Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

April is National Poetry Month. It is also National Women's Month, so I thought I would share with you a few female poets. Or maybe that's poetesses. Anyway, check 'em out. These are in no particular order.

1. Sharon Olds. If you have not read any of this poet's work, you have missed out. Olds has great imagery and depth in her poems. Satan Says fascinated me the first time I read it and continues to do so upon subsequent readings. You can read one of her poems, called After Making Love in the Winter, at the link on the title.

2. Mary Oliver. My freshman English professor introduced me to this poet. She's an intimate writer who sees the world with open eyes. You may read some of her poems at this link.

3. Anne Singleton aka Ruth Benedict. I recently studied Ruth Benedict in her work as anthropologist, but she was also a poet. A genius of a woman. You may read one of her poems at this link.

4. Emily Dickinson. It would be rather hard to leave her off this list, wouldn't it? I Felt a Funeral, In my Brain, found at the link, is one of my favorites.

5. Annie Dillard. Best known for her Pulitzer Prize winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Dillard also writes interesting poetry. She's an alumna of Hollins University, where I received my undergraduate degree and am currently working on a master's. You may read one of her poems at this link.

6. Nikki Giovanni. She's a professor at nearby Virginia Tech. After the Virginia Tech shooting a few years ago, she was inspiration. Her poem, The American Vision of Abraham Lincoln At This Moment, may be read at the link.

7. Jeanne Larsen. She's a professor at Hollins and I had her as an undergraduate student. She is one of my favorite people not only because her poetry is so wonderful but because she is friendly and kind and has a great sense of humor. Her poetry inspired me for a long time and for a while there I thought I might become a poet, too. I suppose it is not yet too late. You may read her poem, My Aging Lover in My Arms, the Dharma, at the link.

8. Natasha Tretheway. Another Hollins grad; her father, also a poet, is a Hollins professor. Natasha won the Pulitzer for poetry in 2007. The local library had her in for a reading about the time she received her prize and I heard her read there. You can watch a video of her reading one of her poems at the link.

9. Margaret Atwood. Surprised? Thought she was a novelist? While The Handmaid's Tale might be one of the best books ever (and certainly one that is on the verge of coming true, alas), she also puts her pen to the poetry. At this link, you may hear Atwood read a number of her poems. Poems are meant to be heard as much as read.

10. Erica Jong. She writes more than Fear of Flying. Her website opens up with her reading a poem called Conjuring Her from her book Love Comes First. You can find a list of poems on her website at the link.

11. Gwendolyn Brooks. Her poem, We Real Cool, is one that has always stuck with me. It was written in 1966. Things haven't changed much.

12. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . . hey, we all know that one, right? You may read some of her other poems at the link.

13.  I don't proclaim to be a poet, and I certainly am not in the same league as anyone I mention above, but I thought I would leave you with a poem of my own. I don't think this one's ever been workshopped or otherwise seen the light of day:

Blackberry Weather
By Anita Firebaugh

The hayfield's cut across the road,
eleven rows of orchard grass
await the hay rake's caress.

Another twenty acres wave emerald
in a chilly May breeze, waiting for the slice
of the mower's blade.

When new leaves whoosh with wind,
the tulip poplars spit blooms,
and the cardinal cries 'wetchoo'
from the blue spruce,
it's mowing time.

Clouds, sun speckle the sky,
crows cry from the pines.
Blue Ridge Mountains reach out,
grab the green hills in a hug.
Sunlight dances across Stone
Coal Gap -- remember that story
of the long lost gold?

The hay smells sweet, mixed
with honeysuckle. I taste the blade
of grass when it's caught
in a whistle. Touch the blackberry
brambles, filled with pink and white
flowers. If rains bring plump berries
this summer we'll make wine.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 186th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. Wonderful poem.

    You left off Sylvia Plath? Ah, that's okay because I too LOVE Margaret Atwood's poetry.

    Happy Poetry month!

  2. Beautiful poetry. Thanks.
    Happy T13!

  3. Nice list; I would have added Billy Collins but man, so many people really don't like him for some reason.

  4. There are so many great tributes going on this month. Thanks for yours!

  5. hi Anita,
    funny that two unrelated direction should point to the 1930 poem Unicorns at Sunrise on the same week.

    thanks for pointing out Jeanne Larsen. Hadn't heard of her.

    Love your 3rd stanza. so few are in touch with the seasons these days and you make it so vivid. Last stanza is rich and sweet too. Beautiful.

  6. I love that you did Nikki Gionvanni, but no Maya Angelou?

    Wonderful list!

    Happy TT,

    Guest Kimberley Troutte

  7. This is cool. And yeah, I'm surprised about Atwood.

  8. Wow. the Sharon Olds poem knocked me out. I loved the one you wrote and imagined you reading it at a Spoken Word event in Floyd. Do you know about Floyd County Moonshine? You should submit this for the upcoming spring issue.

  9. Actually, I would have NO difficulty leaving Dickinson off the list (you do know you can sing every one of her poems to "The Yellow Rose of Texas," right?). I do like Nikki Giovanni (heard her speak at my college many years ago), Annie Dillard (we read The Writer's Life in a college class), and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

  10. What do you mena, you are not a poet? That poem is brilliant.
    From your list, I am only familiar with Emily Dickinson and only recently learned(from another blogger) about Mary Oliver. I'll have toc check these other female poets out later some time(my own personal favorite poet is William Carlos Williams)

  11. I admit it. I don't like any poetry except for my own!

    And yours!

  12. Anita, this is a great list of women poets and your poem at the end really touches me. It touches all the senses--I can smell it, see it, touch it and taste it--how rich it is--a spring feast. Thanks so much.


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