poetry of america

Magda Portal (1900-1989) was a Peruvian poet, recognized as part of the literary vanguard not only of her native country, but of Latin America in general. She was also a feminist and political activist.

She was one of the founders of APRA, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance. She was exiled and even imprisoned for her political beliefs during the regime of Augusto Leguía. She served as the National Secretary of Women’s Affairs, and continued to fight for improved women’s rights in Peru.

the signs as suburban haunts

ARIES: flattened paper boats scattered like the remains of a murdered animal along a dried up river, rundown motels with their blasted neon signs and smashed-in windows, pink streamers from some neighborhood child’s birthday party shuffling across the street like bright tumbleweed, a train rattling off into the breathless night & the trace remnants of a week old bonfire found in the middle of nowhere. 

TAURUS: chipped paint, shattered shot glasses lying across an abandoned pool table missing a few billiard balls, flyers rustling like autumn leaves against the tempestuous tides of the wind, advertising concerts & magic shows that took place in 2005, the sillage of old perfume clogging up the air, still thick as the scent of blood or wildflowers.

GEMINI: the corpse of a cigarette that hasn’t touched a mouth in months, a dilapidated playground where lost souls come out to play, threadbare curtains ripped like the wings of a dissected bird, strange red-brown stains across the hotel bedsheets, a gate grown weary with new-forming foliage & age, whining erroneously whenever maneuvered. 

CANCER: an empty casket, coffee rim imprints across hardwood tables, an old, tattered shoe lying haphazardly on the side of the road, a junkyard littered with ancient cars still soggy with stories, a pick-up with a broken windshield, a cadillac with a massacred paint job, someone’s motorcycle with blood staining the front tire, an askew portrait with eyes that follow you around the room.

LEO: a carnival horse with one eye scratched out, a daycare centre that shut down years ago, plagued with the colorful ghosts of children’s drawings still tacked to the crumbling walls, a spiral staircase that seems to shift direction when nobody’s paying attention, crunched up beer cans rolling across an empty rooftop & lichen kissing the concrete. 

VIRGO: the supermarket, flickering & eerie at night like the shadows unearthed beneath troubled eyes, owls stirring in between the murmuring trees, a single upturned grave in a cemetery that isn’t supposed to be notorious for hauntings, an old fountain still glistening with pennies that are no longer considered currency, a collapsed bottle of wine running the tiles red.

LIBRA: handprints imprinted onto fogged-up windows, red rooms crowded with developing photographs of people whose faces you recognize but cannot quite place, broken doll heads, a necklace that erupted into a sea of pearls, a deflated blow up kiddie pool collecting parched grass and critters, a busted arcade game & the laughter of people long gone still trapped inside the walls.

SCORPIO: books with grimacing yellow pages, someone attempting to sell you a cursed object on etsy, a leaky shower-head, a clock that’s stuck in time, a torn, unravelled couch sitting deserted in someone’s front lawn, candy stores that proclaim sales on expired sweets & ruddy patches of farmland. 

SAGITTARIUS: basements stacked with unwanted toys, a box of thin-mints, footsteps reverberating around the house when it’s 2 AM and you’re home alone, a burned down lemonade stand, that weird alien light in the third window of your neighbor’s house that never seems to get turned off, a certain rattling coming from the kitchen.

CAPRICORN: rain pummeling against damp ceilings, clothes ripped off the washing line, an empty aquarium, obscure little thrift stores that sell leather jackets from the eighties, gas station lights flirting with you from the distance, the alley where they say the vagabonds roam their night countries, sniffing up and dressing down and slitting the throats of angels.

AQUARIUS: those tiny coffee shops that fill you with nostalgia for places you’ll never visit, ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’ spray-painted across the sides of ramshackle buildings, an antique almirah scratched to high hell, a monster in the closet, the tunnel beneath the bridge that half the town believes is a gateway to hell, smoking up in trip mall parking lots. 

PISCES: halloween decor presented in shop windows a couple months early, visiting that lake where you heard that one kid drowned, the garage door slamming without cause or notice, storing fireflies in jars, drugstore makeup, birthday cake flavored oreos, a wheeled desk chair that seems to turn on its own when nobody’s in the office, a candle snuffed out on a windless evening.

“Are You A Feminist?”


I am five years old. My mother just told me to go fetch a sweater because an adult man would be coming over soon, and I need to cover up.

I am seven years old. A boy wouldn’t stop chasing me on the playground and throwing rocks at me. I’m upset. My best friend says it’s because he likes me and she told me boys are mean to girls they like.

I am ten years old. We just had our first health class in school. The teachers were trying to educate us on sexual assault. After class, my friends told me to scream fire instead of rape if I’m ever being attacked, because no one will come if they hear the word rape being screamed.

I am twelve years old. I just got my first period. A pad fell out of my book bag at school and everyone started laughing. Apparently, periods aren’t normal and they should be hidden at all costs.

I am fifteen years old. I’m in the office crying because a boy I don’t know kept following me down the hallway and grabbing my ass even after I told him to stop. The administrator scolds me.
“maybe you shouldn’t be wearing leggings if you don’t want that kind of attention”
she sends me home with a dress code violation. She marked the “distracting” box.

