Happy National Poetry Month!
Poems are spells, and writers are witches. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know how much we believe that!
Did you know it’s national poetry month? A month where we have an excuse (as if we need one!) to celebrate word magic.
We love poetry completely unironically. It’s not a cool thing to love, is it? Poetry can feel so old-fashioned, so earnest. It’s an art form where you’re sitting down to read (or write) an emotional impression cast through artfully chosen, strategic words.
Poetry has a reputation for being snooty, inaccessible, elitist. Which, like, sure, it can be – but so can a TV show or novel or play. Yet, these associations cling to poetry, which is so unfortunate, because poetry can be blazing, surprising, outrageous, playful, quietly rebellious, ridiculous, crystalline-beautiful, heartbreaking, jaw-dropping.
Poetry can be anything the human heart can feel, rendered on the page.
And, seriously, if that’s not magic, what is?
So let’s talk about poetry and celebrate word witchery!
Read on for snippets of some of our favorite poems, plus bits of our own recent pieces. We’ll link to where you can read them all in full, too.
Poetry We Love
“The fire will hold out its arms, saying, daughter,
come into my embrace, and the Cinder Girl
will hold out her arms in turn, saying mother, come to me.
She will wrap the fire around her
like a shawl, red, orange, yellow, safe in its warmth,
and burn the palace down.”
- “The Cinder Girl Burns Brightly,” Theodora Goss
“And wildly glittered here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, ’twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she—
- “Christabel,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
who puts tomatoes and ice and lemons
in a bag at the grocery store.
That’s a clerk.
And anything with — mancy in it means magic.
I looked up
into the off–gold afternoon. And thus
I began my secret mission. To catch
the checkout girl
- “A Great Clerk of Necromancy,” Catherynne Valente
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
- “Jabberwocky,” Lewis Carroll
“Go see the wise woman, witch, seer-sage,
Tell her your wishes, wait for an age.
Ask her for potions, portents and dreams,
Wear a black dress sewn with silver seams.
Carry a basket of woven oak,
Over your shoulder throw a twilight cloak.
Go in winter in the deepest snow,
She will know you are coming before you go.”
- “To Seek a Spell,” Deborah Sage
“Here is my hand, my heart,
my throat, my wrist. Here are the illuminated
cities at the center of me, and here is the center
of me, which is a lake, which is a well that we
can drink from”
- “Saying Your Names,” Richard Siken
Here is some of what we’ve been working on lately!
“In the world, in a tale,
Every choice is a gamble—
Leave the egg, take the key,
Drop the egg, drop the key—
The Robber’s house is rigged,
No action guarantees salvation.”
- “The Robber’s House Is Rigged” (Bluebeard, Fitcher’s Bird, The Robber Bridegroom), Cleto and Warman
“When we fell apart
Snow took us in –
She muffled our sorrow,
Forged our tears into
The taste of snowflakes and
The smell of cold winds –
These we devoured together, like
Candy, like love.”
- “Snow Maidens” (Yuki Onna), Cleto and Warman
And finally, we wanted to share this “Twelve Dancing Princesses” poem in full. It was published last year in Star*Line, a wonderful print journal, but here it is again.
“Twelve” by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman
night when the door was locked
again and there was nothing to
see but each other’s faces in the
light of one guttering candle
nothing to hear but the wax
melting, the youngest crying
nothing to do but break so
blinks and a decision was
snatched from a half-forgotten
dream, whispered into being:
a door, an escape,
fashioned from nothing,
so we pushed and saw
steps down, each steep
as a wish, and then a long
hall of dirt that smelled like
cake when you cut into it,
lit with crystal chandeliers that
chimed like locks opening, then
a room, the room, where
windows looked out on
different worlds, different lives,
trees of jewels, of gold and silver,
strange creatures blinking too large
eyes, beckoning, “Come in,
come in, dance, be easy,
but take only
sips from your onyx cups,
six and you’ll be a pack of
Persephones but never mind,
You all have hair like fire, like
light, like music, do you hear the
music, won’t you dance?”
and of course we took
turns about the room,
stole six swift kisses,
and drank six times from
onyx cups too beautiful
to be real,
to have consequences,
and all the while
hours passed in a moment,
slipping past like silk or
salmon up a stream and the
sun rose pink as blood in
water behind the glass windows,
we ran on tattered shoes, our
toes peeking through as we slipped
jeweled pears and a few
into our pockets – shh,
anyone would think us mad,
would think us lost,
forsaken, but we can taste the
thousand ways to be locked
up as keenly as the pears and
freedom, we spend our days
cleaning our father’s cavernous,
and lowering our eyes as men who
don’t ask our names offer father
gold coins for our hands and
answers to a riddle: how to
make us subservient and small,
when what we really want
is beneath their feet,
beneath their notice,
(and new shoes) but
suitors talked their way
past the locks, into our
room, their eyes on our
untouched beds, battered shoes, but
they always drank the wine and
slept, dull and drugged, as we
fled and danced and so number
didn’t concern us,
didn’t merit a second look, but
when he followed us to our secret,
confessing, “This is a world I want too,”
we let out the breath we’d
held forever and said
Happy National Poetry Month, word witches! If you have favorite poems of your own, please tell us about them in the comments!
P.S. If you want to try your hand at (or get back into) writing some poetry of your own, check out our beautiful, epic, and very welcoming workbook Spellcraft because we absolutely guarantee it will show you how to write a poem – even if you have no idea where to begin.