National Poetry Month 2022
The Academy of American Poets launched National Poetry Month in 1996 to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry. Celebrated every April, it has become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world.
To celebrate the twenty-sixth anniversary of National Poetry Month, we are honored to introduce the amazing poets featured here. Please read their works and support their ongoing projects.
Some ways you can participate: write a poem, listen to a poetry podcast, or buy some poetry books (from our list of poets or others you discover).
(From Yong’s memoir, Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems)
Every card I put on the table,
you take away in plain sight.
At the flop, you say I don’t
need any distractions.
Too many cards for my
little head to comprehend.
At the turn, you say
people will hurt me then
kiss me while you
pick my pockets clean.
At the river, you lay down
a full house and pocket
the winnings with my assets.
I say nothing, hoping someday
the cards will turn in my favor.
It hasn’t so far but I still
ridiculously believe like a
two-year old who is told
Santa will bring her a toy
if she’s a good girl.
You’re happy when you win
and throw a few crumbs my way.
I lap them up thinking
I’m lucky and tell myself
I’ll beat the next game.
I’ll win the next one.
I won’t let you hurt me.
I’ll stand up for myself.
Somewhere along the way –
To the flop
Definitely at the turn
Before I get to the river.
Her hazel eyes remind
me of gold, illuminated by
all the things
She has three marks against her:
one more, if they believe she’s educated,
but fat is the one that’s sticky and stings.
She can’t shake it, and everyone
asks why she can’t
—just lose the weight—
No one wonders
what she’s protecting herself from.
“Hall of Mirrors”
Georgia Iris Szawaryn
hall of mirrors
I cannot stand
to look myself
in the eye
when I see
in this hall
I cannot escape
that eats me
from the inside,
like an awful
I cannot look
at the face,
at the body
that looks back.
Everywhere I turn,
I am reminded
of what I am.
These irredeemable imperfections,
this tired, restless soul,
“Buttered Biscuits and Syrup, Homemade”
Marcía Lynn Paul
buttered biscuits and syrup, homemade
back and forth banter of kitchen prep aides
and kitchen smells, which
drifts and lingers into the den—
y last one of them
Six a.m. The sausage and grits with
extra butter and melted cheese
rest easy in cast iron pots.
The morning menus’ aroma settling,
graciously, into the walls.
But, long ago the kitchen’s been closed.
Dinner at 2 pm. Supper much, much later than…
The crack of dawn rooster alarm;
made the meals to get their move on.
The rough hands that molded dough,
also worked on the tobacco row.
The fine hands that molded dough, fed their
bellies until they didn’t want “no mo’ ”.
The kitchen smells from her stirred pots
of dumplings and turnips and deer that granddaddy got.
The kitchen held the heart of the family home.
Sad to see it all alone.
Long ago the kitchen’s been closed.
The children, now, have kitchens of their own.
Where they make the macaroni and the potato pone.
They laugh and banter about olden times
and allow their memories to drift awhile.
Children’s height markings,
then grandchildren’s height markings…
Then, great grands…
And, then some.
Her hands, maestro movements, as she stirred the pots.
A pinch of this; a dash of that.
Recipe abandoned; it’s locked in her memory.
A sprig of this; a smidgen of that.
Measuring spoons abandoned; made
this thousands of times.
Measuring spoons abandoned
many moons ago.
Long ago, the kitchen’s been closed.
The kitchen smells from the stirred pots.
The dinner at 2; the supper much, much later…
The hands, that picked cotton, molded dough,
and filled their bellies,
until they were as “full as a tick”.
Sad to see it all gone.
Six a.m. Missing the sausage and grits with
extra butter and melted cheese,
scrambled eggs, buttered biscuits,
and syrup from sugar cane.
Only the kitchen walls remain…
Standing as the final witness.
And, the electric stove that,
probably, feels abandoned.
“My Room Has Digested Me”
Like Jonah in a stomach of a giant fish,
I sit in the stomach of my room.
Here I sit, day in, day out,
and wherever I turn,
I see junk:
I turn to the left – junk.
I turn to the right – more junk.
My room has digested me and spat me out,
it has taken everything out of me,
like we take everything out of a cow,
its flesh – our succulent dinner,
its skin – our boots,
its stomach enzymes – our oh so yummy Parmesan cheese.
I don’t complain.
This is justice.
Let the room digest me as much as it wants.
It’s time all of us were spat out
by this once-upon-a time lush and livable planet
as fair payment for turning it into junk.
“Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ghost”
My skin is the colour of
Mary Wollstonecraft’s ghost
A poppy that shifts crimson through white blades
Bleached by the polish of an architectural twilight
My colours unearthly, detonating, easily I’m alien
The nudity of open lilies scandalises and screams theatrically
How dare roses take part in politics?
