s unmet needs into power fortified by her own value and authority to answer those needs herself. — SS

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán Photo: Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán

“waterssong” by Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán

Source: NEA Literature Fellowships » 2019 – Poetry

Bodhrán concentrates on the fluid dynamics of agency, even between seemingly defined subjects. When the boat his speaker occupies “is moved—forward. You move forward,” the two united in action. Retreating to a wider perspective, he writes “this wet orb hurtling through space . . . yet, everything-everything seems still,” emphasizing by virtue of scale the tenuous relation of boat to ocean. He then further convolutes the distinction between the two: “You cross the other side crosses you. You cross over. You arrive; are the arrival.” Ultimately a love poem written to suture two separate people, Bodhrán signals the malleability of all things accepted prematurely as eternal. — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Jacqueline Jones LaMon Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

“Socratic” by Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Source: Poetry (June 2017)

A community must realize its own power in order to determine an equitable future. Here, a teacher empowers students who “just stare outside at the lot / of parked cars,” demoralized by the question of “how could they / not indict. And why won’t justice ever be / served.” LaMon compares government to “our failed / technology,” two impersonal yet essential entities that ultimately function according to finances and must be directed specifically by exterior humanist concerns. A generation that will not wait for permission to progress no longer requires it. LaMon’s speaker exemplifies this responsibility for her classroom, “tell(ing) them / every true thing I know — that they are / the power who will save what needs saving.” — SS

Etheridge Knight Photo: Indiana Historical Society

“A Fable” by Etheridge Knight

Source: “A Fable” from The Essential Etheridge Knight, by Etheridge Knight, © 1986. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.Source: The Essential Etheridge Knight (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Knight constructs an allegory for the insidious psychological discord of oppression and incarceration. The poem’s characters “were innocent of any crimes; they were in prison / because their skins were black,” a damning scenario the poem takes to be tragically realistic. Knight’s prisoners each advocate disparately for what they identify as “the only way” to get free, be it to “emulate the non-/colored people,” “pray to my god,” “quietly dig,” “follow all the rules,” or “shoot our way out,” each person’s desperation at their captivity driving them to distrust each other’s solutions, and thereby distrust each other. Knight confesses his fear that such an oppressed group, fractured further within itself, is “still arguing . . . in their prison cells, their stomachs / trembling with fear.” — SS

Dolores Kendrick Photo: Darrow Montgomery

“Epoch” by Dolores Kendrick

Source: https://thesouthwester.com/2017/12/13/in-memoriam-dolores-kendrick/

The late D.C. poet laureate employs dense, compact lines composed of no more than three words each to speak in precise distillations. “We are,” the piece opens in declaration, “flesh and blood / steel and skin / struggling within / a linear light / toward one heartbeat.” Kendrick acknowledges the unquestionable ties that bind us to one another, as well as the difficulty of withstanding those very ties. “Our fragile / dreams that rise / upon a muscle / of memory / and wind” depend on us to share in the vulnerability of others. We must find strength in each other in the service of amending a sorrow not only our own. — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Chet’la Sebree Photo: Kiersten Ness

The Lure” by Chet’la Sebree

Source: Connotation Press, Issue VI, Volume X : July 2019

Sebree’s speaker interrogates the pastoral tranquility essential to the American self-conception first by admitting the lull of its beauty, confessing “I can be seduced by globular street lamps . . . Victorian houses shaded by wax-shine leaves.” Her exclusion from this vision shutters its allure. When “freight trains . . wind through rural central wherever,” we understand she is not at home. Sebree states “I’ve always wanted to write a poem like this,” however these images of land and property belong to wealth available only to a select group. The very symbol decorating this gaudy setting inescapably matches that of her violent denial of entry: “I’ve always wanted to feel safe anywhere, but / there’s chaos in the cloth writhing on the flagpole.” — SS

Tanure Ojaide Photo: Lynn Roberson and courtesy of Tanure Ojaide

“A Poem for My Grandchild” by Tanure Ojaide

Source: http://www.waado.org/urhobo_community/archive/publications/poets/ojaide/grandchild.htm

