We at The Women's Conference want to honor the importance of art, creativity and poetry in our lives. Because poetry should be appreciated 365 days of the year, we will continue -- beyond April -- to share some of our favorite poems with you. We invite you to share yours as well in our first ever Virtual Poetry Reading.
Post a reading of your favorite poem here!
Poetry fans (including actress Tia Carrere) respond to Maria's request to share their favorite poems. Check out some of the recent readings sent in and click here for a look at more of them.
Carol Muske-Dukes, California's Poet Laureate, has published 13 books -- seven of which are volumes of poetry. Carol writes for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and blogs for The Huffington Post. Here, Carol shares with us two of her poems; they touch on women, relationships and perception.
By Carol Muske-Dukes
As it appeared in The New Yorker, July 6, 2009
It was the river that made them two—
The mills on one side,
The cathedral on the other.
We watched its swift currents:
If we stared long enough, maybe
It would stop cold and let us
Skate across to the other side.
It never froze in place—though
I once knew a kid, a wild funny
Girl who built a raft from branches
(Which promptly sank a few feet out
From the elbow bend off Dayton’s Bluff),
Who made it seem easy to believe.
We’d tried to break into Carver’s Cave,
Where bootleggers hid their hot stash
Years after the Dakota drew their snakes
And bears on the rock walls and canoed
Inside the caverns. We knew there were
Other openings in the cliffs, mirroring
Those same rock faces on the other shore—
And below them the caves, the subterranean
Pathways underlying the talk and commerce,
The big shot churches, undermining the false
Maidenliness of the convent school from which
My friend was eventually expelled for being
Too smart and standing up for her own smartness.
Too late, I salute you, Katy McNally. I think
That the river returned then to two-sidedness—
An overhung history of bottle-flash and hopelessness.
I see you still—laughing as the lashed sticks
Sank beneath you, laughing as you did
That morning when the river lifted
Its spring shoulders, shrugging off
The winter ice, that thin brittle mirage,
Making you believe
We were all in this together.
By Carol Muske-Dukes
As it appeared in The Atlantic, August 2009
They called me “boy” in Kashmiri,
Because they had no other word for what I
Appeared to them to be. Taller by a half foot,
Gawky in my rolled jeans and cap—they
Chose to look away from my small breasts and
Voice-lilt and rename me in the lexicon of sex.
The shikari—mysterious, wizened, in loose turbans—
Were our guides, up the mountain and through
The wall of white water. They linked arms with us
And waded us through to the high still pools above,
Where we’d cast for trout. They stepped in and out
Of Allah as we climbed, in sun and shade, singing
His name. We were miles above Srinagar and two
Hundred miles from China, and the finned bodies
Were swift under the surface. The shikari pointed:
“Budd gaard-e! Big fish! Then they murmured
Their one word for me, and it was not “sister” or
“Daughter.” I was Naked Face, twenty-seven, a rebel,
I thought. Therefore they made me their oversight.
Had they not looked away from me as they spoke,
Had it been otherwise, they would have heard it,
Above the peaks—the clear unwavering call, a
Command to rip my cap away, to pick up stones.
To separate my face from my face, stripping the
Veil from a hook of air, holding it over my breath till
I gasped like a fish, till I was a pair of eyes on a plate,
That body the world wishes to both savor and destroy.
Not only is Carol Muske-Dukes California's Poet Laureate, she is also the woman behind the "Magic Poetry Bus," a statewide poetry project (with its partner, GET LIT/Words Ignite!) aimed at getting youth involved with poetry. Muske-Dukes is now creating a Magic Poetry Bus Guide -- a handbook to traveling with poetry -- learning poems by heart, “talking to” great poetry in poems of one’s own, and interacting with The Bus online. The goal of the Magic Poetry Bus is to distribute the Guide to all California public schools – first online as a “down-loadable” resource – and then in book form!
Visit the Magic Poetry Bus website at magicpoetrybus.org to find out more about the project and to watch the Get Lit Players recite a poem called “The Shirt” (by Robert Pinsky) by heart and “respond” to the poem in their own words! The Bus is waiting for you – come take a ride!
Learn more about Carol Muske-Dukes' work on her official website.