Poetry Archive

Anna Akhmatova - "Poetry is respected only in this country,” said Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. “There's no place where more people are killed for it.” As jokes go, that's sour. In Russia,

Bertolt Brecht: Selected Poems - We are starting to see the damage. It's not just the guy at the top, bleating in the early morning hours and signing proclamations designed to hurt the needy, women

By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives - What a pleasure to welcome a new Guest Butler, Ruth Gendler. She’s both writer and artist, equally admired in each field. In l984, she self-published The Book of Qualities. It

C.P. Cavafy - Constantine Petrou Cavafy (1863-1933) may be one of the greatest poets of the last century, but he's mostly known for one poem. It was the favorite of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,

Citizen: An American Lyric - An incident: It’s finally your turn, and then it’s not as he walks in front of you and puts his things on the counter. The cashier says, Sir, she was next.

Donald Hall - It is easy to say that Donald Hall is the successor to Robert Frost. His family had a farm in New Hampshire, he met Frost when he was young and

Dorothy Parker - She was a Rothschild --- just not a Rothschild with any link to the rich Rothschilds. Her mother died a month before her fifth birthday, her stepmother died when she was

Greg Pardlo - Greg Pardlo submitted “Digest,” his slim book of poems, to the major publishers. All rejected it. He sent it to Four Way Books, which is, like the poet, literary and

Kabir: Ecstatic Poems - Did you know there were stand-up comedians in India in the 1400s? Me neither --- until I read Kabir. Why? Because Kabir was playing the greatest comic role of all --- God's

Maeve Kinkead: A Dangling House - Maeve Kinkead was in my class at a small New England boarding school. If I didn’t really know her there, it was because I was awestruck and --- rare for

Monsoon Solo: Voices Once Submerged - Norman Mailer said you don’t really know a woman until you’ve met her in court. I say you don’t know a woman until you’ve read her poems. If I had to pick

Poetry Month - Poetry Month. About time. There’s never enough poetry in our lives. Do savor this smorgasbord of Head Butler poetry favorites. C.P Cavafy Cavafy was a journalist, then a clerk --- for

Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life - At some point in your romantic life, you gave someone --- or, better, someone gave you --- Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” Decades later, it no longer embarrasses me

Randall Jarrell: The Complete Poems - The Well-to-do Invalid  When you first introduced me to your nurse I thought, "She's like your wife." I mean, I thought: "She's like your nurse—" it was your wife. She gave this old friend of her husband’s a pale ingratiating smile; we talked And she agreed with me about everything. I thought: "She’s quite agreeable." You gave a pleased laugh--you were

Raymond Carver: A New Path to the Waterfall - What if you only had a year to live? How would you live it? There’s no easier question. Everyone knows the “right” answer: You live as if there’s no tomorrow. You

Rumi - The greatest Muslim poet was born in what is now Afghanistan, back when Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists lived peacefully together. His funeral lasted 40 days, and he was mourned by Christians,

Seamus Heaney - Seamus Heaney had the Irish gift --- the gift of bullshit --- but he didn’t use words for self-glorification. He was that rare event: a great writer, a great man.

Sharon Olds: Stag’s Leap - In 2012, Sharon Olds won the T.S. Eliot Prize for this book. Then she won the Pulitzer. Now she's won the Wallace Stevens award, which isn't small --- in addition

Sharon Olds: Strike Sparks - Her father is dying, and her plane's been cancelled, but there's another, leaving in just a few minutes, not in this terminal, but it will get her to

Stanley Kunitz - It says a great deal about Stanley Kunitz that he was 95 when he was named Poet Laureate for the second time. First, it reminds us that he lived to