Imperialism’s new forms cannot disguise it’s brutal impact. Ojaide’s speaker identifies “crude oil gushing into slave ships / refurbished into free-market super-tankers,” noting profits from the extraction of natural resources never return to those who live on plundered land: “My children have no scholarships . . . the river transformed into a snake of a tomb.” Lamenting the degradation of a country depleted of its rightful wealth by “Marines keep(ing) the pipeline safe” while “villages of imploring eyes . . . are mowed down,” Ojaide concludes “the new Stone Age . . . has begun . . . poaching inland as centuries ago.” — SS

Mari Evans Photo: C.B. Claiborne

“The Rebel” by Mari Evans

Source: http://www.afropoets.net/marievans1.html

The trappings of racism and discrimination are so ingrained, they persist even beyond the realm of the living. Evans speculates “When I / die / I’m sure / I will have a / Big Funeral …” yet the innocuous thought concerning her death turns swiftly to the nefarious framing she cannot elude in her life. Laundering her own language, Evans refers to “Curiosity / seekers” visiting her funeral, evoking a public spectacle of unspeakable cruelty. In clipped lines that betray incredulity to the point of pity, she acknowledges the crowd in her mind is “coming to see / if I / am really / Dead … / or just / trying to make / Trouble.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Alice Walker Photo: Ana Elena

“The World We Want Is Us” by Alice Walker

Copyright © 2014 by Alice Walker. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Walker’s speaker addresses a gathering crowd, remarking “It moves my heart to see your awakened faces; / the look of ‘aha!’ / shining, finally,” capturing the warmth of spirit inherent to a demand for collective justice. Walker implores her audience, assembled by a common imagination of a peaceful future, to see their own present actions as the slow fulfillment of that vision: “all of us / refusing to forget / each other.” Efforts to actualize change need to capitalize on the momentum of their progress to further their goals. Walker mirrors this success by fulfilling the promise of her title in the poem’s penultimate line, having steadied her reader to see “the world we want is Us; united.” — SS

Sharan Strange Photo: Don J. Usner

“Streetcorner Church” by Sharan Strange

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Published in Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 2002.

Strange invokes a divine accountability that communal energy makes possible, particularly when its goal is liberating glory from the purview of a few to the possession of all. Her speaker witnesses a congregation worship outside of its familiar institution, and asks “Is grace delivered / on twilight wings of air?,” a question that becomes rhetorical when she sees that outside, “the ceiling dispatches prayer / straight upstairs.” Strange clarifies that any gatekeepers assigned to any kingdom must, as a direct result of that position, live outside of it. There, they may see that in the celestial close of day, “the sun seeps burgundy, / gone-to-glory behind the altar,” regardless of human boundaries. — SS

Pamela Sneed Photo: Patricia Silva

“Never Again” by Pamela Sneed

Brooklyn Rail, March 2019

History is woven from competing patterns. Sneed retraces the steps of state-sponsored harm, and does not spare the individuals who propagate its legacy. “At the end of every holocaust film I’ve seen,” her speaker is left “wondering how it could have ever happened at all,” before realizing “it is again / as I look at the deportations.” Confronted by a reader over the presence, and therefore value, of race in her poems, Sneed “wanted to scream HELLO haven’t you seen the news? . . . And no one even cares what happens to women/ / Black lesbians or lesbians of color / There’s no public outcry.” We must follow the thread by which “at rallies, at protests, they show the coat hangers . . . women were forced to use.” We must amplify the legacy of resistance over a system of violence. — SS 


January 1, 1970

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.

Carolyn Beard Whitlow Photo: Brianna Glenn

“Local Call” by Carolyn Beard Whitlow

Source: https://cavecanempoets.org/fellow/whitlow-carolyn-beard/

To be known is to be loved. Whitlow’s speaker asserts that her worth is superior to her treatment at the hands of an unknown, would-be beloved, noting “You handle me like I’m a local call. / I’m expensive. Long distance.” Taken for granted, Whitlow discerns the exhaustion of insisting upon one’s value to those who “laugh in another language.” Her strength and understanding of self grows in response to this external undermining: “‘Don’t want nobody / don’t want me.’” Though she cannot make another person understand her value, “having never been loved, knowing I don’t know how,” she has found the language by which to assert it herself. — SS

CM Burroughs Photo: Jordan Boyer

“Gwendolyn as Lover” by CM Burroughs

Source: Poetry (June 2017)

Burroughs highlights the sensual humanity of those long entrenched in conflicts of justice. Here, she permits legendary poet and heroic elder Gwendolyn Brooks to be made vulnerable by lust and yearning for the body. When Burroughs asks after “his hands in your hair, your nerves rising kinetically / to the cupola of his palms?,” she salutes the complex simultaneity Brooks endured as a freedom fighter in need of love. In fact, the two personas demand each other, as when Burroughs imagines Brooks “teasing tut-tut in arousing / admonition at what he was after, knowing, as you prepared / to keep him, that you were young yet and gleaning, gleaning.” — SS

Shayla Lawson Photo: Kareem Black

“Strawberry Swing” by Shayla Lawson

Source: Witness, VOL. XXIX NO. 3 (WINTER 2016)

Lawson’s poem opens, “I listen to the guns. They clear / the ground of all its color / & I flirt,” defining an ocean of violence in which her speaker grasps for love like air.  Too often made to choose survival over life, she continues, “For everyone of us // I see die, I take you in . . . I let you go just to keep breathing.” The speaker here experiences intimacy as a spell cast against, and indivisible from, an oncoming brutality. Her fear of becoming “the chalk-drawn street . . . cold in the blood” returns her to “the strawberries // we trowel between our mouths.” At once both in the wake and face of harm, Lawson declares her saving grace to the world as much as to her lover: “I need you / to know: I have // loved; I have love.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

M. Nzadi Keita Photo: Ryan Collerd

“A in the morning dirt” by M. Nzadi Keita

Source: http://www.zeekeita.com/brief-evidence

Keita’s persona poem in the voice of Anna Murray Douglass rings with the authority of Genesis, beginning “my mark / starts the chain / leading all words from crawl,” in reference to her crucial aid in facilitating Fredrick Douglass’s escape from slavery in 1838. Detailing the transcendence of literacy she herself was denied, “A” aligns her acts with “that young man in Bethlehem who / turns storm into hammers . . . seeds / and a world on his tongue.” Keita honors Anna Murray Douglass’s indelible voice in the chorus of Black liberation, “like that Miss Tubman . . . going at the front with God in a thimble.” — SS

Amber Flora Thomas Photo: https://www.facebook.com/amberflora

“Shed” by Amber Flora Thomas

Copyright © 2013 Amber Flora Thomas. “Shed” originally appeared in Callaloo, Vol. 36, No. 2. Used with permission of the author.

Implicit in Thomas’s visceral atmosphere is the aftermath of an almighty collapse: “She is not afraid of gods. She leaves her skin,” and the ensuing quiet, “an atrium from scalding noon. She treats the dark like a cathedral.” All divinity here caters to the soul, which has survived cruelty cloaked in religion, “the heart working / under every scale to outgrow a fortified spiral . . . No gods are left.” Having persevered against an omnipotent foe, Thomas resolutely imagines the next great work of cleaning up after gods run amok with wrath, and presents the unflinching command: “Dig your brooms into corners.” — SS

Ruth Ellen Kocher Photo: Patricia Colleen Murphy

“We May No Longer Consider the End” by Ruth Ellen Kocher

Copyright © 2018 by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Kocher’s speaker pinpoints the crumbling facade of an imagined innocence, noting “the time of birds died . . . Hope was pro-forma then,” and recounts her upbringing equipping her to persist within the far more deadly reality: “My father . . . gave me my first knife . . . He showed me the proper kind of fist and the sweet spot on the jaw.” Her memory frames the immediate danger she faced as a child, the implacable vulnerability of which no guardian can protect against. “There were probably birds on the long walk home but I don’t / remember them because pastoral is not meant for someone / with a fist in each pocket waiting for a reason.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Taylor Johnson Photo: Sean D. Henry-Smith

