Poetry We Admire: Praise
By Kim Harvey
“Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” Adam Zagajewski implores us in the title of his well-known poem. In the midst of chaos and illness, poets often remind us we must remember to praise “June’s long days, and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.” The beloved poet Lucille Clifton, whose birthday was last month, once asked us to “come celebrate/ with me that everyday/ something has tried to kill me / and has failed.” And Ross Gay gave us the gift of his “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” in which he talks about “a fig tree that will make you gasp. / It might make you want to stay alive even.”
Following in this tradition of praise poems, we offer you five recently published works from around the net that give thanks, hope, and praise— something we all need right now. These are poems in praise of being alive, in praise of “being a body and not a police report.” Poems in praise of seemingly simple pleasures like cooking rice and going to the laundromat. Poems in praise of strong women who are “Gods of skin & womb & coconut oil / & aloe vera gel, & wash your hands / & say your prayers & speak your heart.” Poems in praise of difficult names that bring “the tongue to worship,” as the powerful poet Assétou Xango says, “Names that feel like ritual in your mouth.”
For July’s Poetry We Admire on Praise, we continue to #amplifymelanatedvoices. Again this month we choose to let these extraordinary poems speak for themselves. All praise goes to the amazing Angelo Geter in Poem-a-Day, Sanam Sheriff in The Offing, Ina Cariño in Waxwing, Nikky Finney in Blood Orange Review, and Assétou Xango in Poem-a-Day.
Praise the bullets
That called in sick to work.
Praise the trigger
That went on vacation.
Praise the chalk
That did not outline a body today.
Praise the body
by Angelo Geter in Poem-a-Day
This thin sheet of morning
on which we splatter, breathless
from love’s quick gurgle and leap
from the teeth of a good song,
and the tune of a sky
that dips its feet
in something pink—
for every river, a mouth,
and for the tall glass of your body
I am thankful—
by Sanam Sheriff in The Offing
in the morning chew it
with salted egg
in the evening chew it
with salted onion
at midnight eat it
with your peppered hands licking
relishing each cloudmorsel
from “It Feels Good to Cook Rice”
by Ina Cariño in Waxwing
I speak of the unquiet house of agitation, tin shed
of dirt, official station of clean clothes, of children running
up and down the aisles in between spin cycles, where being
human and getting dirty never stops. I don’t know if you
even venture out to your country’s washhouse. You might
have your very own matching washer-and-dryer set at home
and never have need for this love song to the lavandería. You
may never get the chance to notice anyone who doesn’t look
like you, on the outside, who is badly in need of quarters.
“From the Washhouse Files”
by Nikky Finney in Blood Orange Review
I want a name like fire,
like my hand gripping massa’s whip—
I want a name from before the ships
A name Donald Trump might choke on.
I want a name that catches you in the throat
if you say it wrong
and if you’re afraid to say it wrong,
then I guess you should be.
from “Give Your Daughters Difficult Names”
Assétou Xango in Poem-a-Day