Poetry We Admire: Dedications
They are not wisdom
or freedom or history.
They are not what’s lost.
They are nothing but wild geese.
I can hear them everywhere,
wings pushing down metaphor.
—Victoria Chang, The Wild Geese
The floors of months litter quick with dedications. A song played just shy of one too many times on the guitar. An egg on which I scrawl my friend’s favorite joke. A meal I make that reminds me of you.
I’m reading Victoria Chang’s new book of poems, The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, April 2022), a collection encouraging me to think about the distance between the interior and the external world, and where exactly between the two it is that meaning is made.
Somewhere not so long ago the writers whose work is collected here were inspired by their own worlds to compose these poems. Worlds that found their way into mine. Poems that have come to mean something to me, wherever it is meaning may be.
This Poetry We Admire is dedicated to these poems, odes, afters, and all. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
But not just any ode, an ode about breathing,
Walking, jumping, running, skipping people.
from "[Oye! This is an apartment building ode.]" published in Poets
by Dimitri Reyes
Compiling poems of dedication I had read recently, I thought at first to narrow the scope of this list to pieces which began by citing an author who the work had been written after. This delightful ode by Reyes forced me to reevaluate my standards for what it was I was considering a viable dedication, “An ode / about oding so hard it boxes itself into a sonnet.”
Today I put my body into a river,
Upset to find I am only half stone.
from "Bathing" published in The Puritan
by Terese Mason Pierre
Pierre’s “Bathing” is a poem it felt serendipitous to come across in spring. The imagery vivid and bright, the poem proceeds in couplets that build a tension which continues to rise even by the piece’s final lines. “White sky”, “red birds”, “green water”, the poem’s first half creates a landscape that closes in on itself — and the interior — as the second half of the piece unfurls.
:: He buys groceries for Nablus on weekends ::
I hope this city begins where the state ends
from "My Brother Was Born Both Ally & Combatant" published in Poetry Magazine
by Tarik Dobbs
Dobbs’ “My Brother Was Born Both Ally & Combatant,” is a duplex, after the form first created by Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition. It can be easy in thinking of the external world in poetry to call the natural world to mind, though much of what is outside ourselves now is unnatural as well. I admire this poem for its troubling of the relationship between internal experience (voyeurism, dreaming, hope) and external realities that exist because us, in spite of us, or both (surveillance, the city, the state).
Wellness is a myth and shame transforms no one.
from "Letter to a Young Poet" published in New England Review
by Megan Fernandes
I love the voice of the speaker in this poem, their confidence, their awareness of self, and the stream of information the piece provides in the form of observations. “I wonder, sometimes, what is my thing with the Irish,”…”To want the same things as you age is not always a failure of growth,”…”It takes time to build an ethics.” This is a poem that encourages me to be purposive, with its ideas, with my own.