“Trans is against nostalgia” by Taylor Johnson

Source: Four Way Review (Issue 14), 15 November 2018

A trickle of freedom becomes a flood. Johnson prepares themselves accordingly, synchronizing their first step toward liberation with that liberation’s realization. “O New Day, I get to build the boat!,” Johnson exclaims, “I tell myself to live again.” Those most endangered call on those for whom danger is still an imminent idea, and make visible that danger in order to safeguard against it. “Somehow I survived / my loneliness and throwing up in a jail cell . . . I’ve picked up the hammer everyday / and forgiven myself.” We enter into the labors of others and are astonished by their immensity and duration. There, we chisel ourselves free. — SS

Hermine Pinson Photo: Stephen Salpukas

Test for Cognitive Function” by Hermine Pinson

Source: Split This Rock: Poem of the Week, 22 August 2014

Pinson’s speaker understands as a child that the power of community not only begets safe passage through duress, but sustains a legacy. “Mama said, ‘Walk together, children’ was code for / escaping to freedom, walking away,” Pinson writes. Love provokes love beyond its time, connects us to ourselves and others, and clears a space for collective emotion. Those who have fought to make our present fight possible still watch over us now, wistful at our opportunity. “Every season she’s gone / she walks memory’s winding / corridors . . . for safe keeping.” Our heroes continuously redeem the past, and leave the future to us. — SS

Ronaldo V. Wilson Photo: Joel Gregory

“71. Realizing Lucy” by Ronaldo V. Wilson

Copyright © 2016 Ronaldo V. Wilson. Used with permission of the author.

The journey to escape false hierarchies will be as arduous as the wrath with which those hierarchies were ingrained. Wilson’s speaker is witness to “the signal,” which declares this journey necessary, and which he defines by a process of elimination: “It is not the dead bird, lying out flat and face down in the middle of the street, its brown / belly on the pavement . . . It is not in my chest, which opens up in sections as I breathe . . . It is not the breath.” The mountain in front of us is the deadly imagination within, punctuated by fear of the perceived other. We follow the footsteps of those who have emerged. “This summer.” Wilson announces, “I burn off another self, sprinting up the high hill of my own making.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Elizabeth Alexander Photo: Stan Godlewski, The Washington Post

“Ars Poetica #1,002: A Rally” by Elizabeth Alexander

From Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Alexander. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.

Alexander weaves a dreamscape in which the sister realms of poetry and protest crystallize into their natural symbiosis by virtue of the human voice. “I dreamed a pronouncement / about poetry and peace,” she writes, in which her father declares “‘’The true intellectual / speaks truth to power.” Justice is the renunciation of violence that does not respect life. For both individuals and communities who are victims of violence, peace is indivisible from justice. Should justice require the destruction of oppressive systems to build replacements, “Rally // all your strength . . . erecting, destroying.” — SS

“Two Elizas”: Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

After Another Death” by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Copyright © 2019 Connotation Press, Issue VI, Volume X: July 2019.

Noting “something outside was / being hunted,” Griffiths identifies the perpetrator, stating “The father / has been dead a long time. Shadow / at your throat.” Griffiths stages the ominous, inescapable fact of a corrupt legacy of leadership in the quiet of midnight, which she imbues with the suffering it muffles. “We learned / to cry without breathing, the way / some wounds bleed without / our understanding pain.” An inability to protect oneself and one’s community with peaceful protest is beyond comprehension. No chokehold or baton has ever stopped a person from weeping. — SS

Safiya Sinclair Photo: Willy Somma

“Center of the World” by Safiya Sinclair

Source: Poetry (December 2015).

“The meek inherit nothing,” Sinclair begins, her speaker emboldened enough to reprimand “God in his tattered coat,” whose weakness she has seen and felt all too vividly. No more shall authority be self-justified: “I have milked / the stout beast of what you call America; / and wear your men across my chest / like furs.” If there is no virtue in authority, there can be no meekness in tearing that authority down. Where there once was someone subject to absolute power, now “a towering sphinx roams the garden, / her wet dawn devouring.” — SS


January 1, 1970
From The Migration Series by Yaddo artist Jacob Lawrence, 1940-41. “Migrants left. They did not feel safe. It was not wise to be found on the streets late at night. They were arrested on the slightest provocation.”

