by Kaylin Haught
From The Palm of your Hand, 1995
“God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught is something I think everyone should read. I also think everyone should read Haught’s bio, which begins “Kaylin Haught is an Oklahoma poet. She lives in Grove, in a house older than the state that's abbreviated on her mail.” This poem is so immediate in what it does—it makes you want to belly-laugh, then cry, and then shout for fun at the top of your lungs—that I had to go back and read it again to think about all the moves Haught is making on a structural level to produce such a profound, instant emotional reaction. What a gift to want to go back and read again as soon as I finished—to be given permission to. I once read an interview with some artist, whose name I of course can no longer remember, who said the goal of every artist’s life should be to create one masterpiece. Just one is a miraculous thing. I think about that a lot. In those rare moments when you come into contact with someone else’s masterpiece, you feel it immediately. I felt it when I read “God Says Yes To Me.” —Adina Applebaum
“From the Adult Drive-In”
By Gabrielle Calvocoressi
From The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, 2005
As I scanned through my secondhand edition of Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s collection of poems, “The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart,” I noticed the previous owner had scribbled “hot girl on girl!” next to one poem. Perhaps this was the reason I picked up the collection, as well. Queer and romantic, I'm always in search of love poems that make space for queer love, attraction, and intimacy.
In “From the Adult Drive-In,” Calvocoressi writes, “The hill, no body unbroken / By the strip mall's light arched / Harp of her pelvic bone a mouth / Falling upon it like corn cut down / In a field I was forbidden / To walk through”
Here: a moment where hunger and desire can be informed—and perhaps even enhanced—by forbiddeness. Throughout the volume, Calvocoressi crafts stories of people who inhabit a strange, dark, rural America of the past, full of miners and circus fires. When I met Gabrielle, her feedback on my own poetry was that it was too neatly wound. Like her apt criticism, her poetry does not care for comfortable conclusions, bur rather invites us to live in moments of un-spooling: grief, hunger, pleasure. —Isabella Whitney
"Thunderbolt of Jove”
By Nikky Finney
From Head Off & Split, winner of the National Book Award, 2011
I first heard Nikky Finney speak in 2017 at The Geography of Hope, an annual literary-meeting-cum-back-to-the-land-spiritual-gathering in Pt. Reyes Station, California. Finney had bewitched my imagination by talking about her grandmother, Beulah Lenorah Butler Davenport (a name Finney somehow delivered all in one rich breath), “supreme watermelon, cantaloupe & pansy grower.” I was so moved by her reading of “Brown Girl Levitation 1962-1989,” I recorded her reading of another poem later in the night called “The Vertigo.” Like Finney, I had a near mythical grandmother—albeit one whom I never met—who influenced how the world looked to me at that time. And I, too, aspire to growing supreme watermelons.
As a devourer of contemporary nature poems that can help us understand human experiences other than our own, I’ve been hungrily rereading Finney’s “Thunderbolt of Jove,” a poem about a mother and daughter’s immersion in a calamitous storm that brings them closer to the divine. It is linguistically excessive to suit the immense energy of a summer storm in the south. From heady numbers (“one hundred oranges peel, infuse, are slung”) to painterly colors (“the inky nigrescent sky”), Finney associates the Black female experience with the nearly unbearable complexity—and the tumultuous order/disorder—of nature. In turn, she links these with the domestic, like “the tiny kitchen stage” where, at the end of the storm, the daughter in the poem is vested with the sense of her own fate—to be elemental in her femininity, to participate in “the wax and rock of childbirth,” and to end, for better or worse, a “sandy, burnished, smoldering lead of lanky Old-Maid.”
It’s a tornado of a poem, and Finney is both storm chaser and mystic guide. —Laura Booth
By Dr. Bettina A. Judd, 2014
It feels important to me, at the moment, to read poetry that speaks directly to specific issues in our society. I have lately been thinking of a desire for beauty for its own sake as a bit irresponsible, despite the many and good arguments to the contrary. But luckily, with Dr. Judd’s poems, I can put this false dichotomy aside. Her poems in "Patient" deal with the long-standing mistreatment of women (particularly women of color, and most particularly Black women) by doctors, in poems that are formally experimental and downright beautiful. As the topic circles in and out of mainstream media, Dr. Judd maintains a parallel blog at www.patientpoems.com chronicling the continuing crisis. I’m fascinated by the interaction between the poems and the world in which they were written. —Mariana Robertson
by Nikki Giovanni, 1943
I love this poem for how sensory it is: You get the freshness, the presentness, the heat and coolness of it all, and especially a feeling of plenty. The line breaks make you slow down and enjoy each piece of it for what it is—“your grandmother,” “homecoming,” “and buttermilk,” “and go barefooted.” —Caroline Lange
Pomegranate: Poems by Living Poets is five friends who send poems they like, mostly by living writers, five days a week. And they'll send them to you! Sign up at tinyletter.com/pomegranate. ★
The images accompanying this article are drawn from Constellation art director Suze Myers' archive of film photographs taken by her Alabama-raised father, Rick Myers. The photos were taken in the south between 1970 and 1984, and were lovingly digitized and selected for this piece by his daughter.