I am seventeen years old. I’ve just been slapped because a boy got angry with me after I wouldn’t let him put his hands down my pants. Apparently, I led him on by letting him copy my math assignment.

I am twenty-one years old. My best friend has bought me special nail polish to wear to the bar. She says it changes color if it’s dipped in a drink that has a date rape drug in it.

I am twenty-three years old. I’m reading this to the first class I will ever teach. A student raises her hand and says, “no offense, but doesn’t this stuff happen to every girl?”


So yes, I am a feminist. And when you ask me why, I will read this to you. Again, and again, and again.

—  v.j.v

To the millions of Muslim, LGBTQ+, women, all People of Color, disabled and immigrant humans living in fear in America right now: I stand with you. I love you. We will endure. “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” Take that to heart. We will continue to grow. Stand up for each other always. Stand up against the hate that is here, and that is to come. We will push back by coming together. We will make it. You are valid. You are strong. You belong here, you belong here, you belong here.

I know, I know
If you could go back you
would walk with Jesus
You would march with King
Maybe assassinate Hitler
At least hide Jews in your basement
It would all be clear to you
But people then, just like you
were baffled, had bills
to pay and children they didn’t
understand and they too
were so desperate for normalcy
they made anything normal
Even turning everything inside out
Even killing, and killing, and it’s easy
for turning the other cheek
to be looking the other way, for walking
to be talking, and they hid
in their houses
and watched it on television, when they had television,
and wrung their hands
or didn’t, and your hands
are just like theirs. Lined, permeable,
small, and you
would follow Caesar, and quote McCarthy, and Hoover, and you would want
to make Germany great again
Because you are afraid, and your
parents are sick, and your
job pays shit and where’s your
dignity? Just a little dignity and those kids sitting down in the highway,
and chaining themselves to
buildings, what’s their fucking problem? And that kid
That’s King. And this is Selma. And Berlin. And Jerusalem. And now
is when they need you to be brave.
Now
is when we need you to go back
and forget everything you know
and give up the things you’re chained to
and make it look so easy in your
grandkids’ history books (they should still have them, kinehora)
Now
is when it will all be clear to them.
—  Danny bryck

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was a Chilean poet, and the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She achieved this in 1945, for her poems which deal with themes of nature, love, and Latin American identity, among others.

She was first recognized as a great poet when she won the national contest Juegos Florales in 1914. She soon became a widely acclaimed figure internationally, and worked for the League for Intellectual Cooperation within the League of Nations. In 1951 she was awarded the Chilean National Prize for Literature.

The rivers of Punjab
carry me beyond the corrupted borders,
leaving behind the country that
raised me.
guided me.
loved me.

I don’t understand the language
they impart on me
with their injurious prejudices
in hopes that their antipathy will
break me
shame me alienate me.


But I won’t fall victim to self degradation,
planting seeds in this country
that will one day blossom
and carry the petals of Punjab.

—  My immigrant parents

Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979) was a Uruguayan poet, one of the most popular not only in her country but across the entirety of Latin America. Her poetry often draws from themes of nature, feminism, and eroticism.

She began her writing career at the age of 17 with a piece of prose entitled Derechos femeninos (Women’s rights), and continued to express strong feminist views in her poems. She is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, such as the National Grand Prize for Literature in 1959.

Revenge

Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of multiracial babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing,
and that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:

we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common cause with us
the way you trample us both,

oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,

of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.

-e.c.c.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.

Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded.

But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old.

And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.  Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me: I’m the sunscreen.

—  Mary Schmich, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”
And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins.
—  Ada Limón, “A New National Anthem,” published in Buzzfeed’s Reader
This is what you shall do :
Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyranny, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul.
—  Walt Whitman, preface to “Leaves of Grass”, 1855

This piece is a collaboration created by writers and photographers from around the world. We each photographed and wrote about the beauty of our homeland. There are 14 photos, from 9 countries, and all 6 of the inhabited continents. Friends separated by 1000s of miles worked together to show that the world, in all its variety, with all its differences, truly is beautiful!

World of Beauty 

Sprinkled hoarfrost beautifies all it touches.
Icy air highlights the silence.
I stop, imagine, forget the madness,
Realize the beauty, the wonder,
and dream to keep it for eternity.

Always I thought I dreamed to see
A land that was as strange as me,
It then came clear, I am a part
Of this strange land inside my heart.

Through the woods we go,
Called by our magical land,
Where past belles still dance.

The beauty of this place
is given nature’s grace
with snow and wonders
I stand face-to-face

Sunlight through murky layers of cloud
scatters diffused light on the ground.
Winds when blow, leaves they rustle
far away from city’s hustle and bustle.

A bay, docked with boats,
Brisk air demands, people grab their coats.
A city filled with so much beauty,
Bound by a sense of honor and duty.

Displayed under broken skies
passed without a second thought
so unlike our to and from
worlds hidden within worlds

The world barely knows this side of you;
The majestic mountains, crashing shores.
Winds blow ever constant,
Weather always perfect.
One day we’ll see each other, once again.

You rhyme everything you write.
Colors are your favorite tools.
When you speak,
Melodies are all you know.

No matter how much
I wished to drown,
you’ve always pushed
me towards the shore.

And your stones
Neon gems
Still allow
Roots to take hold

Glacial erractics
Mysterious survivors of an age of ice
Our forests, fields and hearths are lined with the bones of your mountains
The New World grew up around them

Soft plantations
Asunder from the civil? No. Enraged
Emeralds border the black stone.
Oh your harsh tropical light, and your
contrasts Abounding


@lyricsbylittle - Stanza 1; Photo 11; Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Poland 

@ellenya - Stanza 2; Photo 3; Wodonga, Australia 

@uniquelykalene - Stanza 3; Photo 5; Louisiana, (US) 

@mycosmicbackyard - Stanza 4; Photo 12;  Bærum Rykkinn, Norway

@sonador-reveur - Stanza 5; Photo 2; India

@temen-ni-gru666 - Stanza 6; Photo 7; Boston, MA (US)

@cruxymox - Stanza 7; Photo 8; Concord, MA (US)

@mortalghost - Stanza 8; Photo 6; Colombia, S.A.

@behind-the-sun - Stanza 9; Photo 13; Egypt 

@torrentialmonsoon - Stanza 10; Photo 9; Ontario, Canada 

@just-4-thought - Stanza 11; Photo 1; Kentucky (US)

@behindthelastdoor - Stanza 12; Photo 14; New England (US)

@viridian-goose - Stanza 13; Photo 4; Florida (US)

@xxmcmcx - Photo 10; Okinawa, Japan

Here in America
In every single state,
They have a set of standards for every subject
A collection of lessons that the teacher’s required to teach by the end of the term.
But the greatest lessons you will ever teach us will not come from your syllabus
The greatest lessons you will ever teach us
You will not even remember.
You never told us what we weren’t allowed to say
We just learned how to hold our tongues

Now somewhere in America
There is a child holding a copy of Catcher in the Rye
And there is a child holding a gun
But only one of these things have been banned by their State Government
And it’s not the one that can rip through flesh
It’s the one that says ‘fuck you’ on more pages than one
Because we must control what the people say -
How they think
And if they wanna become the overseer of their ownselves
Then we’ll show them a real one.

And somewhere in America
There is a child sitting at his mother’s computer
Reading the homepage of the KKK’s website
That’s open to the pulic
But that child will have never read to kill a mockingbird
Because his school has banned it for its use of the N word.

Maya Angelou is prohibited
Because we’re not allowed to talk about rape in school
We were taught that just because something happens
Doesn’t mean you are to talk about it

They build us brand new shopping malls
So that we’ll forget where we’re really standing:
On the bones of the hispanics
On the bones of the slaves
On the bones of the native americans
On the bones of those who fought just to speak

Transcontintental Railroad to Japanese internment camps;
There are things missing from our history books.
But we were taught that it is better to be silent
than to make them uncomfortable

Somewhere in America
Private schoolgirls search for hours through boutiques
Trying to find the prom dress of their dreams
While kids on the South Side spend hours searching through the lost and found
Cos winters coming soon and that’s the only jacket they have

Kids are late to class for working the midnight shift,
They give awards for best attendance
But not for keeping your family off the streets.

These kids will call your music ghetto
They will tell you you don’t talk right
Then they’ll get in the backseat of a car
With all their friends
Singing about how they’re “bout that life’ and ‘we can’t stop’

Somewhere in America
Schools are promoting self confidence
While they whip out their scales
And shout out your body fat percentage in class
Where the heftier girls are hiding away
And the slim fit beauties can’t help but giggle with pride

The preppy kids go thrift shopping cos they think it sounds real fun
But we go cos that’s all we got money for
Cos mama works for the city
Mama only gets paid once a month

Somewhere in America
A girl’s getting felt up by a grown man on the subway,
She’s still in her school uniform
And that’s part of the appeal,
It’s hard to run in knee socks and Mary Janes
And all her male teachers know it too

Coaches cover up star players
Raping freshmen after the dance,
Women are killed for rejecting dates.
But god forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom?
A girl is blackout drunk at the after party
Take a picture before her wounds wake her
How many pixels is your sanity worth?
What’s a 4.0 to a cold jury?

What’d you learn in class today?
Don’t walk fast
Don’t speak loud
Keep your hands to yourself
Keep your head down
Keep your eyes on your own paper
If you don’t know the answer
Fill in C

Always wear earbuds when you ride the bus alone
If you feel like someones following you
Pretend you’re on the phone
A teacher never fails
Only you do
In every state in America
The greatest lessons
Are the ones you don’t rememeber learning

—  Somewhere in America - Brave New Voices (x)
youtube

“I’ve left Earth in search of darker planets,

A solar system that revolves too near a black hole.

I left a patch of dirt in my place and many of you won’t know the difference.

I’ve left in search of a new God. I do not trust the God you have given us.

Take your God back, though his songs are beautiful, his miracles are inconsistent.

I have left Earth, and I wont stop until I find a place where my kin can be safe.”

“Dear White America”- Danez Smith, Rustbelt 2014