We in the Yaddo community believe in the power of art to bridge cultural and political barriers, remind us of our shared humanity, and catalyze change. We have witnessed with horror (as has anyone with a conscience) the latest atrocities in a long chain of anti-Black violence in our country. Our solidarity and concern lie particularly with African-Americans at this moment, and also extend to all communities of color that have long endured systemic racism, particularly Native American and Latinx people. Our colleagues, artists, administrators, and supporters condemn the discrimination and brutality that continues to be perpetrated against Black lives. Furthermore, we are appalled by the disproportionate suffering caused by the mismanagement of COVID-19 care in communities of color and by repeated acts of hatred and callousness.

Yaddo is committed to equality in our words and our actions. As an institution, it is our mission to be actively anti-racist; to continuously prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in the composition of our residents, staff, funders and board.

We are aware of our critical responsibility as a supporter of our country’s leading artistic voices, and we will continue to use that platform to help bring about a more just and equitable world.

Our thanks to all those who are ahead of us, on the front lines of this struggle. We are with you.


January 1, 1970

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.

Toi Derricotte Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo

“Not Forgotten” by Toi Derricotte

Toi Derricotte, “Not Forgotten” from Tender. Copyright © 1997 by Toi Derricotte. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. Source: Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997)

Grief is a war unto itself, distinct from the fight that precedes loss. Wrenching as it is to consider life beyond heartbreak, Derricotte observes ants honoring their dead: “They carry them off like warriors on their steel / backs  . . . so that every part will be of service.” To derive from unspeakable tragedy the possibility that war will not harm yet another generation is to return to that tragedy a saving grace. “I think of / my husband at his father’s grave—“ she continues, “the name had disappeared . . . he swept it / with his handkerchief to make it clear.” Just as we cannot forget those lost to the fight, we cannot forget those lost to grief, either. — SS

Cyrus Cassells Photo: Hillviews Magazine (2019)

“The World That the Shooter Left Us” by Cyrus Cassells

Copyright © 2018 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Cassells opens with a warning: “Beware, be clear: the brown man . . . never makes it out of the poem alive.” Nodding to the 21st century’s digital audience, the speaker makes fruitless overtures first to “the far-seeing sages” to redeem “the brusque spectacle of point-blank force.” Unable to escape “the brute, churning / surfaces of the world” that “bear our beloved citizen away—,” Cassells turns finally to the “austere saints / and all-seeing masters” of history, translating their instructions himself. We must turn “the ruse of self-defense / into justice-cries and ballots.” — SS

Langston Hughes Photo: Carl Van Vechten / Carl Van Vechten Trust / Beinecke Library, Yale

“I look at the world” by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, “I look at the world” from (New Haven: Beinecke Library, Yale University, ) Source: Poetry (January 2009)

“I look at the world,” Hughes’ speaker proclaims, the title’s repetition in the poem’s first line evolving its sentiment into a groundswell of reclamation, “from awakening eyes in a black face—.” Hughes must look through a world crafted for his own downfall to envision the natural world that persecution obscures. After dawn lights “these walls oppression builds,” his newfound sight demands the destruction of cruelty’s facade, a prison from which fellowship is the only way back to what is real: “I see that my own hands can make / the world that’s in my mind. / Then let us hurry, comrades, / the road to find.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Dorianne Laux Photo: John Campbell

“Ray at 14” by Dorianne Laux

Poem copyright ©2000 by Dorianne Laux, “Ray at 14,” (Smoke, BOA Editions, 2000. Poem reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Laux’s speaker is struck by a boy’s “strong face,” a portal she recognizes to her late brother, “who jumped with me from the roof / of the playhouse, my hand in his hand.” These blessings of protection, communion, and joy are woven into a lineage that tragedy cannot tarnish. “I thought he was gone forever,” Laux writes. Our heroes, porous to the melody of an earlier music, received these gifts as we have before passing them on. We too can sustain this legacy: “But Ray runs into the kitchen . . . He says, Feel my muscle, and I do.” — SS

