Why I Wrote This Poem

62 Poets on Creating Their Works


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About the Book

An anthology of a different sort, this volume presents a representative sample of contemporary American poems in 2021, with a road map of their origins. Bringing a diversity of styles and sensibilities, 62 poets from across the United States—some well known, some up-and-coming—illuminate their craft. Each contributes one poem, accompanied by an essay discussing their creative process and how the verse came to fruition.

About the Author(s)

William Walsh, the author of eight books, is the director of the Reinhardt University undergraduate creative writing program and the MFA program. He has been published in such journals as Five Points, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review and Literary Matters. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by William Walsh
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 5 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8405-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4740-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Kim Addonizio 5
“Cigar Box Banjo”
Cigar Box Banjo Reflection
David Baker 10
“Nineteen Spikes”
Writing in Peril
Aliki Barnstone 15
“Scripture for Coronavirus”
On Writing “Scripture for Coronavirus”: E Pluribus Unum
Erin Belieu 21
“With Birds”
Notes on “With Birds”
Richard Blanco 24
“Looking for The Gulf Motel”
Memory as Homeland
David Bottoms 29
“Under the ­Vulture-Tree”
Under the Vulture-Tree on the Wakulla River
Earl Sherman Braggs 31
“Sandy Columbine Hook Parkland”
What We Come to Know, What Comes to Know Us
Fred Chappell 36
“The Departures”
Chen Chen 41
“The School of Night & Hyphens”
Telling the Truth About Love
Marilyn Chin 46
“Bamboo, the Dance”
Poetry of Necessity
Ama Codjoe 49
“Burying Seeds”
On Composing “Burying Seeds”
Stephen Corey 53
“History of My Present”
The History of “History of My Present”
Chad Davidson 59
“Putting In”
The Tricky Business of Elegies
Denise Duhamel 61
“Recession Commandments”
Lies I Told Myself
Camille Dungy 66
“One Night in 1888, as the French steamboat ­Abd-el-Kader”
One Night in 1888
Stephen Dunn 70
Resuscitating the “Elementary” Poem
Cornelius Eady 72
Writing “Baldwin”
Martín Espada 75
“Letter to My Father”
Notes on “Letter to My Father”
Beth Ann Fennelly 80
“What I Think About When Someone Uses ‘Pussy’ as a Synonym for ‘Weak’”
Out of the Quarrel with Others
Annie Finch 82
“A Root”
The Roots of “A Root”
Greg Fraser 89
“The Good News”
Delivering “The Good News”
Alice Friman 92
“Under a Blind Eye”
Confession: On “Under a Blind Eye”
Ángel García 96
The Man Inside the Poem
Margaret Gibson 100
On Writing “Exchange”
Nikki Giovanni 105
“Knoxville, Tennessee”
It’s Your Decision When You Want to Share
Beth Gylys 108
“My Father’s Nightmare”
My Father’s Daughter: Sex, Lies, and Telling It Slant
Janice N. Harrington 113
“Layered Pigments”
The Layered Pigments of Elegy and Racial History
Terrance Hayes 116
Edward Hirsch 123
“For the Sleepwalkers”
Something Wonderful
Jane Hirshfield 127
“Today, When I Could Do Nothing”
On Writing “Today, When I Could Do Nothing”
Christine Kitano 131
“Dumb Luck”
What is the Ethnicity of the Speaker?
Yusef Komunyakaa 136
“My Good Hand Plays God”
The Hands
Ted Kooser 141
“An Entrance”
Poems of Gesture
Dorianne Laux 144
“Facts About the Moon”
Love in Spite of the Facts
Sandra Lim 148
“A Tab of Iron on the Tongue”
The Lunacy of Lyric Poetry
Adrian Matejka 151
“Gymnopédies No. 2”
What Really Happened
Airea D. Matthews 154
“If my late grandmother were Gertrude Stein”
If Ain’t Is
Campbell McGrath 158
“The Ladder”
In the Castle of the Stranger
Dunya Mikhail 161
“The Stranger in Her Feminine Sign”
Female Slave Market
Robert Morgan 164
The World Made Plumb
David Mura 168
“South Carolina Sea Island”
Walking with Ghosts
Marilyn Nelson 173
“The Tulsa Convulsion”
Family Trip to Oklahoma, 2018
Laura Newbern 179
On “Novella”
Annemarie Ní Churreáin 182
“Six Ways to Wash Your Hands (Ayliffe 1978)”
In the Shadow of Men Who Wanted to Conquer Wildness
Alicia Ostriker 187
“Listen”: A Mother-Daughter Poem and How It Grew
Frank Paino 192
Writing My Obsessions
Sara Pirkle 196
“What Hurts”
Listing and Listening
John Poch 200
“Denzel Sestina”
Denzel & Me
Paisley Rekdal 204
“Wild Horses”
On Wild Horses
Alberto Ríos 210
“Refugio’s Hair”
The Story Is Relative
Tim Seibles 214
The Making of “Movie”
Vijay Seshadri 219
“Trailing Clouds of Glory”
Senate Bill 1070 and “Trailing Clouds of Glory”
Patricia Smith 223
“Coo Coo Cachoo”
A Badass Woman Revises, Never Compromises
Virgil Suárez 227
“The Cotton Ball Queen”
Nursing People Back to Health
Mai Der Vang 230
“Prayer to the Redwood”
Ever More Poems: A Poetics of Creation and Abundance
William Walsh 235
“Why Otters Hold Hands”
When a Young Woman Must Run
Afaa M. Weaver 239
Liner Notes for “Thelonius”
Artress Bethany White 243
“Vibrio Cholerae”
Documenting Freedom at the Intersection of History
and Disease in “Vibrio Cholerae”
Carey Scott Wilkerson 247
“Summer’s End”
Poetry and Paradox and the Oracles of the Neighborhood
William Wright 249
“To a Minor Chinese Poet of the Kunlun Mountains”
Personal Grief as Empathetic Imagination
Jenny Xie 252
Probing Opacity
Monica Youn 255
“A Guide to Usage: Mine”
Mining the Word
Contributor Notes 259
Credits and Permissions 267
Index 271

Book Reviews & Awards

“Walsh does a great service to the lover of poetry…. Not only do you get exceptional poems; you also hear from the poets themselves about what inspired them, how they chose language and form, how they struggled to give birth to the version they finally shared with the world.”—Clayton Ramsey, Glint Literary Journal