Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

When someone signs up for a workshop they often say something like Alison, I need you to be hard on me. Don’t sugarcoat anything. I just tilt my head and smile.

When I was young I sat through lots of tense workshops in which a few lukewarm-nice things were said and then the “real” critique started, about everything wrong with the piece. Too many times I watched students turn bright red, fight back tears.

“I do best when a teacher is tough on me.” Do you, though? What about when someone focuses on what’s beautiful, what is yours and yours alone? Watch a wild, silent power emerge. The teacher in this poem speaks to the artist in me.

A Young Man, a Stranger, Smiled at Me, by Jim Moore

           Maybe I reminded him of his grandfather
or his favorite teacher in grade school,
           the one who lied to him
about his painting of the goldfish bowl,
           who looked hard at it and said, Beautiful.

For more information about Jim Moore, please visit his website.

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Anne Carson

I once had a hideous job traveling to various colleges for short stints teaching Speed Reading (useless), Study Skills (mostly useless), and Mnemonics (useless unless memorizing long random numbers is your thing). The job paid almost nothing so I camped in state parks and scooped up extra packages of crackers, butter, mayonnaise, and marmalade at fast-food restaurants for supplemental calories.

But the students were great, because students are always great, and sometimes they were sad to say goodbye. Our paths will cross again in an airport someday, I used to tell them, and I believed it. I still believe it, even though it’s never happened. Someday I will meet them again: lost friends, lost students, lost loves. We’ll each be late for our flights, with time for only a few words, so we’ll have to make them count: I hope you know how much I loved you.

excerpted from The Glass Essay, by Anne Carson

Perhaps the hardest thing about losing a lover is
to watch the year repeat its days.
It is as if I could dip my hand down

into time and scoop up
blue and green lozenges of April heat
a year ago in another country.

I can feel that other day running underneath this one
like an old videotape—

For more information about Anne Carson, please click here. 

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Ada Limón

When I was a little kid I loved the book The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, to the extent that I memorized my favorite lines: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. Then I grew up and had children, and then my children grew up, and sometimes it feels so befuddling, like wait, stop, come back, how did this all happen so fast?

This is when I instinctively and silently recite one of my mantras – They’re people in the world before they’re your children, Alison – a line that came to me years ago and which I never fully understood until three days ago, when I read this poem by the wondrous Ada Limón.

What I Didn’t Know Before, by Ada Limón

was how horses simply give birth to other
horses. Not a baby by any means, not
a creature of liminal spaces, but a four-legged
beast hellbent on walking, scrambling after
the mother. A horse gives way to another
horse and then suddenly there are two horses,
just like that. That’s how I loved you. You, 
off the long train from Red Bank carrying
a coffee as big as your arm, a bag with two
computers swinging in it unwieldily at your
side. I remember we broke into laughter
when we saw each other. What was between
us wasn’t a fragile thing to be coddled, cooed
over. It came out fully formed, ready to run.

For more information about Ada Limón, whose poems are beloved to me, please visit her website.

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Robert Frost

In the book I’m writing, a desperate child imagines himself far above the planet, far from the endlessly breaking bad news. He isn’t wired for the constant barrage of awfulness. None of us are. This is why I love and admire people like thirty-three-year-old Chris Smalls, who, independent from any giant outside organization, unionized the Staten Island Amazon warehouse last week. Smalls and three friends saw injustice, jumped in and built the Amazon Labor Union from scratch. There are so many good people out there just jumping in and getting things done, so many ideas we haven’t yet tried.

Riders, by Robert Frost

The surest thing there is is we are riders,
And though none too successful at it, guiders,
Through everything presented, land and tide
And now the very air, of what we ride.

What is this talked of mystery of birth
But being mounted bareback on the earth?
We can just see the infant up astride,
His small fist buried in the bushy hide.

There is our wildest mount, a headless horse.
But though it runs unbridled off its course,
And all our blandishments would seem defied,
We have ideas yet that we haven’t tried.


For more information about Robert Frost, check out this site, where an unknown someone has written about him in an odd, strangely phrased (“happily buried”?) and somehow charming way.

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Click here for details on my one-day spring workshops, including The Intuitive Leap on April 7 and Freedom of Form on April 8.

The animal world I can understand: kill or be killed, kill or watch your children be killed. But so many of the things humans kill about are invisible and imaginary, like the boundaries between nations, like nations themselves, like the invisible systems of capitalism and other systems we all live and struggle within. That’s harder for me to wrap my head around.

The Next War, by Ursula K. Le Guin

It will take place,
it will take time
it will take life,
and waste them.

Click here for more information about Ursula K. Le Guin.​

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast