My country, I will build you again,
If need be, with bricks made from my life.
I will build columns to support your roof,
If need be, with my bones.
I will inhale again the perfume of flowers
Favored by your youth.
I will wash again the blood off your body
With torrents of my tears.
— Outspoken Iranian poet Simin Behbahani died last week at the age of 87. This is the opening stanza of her poem “My Country, I Will Build You Again,” which you can read in full on her website.
And so one thing I learned from the process of writing, assembling, and submitting a manuscript is that ‘letting go’—experimenting, relinquishing control—is essential. I cut some poems of which I was initially proud, and that others admired. Without the expectation of the writing workshop in the back of my mind, I learned how to better focus on the process of writing itself, rather than on the end product, and how to challenge my own preconceptions about the poet I was in the moment of writing. To, perhaps, be the poet I happened to be, rather than the poet I wanted to be, or that others insisted I be. In that sense I learned the important of risking failure and embarrassment.
— Sara Eliza Johnson, interviewed by John Hoppenthaler for Connotation Press
the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust. i am done.
— Lucille Clifton, “jasper texas 1998,” via the Poetry Foundation
the winter was so long / I’d forgotten everything / outside its tunnel / everything
that wasn’t an engine’s struggle / to turn over or a wailing crow / but tonight
with the tulips / covering the boulevard like a long bruise / & the radio
swallowed by distant trains / ringing out like church / I feel sad
for what I’m losing / & surprised
— Anna Meister, “About Our Leaving,” published in Drunk in a Midnight Choir
The last drunk raises his glass
like a torch to battle,
slams it down like a gavel
and slides off his stool.
He staggers like he’s carrying
buckets of ice, but his hands are
empty and sway like dead branches
at his sides. He stumbles
on the carpeted steps, muttering,
ascending knee by knee,
how one prays up
the holy stairway in Rome.
— We sadly had another Cantab feature who was forced to cancel on us for life reasons, but longtime local sensation April Ranger will be there in her stead! This is the opening stanza of April’s poem “The Closers,” from her chapbook Blood Oranges, Top Bunk.
I’ve never really known any other way to grieve. Even in high school, writing has served as the best therapist. I have no dark, quiet corners to cry into. Those don’t help me the way they might help other people. But writing has always been an outlet. Whether it’s kept in a journal and never seen again or something I perform on stage, writing has been the thing that’s made the process a little easier.
— Meg Freado, interviewed by Hanif Abdurraqib for 30 in 30(0)
Where can I go
then, with a new face, another name,

if the body is a temple I
have too many gods. I owe
too many favors that only
I will recall.
— Brandon Amico, “Eve of the Carnival,” published in Cartridge Lit