Three Yaddo Poets Dispel False Prophesies

June 16, 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.

M. Nzadi Keita Photo: Ryan Collerd

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


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:

“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