Poetry We Admire: Pride & Delight



“It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.”

–Oscar Wilde

“everie hole is an extremitie / u
rite long enuff inn 2 its sirfase
it rites inn 2 u /” 

—Jos Charles


“You know me better than that
You know I loved you like that
It really waters me down.”

–Laetitia Tamko 

“Don’t be like that, he said again as I put my arms around him. Do you see? You don’t have to be like that, he said. You can be like this.”

—Garth Greenwell


“It was inevitable, I knew it well.”

—Nakhane Mahlakahlaka

“I know you wanted me to stay.”

—Chappell Roan


“You take a chance with love; you take a chance with nature, but it is those chances and the unexpected possibilities they bring, that give life its beauty.”

–Jeanette Winterson

“Early on, I had a degree of shame around my desire to make things beautiful. ‘Beauty’ and ‘beautiful’ are bad words when you’re a 22-year-old art student. Now, though, I see beauty as a defiant position to take in what can feel like an increasingly cynical and ugly world. Also, beauty has historically been defined in terms of Eurocentric cultural standards…I was subjected to a canon of art history that did not mirror my racial identity, my physique, my sexuality, my desires. Up until really recently, it felt like all of the same, somewhat oppressive Eurocentric cultural standards around beauty were largely mirrored by mainstream gay and queer culture. I make what I make because it’s what I want to see…How we use beauty, what we insist is beautiful, is ultimately a reflection of our ethics, character, and values. Beauty is political.”

–Mark Armijo McKnight


“If there is a god of fruit or things devoured, / And this is all it takes to be beautiful, / then God, please, / Let her / Eat another apple / tomorrow.”

–Natalie Diaz

“What is the opposite of devastation? Fruit?”

–Dawn Lundy Martin


I don’t know what kind of girl I am

                               is fine to say in the movies when your

mom is played by Allison Janney and

                              you haven’t kissed any girls on the mouth.

from "Queer Fantasy Quad Sonnets"

by Aja St. Germaine in New Delta Review

I love this poem for its expansiveness, for all it embraces and holds dear, in true attention. Aesthetic choices, as Mcknight gestures above, are political ones as well, and St. Germaine’s Quad Sonnets can be read as a manifesto in this way, four sonnets in favor of more; more pop culture, more formal innovation, more queer representation. I think of Richard Siken’s work, the many moments in his poetry where tender images tumble suddenly into violent ones, creating a sense of motion and instilling shock in the reader. Rather than the alienation of shock, here St. Germaine’s images, treated each with equal weight, does a normalizing kind of work; a mother cutting cauliflower florets from their stems is poetry, it says, as is Eliot Page lying on a tiger rug.

                                Today doesn’t want your last breath. Death

wants you tender from your mistakes, has

                               dreams of your face wrinkling into a

smile despite all that you’ve survived.

from "The Golden Herringbone"

by Gabriel Ramirez in Adroit Journal

I have a playful, cynical mind. From time to time I tell myself The Golden Shovel was invented to pay homage to the work of Gwendolyn Brooks without having to start a poem with the words after Gwendolyn Brooks, which I sometimes believe is to court a kind of failure, to ask a poem to reach toward a virtually unattainable standard of excellence (this story has no bearing in history, as the first Golden Shovel shows, but it’s a fun story all the same). Which is only to say, “The Golden Herringbone” begins with the words after Gwendolyn Brooks, and carries this excellence through to its end.

I do not constitute the field,
although I have harrowed its length, its width
with my narrow feet, my slow step.

from "What is the Measure"

by Donika Kelly in Poetry

“As with the mountain, / the field. / As with the field, / you, / ineluctable as a season,” Donika Kelly continues to be one of my favorite nature poets, as she has been since I first read Bestiary a half decade ago. There’s an amongness, an intertwinedness, about world and self in Kelly’s poetry. It’s no exaggeration to say Kelly’s work, its insistence of of-ness, has guided my own sense of belonging and responsibility to the non-human life of this earth. To put this better, I’ll use words of Dawn Lundy Martin’s again — “how any green is a wild form, and lastly, I don’t want to / inspire devotion if it means the I becomes separated from the world.” Yet I do, don’t I, rereading “What is the Measure”, feel something like devotion, to my own ineluctable inseparateness from earth, of which the self is so small a part. So much we guard from ourselves that poetry finds ways to burrow past and elicit in us anyway. These thoughts I hadn’t begun to have before Bestiary, and they returned in full force when I read The Renunciations, which, if you loved this poem, you must read.

What is a system? another beautiful boy

from "Reflections on the Gay Communist Style"

by Al Anderson in Iterant

As John Lowney writes of Thomas McGrath’s long, ‘strategic’ poems, “The more expansive category of the strategic poem, on the other hand, has been less universally accepted among Marxist critics because its purpose is not to ‘direct’ consciousness, but to ‘take in as many contradictions as possible,’ to ‘expand our consciousness.’ Letter [to an imaginary friend]…aims not only to expand but to ‘create consciousness.'” The opening quotation of Letter, “From here it is necessary to ship all bodies east” might find itself at home alongside the lines of Anderson’s Reflections, which wriggle with a kind of mesmeric authority that feels almost otherworldly, possessed with a consciousness all their own, hammered home by the poem’s closing image, the sun beginning to spill “over an average English town”.


Benjamin Bartu