Denise Levertov Photo: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images

“The Broken Sandal” by Denise Levertov

“The Broken Sandal” by Denise Levertov, from Poems 1968-1972, copyright © 1970 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Levertov illustrates the slick and steep hill down which the quotidian slips suddenly into catastrophe, as the tangible detail of a broken sandal collapses into its imagined consequences. “The sharp stones, the dirt. I would / hobble,” she laments, “And — / Where was I going?” Yet pain focuses the mind, shaking it loose from ingrained persistence into more valuable questions. To travel in the direction of one’s salvation, one must first stop to identify one’s point of departure. “Where am I standing, if I’m / to stand still now?” — SS

Galway Kinnell Photo: Bobbie Bristol

“The Gray Heron” by Galway Kinnell

From Collected Poems by Galway Kinnell. Copyright © 2017 The Literary Estate of Galway Kinnell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Should we, as Kinnell’s speaker does, pursue the majesty we favor, and find ourselves instead face to face with “a three-foot-long lizard / in ill-fitting skin,” our unmet expectations may make available a separate grace. No matter the glimpse of glory we swear by, finding its kingdom and our ensuing crown is a lost cause. The unexpected lizard, both alien and prehistoric, bequeaths a magnificent, nimble grace when challenged, “watching me / to see if I would go / or change into something else.” — SS


January 1, 1970

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.

Cynthia Cruz Photo: Cynthia Cruz

“Midnight Office” by Cynthia Cruz

Source: Poetry (October 2015)

“The child is not dead,” Cruz begins, as if to say, “you are not guilty.” We clutch more tightly to our angels when they work overtime, like a parent returning home briefly before bed and the next morning’s early work. Those who identify as protectors, their “circle(s) of fire / Maddening around the tree,” surround an intractable loss, and search for a way to “put the word / back into her: / A heavy kind of music.” We stand on the land left to us, and faith rises like roots into our feet. The child free, our prayer builds us deeper into the earth until, becoming another tree in a vast forest, we are surrounded by angels. — SS

Malachi Black Photo: The Amy Clampitt Residency

“Land’s End” by Malachi Black

Source: Horsethief (Issue 7)

Bewildered anew at each first sight of an unknowable world, mornings are a twofold exercise. We blink first into a forgotten landscape before remembering again the bleak outline of the coming day. Black wonders whether we could stretch that window a bit wider. Though “where your warmth was, all / was winter’s paw,” and despite there being “no safety in the world outside / this quilt,” Black’s speaker declares, “Lie here.” If the world has shrunken to a pillow, then to a single “bare thread,” tender are the braids we weave in each other’s hair. Our shriveled lives may fit in the palms of our hands, yet they do thankfully coincide, each of our “fingers cast(ing) an ancient net / into a brightness they can’t hold.” — SS

John Ashbery Photo: Peter Hujar

“How to Continue” by John Ashbery

John Ashbery, “How to Continue” from Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems. Copyright © 2007 by John Ashbery. Reprinted with the permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc. on behalf of the author. Source: Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (The Ecco Press, 2007)

The rhythms we once took for granted carry a jingle in the mind’s constantly replayed commercials for them — a perfect, simple rhyme: “And it was always a party there / always different but very nice / New friends to give you advice / or fall in love with you which is nice.” When the boat of tourists leaves like a dream from sleep, and the “little paths” we’ve worn down are “so startled” by a gale of absence, the past takes on a stubborn life of its own. The trails we’ve taken, unencumbered by the present, may refuse to exit their preferred circumstances, and who could blame them? They took us to the love we look back on now. We continue because we trust the path. — SS 


January 1, 1970

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.

Joanna Klink Photo: Antonia Wolf

“Auroras” by Joanna Klink

Joanna Klink, “Auroras” from Circadian. Copyright © 2007 by Joanna Klink. Reprinted by permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA), LLC.Source: Circadian (Penguin Books, 2007).