I am the illness of a whitewashed wall- well-spoken
Godlike; the value clings to the damp basement of my eye
Denying the glossed fringes of Sangria
And the lovers and the scandals and the way she didn’t care
Was so beautiful to me
Her lips spread like waves over the water; her limbs opened like blossom
In the warm light of a frosted tomb- she met her other, a daughter, a lover
She arose like crystalised coffee from a dark valley
They never believed we’d rise like her from those hills
Cascading in a thousand languages beyond her abbi
I drew a backbone with a pencil of morning light
And her shoulders split; and her skin tore; and her mouth consumed
Shrouded in the cinnamon-coloured morning
Dressed in the pale tendrils of dawn, she did more than speak
We are emancipated, when the sun and moon eclipse
As your back is turned; our silhouettes align
My skin is the colour of Venus; eyes ringed with healed bones
And a thousand ways you pretended to want me.
My 4th grade self, watched
as they held the door
and taunted him,
so that he couldn’t join us outside.
Those faces, laughing
as they screamed, “Baby Davy”
through the glass next to the metal door they held.
Too afraid to intervene.
I watched as his pounding on the door
and cut his fist.
That’s how I knew.
Christine Blasey-Ford told the truth.
I’ve seen those faces.
Heard that laughter.
Yong is the author of Observations Through Yellow Glasses, Rising, Sometimes We Fall, and The Escape to Candyland. She was a finalist in The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest, Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest, The Writers’ Mastermind Short Story Contest, and The Sexton Prize for Poetry.
Yong’s YA novel, Camp Detroit, will be published in 2023.
To learn more about Yong, visit: https://linktr.ee/yctwriter
After a messy divorce from music, West fell into a torrid love affair with writing. They’ve been somewhat happily married since 2013, when her first novel was published in partnership with Schuler’s Books & Music Chapbook Press. West graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Art in Writing in 2011 with an emphasis on fiction and poetry. Since then, West has self-published a handful of novels and collections of poems that tackle themes of love, redemption, cultural identity, social issues and the afterlife. She is the 2022-23 Fictional Café Poet-in-Residence. West resides in Michigan with her family and can often be found reheating the tea she forgot she made or reading a good book. You can find her work on Amazon.
Georgia Iris Szawaryn is a Writing Arts graduate student at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey and is simultaneously working on two novels. Her work has been published on Flora Fiction, Silent Mayhem, Reservoir Road Literary Review, and YAWP Journal. To read more about her journey as a writer, visit her website.
Marcía Lynn Paul has been writing poetry and other works since she was six. At nine, her first poem, Pacer Proud, won the state Peanut Butter Press Contest for her age group/division. Majoring in Slavic Languages & Literature and receiving her Master’s degree in Secondary Education, she spent over a decade teaching English, writing and Language Arts at the middle and high school levels.
Currently, she’s working on several works, including a screenplay, a drama, and a romantic comedy. A selection of her poetry can be seen on her YouTube channel.
Her spirit animal is the tortoise, her favorite weekday is Tuesday, and her favorite color is cobalt blue. She hopes to someday retire somewhere near the ocean and dreams of owning a “brick and mortar” bookstore.
Whirlwind of Mosaic Pieces is her first collection of poems.
Nina Kossman is a bilingual writer, poet, memoirist, playwright, and translator of Russian poetry. Her short stories and poems in English have been published in journals in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Among her published works are three books of poems in Russian and English, two volumes of translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems, two collections of short stories, and a novel. For Oxford University Press, she edited the anthology Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths. Her writing has been translated into French, Greek, Japanese, Dutch, Hebrew, Danish, Persian, and Spanish, and she is the recipient of a UNESCO/PEN Short Story Award, an NEA translation fellowship, and grants from Foundation for Hellenic Culture, the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, and Fundación Valparaiso. While Nina’s native language is Russian, she has deep ties to Ukraine and Latvia: her maternal grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Ukraine, and her paternal grandparents, in Latvia, where they perished in the Holocaust. She lives in New York.
Charlotte Tweed is a white, English writer from London who is currently studying a Masters in English at the University of Lincoln. She has two voluntary jobs, one on a market stall and one at a food bank, and is a poetry editor for The Lincoln Review. She is twenty-two years of age.
A love of writing began very young and was fostered in school for Tracy Strating when a new teacher encouraged her to enter a contest she won. She is fascinated with words and writes daily as a form of therapy and connection. Now her gray hair and full notebooks are a comfort. Tracy left the mountains of Colorado years ago and now and resides with her beloved partner and spotted dog near Lake Michigan.