Seven Poems for National Poetry Month

November 28, 1895 (University of California, Lick Observatory)

In honor of National Poetry Month (and Earth Day!), I’ve selected a poetry sampler that captures the range and push into the horizon of what I hope to bring to Orion’s poetry offerings each issue.

Some of the poems are loud and boisterous in their joy. Others are more contemplative, urging a look into the mirror to see what could be done for our planet. But this is just a sampling—pull up a chair, dig in, do some gardening in this poetry field. If you come across one or three that move you, consider sharing with a friend or handwriting it out in a journal. Perhaps these selections might even make you pick up a pen or grab your laptop and tease out a few poems yourself.

Happy National Poetry Month from all of us here at Orion.

– Aimee Nezhukumatathil, poetry editor
 
 
1) The Tree Sparrows, by Joseph O. Legaspi (January/February 2016) 
I adore this rumination on what makes a home solid and secure, the fragility of what it means to think of the safety and security of others’ homes before our own comfort. Thanks to the Academy of American Poets, there is now a great resource to teach this sweet and quiet poem to children.  
 
2) Roses, by Ellen Bass (May/June 2017)
The kaleidoscope of colors shooting through this poem even as the face of illness and death looms near give us “small mercies” indeed.
 
3) Whereas I did not desire, by Layli Long Soldier (May/June 2017) 
This poem gives a fresh take on interconnectedness, reminding us of the meaning of Lakota: friend.
 
4) Snow White, by Katherine Riegel (January/February 2017)
I was thrilled to present this new version of winter/wintering—in a physical and emotional landscape through a persona not often associated with nature.
 
5) Tyee, by Brian Doyle (May/June 2016)
Ah, how devastated I am that there will be no more new Brian Doyle poems flying into my email inbox. Luckily, before he passed there was this: a reminder of how even the not-so conventionally elegant animal manages to live on the page from Brian’s sure and steady pen, offering dignity to animals we’d normally pass over. He reminds us to marvel while these animals are still with us. 
 
6) Thieves, by Todd Davis (September/October 2015) 
Spring means such sensuality and tumble-over in the animal kingdom, but here Davis reminds us of how flowers relish this unfurling too. 
 
7) Frequently Asked Questions: #6, by Camille Dungy (July/August 2015) 
I’m a big fan of these “poem-answers,” and I admire how this poem doesn’t shy away from the difficult work (and tenderness) of writing and writing well. It’s a beauty of an ars poetica for the Anthropocene.
 

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is a professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Her newest collection of poems is OCEANIC, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). With Ross Gay, she co-wrote the chapbook, LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of nature poems. She is also the author of a forthcoming book of illustrated nature essays from Milkweed Editions in 2020. She is the poetry editor of Orion and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry 2015 & 2018 series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Her honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart Prize.