Klink collapses any distinction between the interior and exterior worlds, tracing the contours of our homebound living newly imbued with imagination desperate to fill in the blanks. “It began in a foyer of evenings . . . we moved through a room of leaves,” and the pillars of reality rearrange themselves, wind recrossing rivers “room into room.” As we wait, and stay, and lack, and do not, Klink draws us deeper toward “a wood emptied of trees // It was enough to hollow us out.” We find within ourselves the topography we lack, becoming our own answers when the carousel of questions circles back.  — SS

Mary Jo Bang Photo: Cybele Knowles

“You Know” by Mary Jo Bang

Copyright © 2010 by Mary Jo Bang. Used with permission of the author.

This summer may well string together evenings “laid out like a beach ball gone airless,” as Bang’s opening line coyly suggests we intuitively understand. Her renderings of the feverish mundane spark further recognition – our yet-unknown functionality indivisible from our purgatorial setting: a spectator spectating other spectators, the real game beyond us and somehow already gone. The spell cast for an analog world in which memories themselves substitute for the screens they now occupy, we arrive at “an ever-widening abyss / with a sea on the bottom.” The poem’s title flashing in the reader’s mind like a stop sign before a car crash, “the crowd will quiet when the sea reaches us.” Such memories are often silent films.  — SS

Henri Cole Photo: Claudia Gianvenuti

“Dandelions (II)” by Henri Cole

Source: Poetry (September 2014)

Five sentences resound in one another like a series of nesting bells, their sounds cascading in staggered simultaneity like a painter “getting / the white stems / and blurry seed heads / just right” in a wild field. Suddenly, “‘Nobody there,’ / the new disease / announced, / with black-tie gloom, / ‘nobody there’ / after he’d succumbed.” Cole’s clipped lines echo the fate of “nobody,” ending too soon. The soul here is a tenuous flower, and illness “an insect chorus,” ravaging. Yet the solace of drawing “these dandelions” reflects the value of that very fragility. Cole’s speaker asks them, the embodiment of his own care, to “please take / care of me.” — SS


January 1, 1970


Here’s some oxygen for your week: A team of Pulitzer Prize winners, including librettist Mark Campbell and Yaddo composer Paul Moravec produced this virtuosic performance of “Light Shall Lift Us.”

The soaring rendition has gone viral, with more than a million views across several sites in only a few days, inspiring strength, hope, joy, solace, and reminding us all why we turn to artists, especially during times of crisis.

With talent to burn, many artists who work in the gig economy have been especially hard-hit in the economic implosion of the global pandemic. This world premiere video, developed by Opera America, gathers some 107 opera singers and issues a galvanizing rally for the opera community and the arts in general while calling on each of us to support the artists and organizations whose work enriches our lives.

“In this pandemic, everything has changed and yet nothing has changed,” Moravec said. “These eminent artists are still just as crucial as they were when this ordeal began, and they will be even more essential when we emerge together on the other side.”

Ditto!

Opera companies, individual artists and arts organizations need guardian angels to sustain our “cathedral for art” (to quote another Yaddo composer, Kala Pierson). Dig out those wings and join us in supporting an artist in any way that is within your means.

support yaddo

January 1, 1970
“Brick Wall,” Elisabeth Condon. PHOTO: Jason Mandella

Recent events—namely the global pandemic and state-mandated closure of businesses deemed “non-essential”—beg some questions: Is Yaddo essential? Is art necessary? What happens to artists in a time of global crisis, and how can we help? 

In her brilliant essay collection, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency (forthcoming in May), Olivia Laing profiles several writers and artists (many of them her fellow Yaddo alums), diving into how they handled trying times. She published the introductory essay in The Guardian, positing that creative work offers clarity, nourishment, solace, hope and “a restoration of faith,” she wrote. “It’s easy to give into despair. There’s so much that’s frightening, so much wrong. But if this virus shows us anything, it’s that we’re interconnected… We keep each other afloat, even when we can’t touch. Art is a place where that can happen, where ideas and people are made welcome. It’s a zone of enchantment as well as resistance, and it’s open even now.” 

In a word, yes. Yaddo is the zone! We are your community. Further, Yaddo is you, the artists who have long been at the forefront of creating work with global impact. And that’s especially true at this moment, with so many of you on the front line. 

Luba Drozd, an installation artist who came to Yaddo in February, has been in the news lately for using her 3D printer to make protective face shields for healthcare workers. She switched from engineering complex sound components to making life-saving medical gear in her Brooklyn apartment. In many arenas, large and small, our illustrious artists take on leadership roles that far exceed their creative callings. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and President of PEN America Jennifer Egan announced recently that PEN won the first round in their lawsuit against President Trump for retaliating against journalists (media is considered an “essential business”). A federal court denied a motion
to dismiss the case. “[We are] profoundly grateful for the court’s timely decision,” Egan said in a press statement. “The Trump administration’s punitive stance toward the press has continued unabated, with corrosive results for truth, fact, our democracy, and—most recently—public health.”

Mentioned earlier, Olivia Laing came to her hard-won conclusions on art in emergencies by revisiting the AIDS epidemic, among other atrocities, with some of her Yaddo pals such as writer and activist Sarah Schulman. Laing
also looked into the historical context of works like the Klan paintings of Philip Guston, who found respite
at Yaddo in 1969 amid his shift from abstract expressionism to exploring the tumult of his era. Laing writes: “Guston wasn’t looking from afar. This time, he was inside the frame. Someone, some bozo, was underneath the hood, peering out at the world through the slits in cloth. You have to bear witness, Guston kept saying, but he meant more than merely watching events unfold.” 

As galvanizing as the work of other artists can be, most of us are not out saving the world, rather we’re relishing solitude, sleep, books, maybe hoarding ice cream and watching Netflix. Oddly enough, in a time when so many are deemed “non-essential” workers, artists have become the go-to source for coping with quarantine. Books are oxygen. Films are queued. Poetry is blooming, and the digital space is filled with impromptu interviews with artists. It’s enough to create art for its own sake, even when doing so seems impossible.

“In times when people are suffering, a constant everywhere on the globe, I question the importance of art,” painter Josh Dorman told Koplin Del Rio. “But it’s also in these moments when I’m reminded of the simple healing power of making things with one’s hands, and the capability of imagination to create an escape—an alternate world.” 

Alternate worlds figure into Laing’s eloquent argument that emergencies require art. “That’s the thing about utopias, they keep you going,” she wrote. “Hope has a bad press in our cynical age, but it doesn’t necessarily mean being disengaged, a Pollyanna blind to the state things are in or uninterested in how they got that way. Hope is the precursor to change. Without it, no better world is possible.” 

Deep down, we suspect, most artists believe that, as Terry Adkins said, “Art can be a force for change.” In the meantime, lots of shelter dogs are finding homes, small farms in upstate New York are more successful and the air is cleaner. 

Plus, we still have what matters most: “People. Staying connected and staying open. Supporting when and where it’s possible,” Elisabeth Condon told Art Spiel. “When I remember to stay open it combats nihilism. It also firms my resolve to paint…with a free and open perspective, to create a space in which others can open as well.” 

While the physical location of Yaddo is closed, our hearts are open. Let Yaddo be your bridge to a better world—we’ll see you on the other side.

—From Yaddo News Spring 2020. View the full newsletter here. 


January 1, 1970

In this difficult and isolating time, let Yaddo be your window to the world. We’ve collected music, books, visual art, poems and wonderful moments among friends to brighten your day. Sample the extraordinary work of Yaddo artists, and keep in (virtual) touch!


Cheers at Five


Our VR Drinks Room is hopping, as friends join us via social media for #CheersAtFive to enjoy a poem, story, piece of music, moment among friends, or an image of surpassing beauty.


Celebrate Yaddo Authors


Visit the Yaddo Authors Bookshop online to support local, independent bookstores and to find recently published titles by Yaddo writers. Happy reading!


Yaddo Composers Playlist


From modern classics to the wonderfully wild, music by Yaddo composers inspires global ovation. Check out the first installment of our Yaddo Composers Playlist.


Poems for These Days


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 for our specially curated series, Poems for These Days.