We asked for your original poems about new beginnings. Read them here.
A new year is here and at NHPR, we wanted to celebrate with poetry. We asked: What does a new beginning mean to you? Many of you shared your original poems with us. State Poet Laureate Alex Peary joined NHPR’s All Things Considered host Julia Furukawa to reflect on those submissions.
I Am From — Brian Melendy
The Heavens Declare ... — Macarius Keysar
"A (puzzling) game" — Zion Bellefonte
Gliding — Adele Sanborn
Seed Sower — Marjorie Moorhead
New Beginnings — Rick Van de Poll
Fresh — Gloria Hussey
The Year Turns on a Winter's Night — John Lindberg
Over-Easy Eggs, A New Year's Poem — Christopher Lawrence Russell
Perhaps (Ein Neues Jahr) — Brent Richardson
HORN OF PLENTY — Tom Keegan
HELL OF A YEAR — Emilie Langford
Beginnings — Meg Trainor
All the Animals Lifted their Heads at His Faultless Chord — Paul Goudarzi-Fry
Deliverance — Carla Schwartz
I Am From
I am from cable TV,
From Lego’s, and Kraft Mac and Cheese.
I am from the single parent family,
Struggling, striving, doing the best we can.
I am from shamrocks, thistle, and maple leaf bending in the breeze,
Green, purple, red, gold, and brown.
I am from Sunday dinners and 4th of July barbeques,
From George, and Mary-Jo.
I am from the quick tempered, hard headed, and hearty laughter,
From mirth, and the salt of the Earth.
I am from non practicing Catholics, who viewed the Challenger explode live on screen,
Then watched again on 9/11
I am from the tales of those who were here before me
From the things that we’ve done, and the things that I’ve seen
I am from carbon, ancient stardust, and atoms,
From too much rock n’ roll, on a spinning stone through the Milky Way.
— Brian Melendy
The Heavens Declare …
From graying clouds does Artemis call in
the waiting hunter of deathly sin.
Lights gone dim from flickering light,
Enki leads us into the long, cold night.
In the cold and dread does the bearer bring
a cup of hope to help all sing.
Night is over when the risen sun
declares the promised birth has now begun.
The warring ram does winter slay.
Together we begin a brighter day.
Oh, winter, where art thou sting?
Apple blossoms … a smell of spring.
— Macarius Keysar
"A (puzzling) game"
The secret for the kid
furtive as cascades
is the newness of normal
every day renewed
with rules abdicated just
before the end
in a convenient flourish
A (puzzling) game
and such and on
are the dis-believed
waking all with each
First one, then the lumbering one, then
breaking the din
a succession of sodden start-overs
a tourmaline crew
— Zion Bellefonte
In the breeze
Yellow tutus flutter
Into the grass
Melting between blades
— Adele Sanborn
I gather myself into myself again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one*
I shall collect them as seeds to sow,
and cultivate a garden there.
See what arises;
how they blossom and grow.
What stems appear; what leaves;
what petals, colors, scents.
I shall rejoice at the bounty, celebrate
riches of depth and variety;
texture, shape, maturity.
I will let a sense of peace; a serenity,
glow in me.
* Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) The Crystal Gazer
— Marjorie Moorhead
Dawn breaks over long-forgotten seas,
Invigorating every plant cell with light,
Awakens the Green –
This is what I live for.
Howler monkeys echoing through the jungle of my mind,
Screaming wildness with every cry,
Swinging through the eons of evolution,
Are made whole again –
This is what I live for.
A fresh breeze uncovers the perfect scent,
A bit of morning dew,
Evaporating across the layers of molding leaves,
Mixed with the sweet fragrance of swaying orchids,
Wafted my way by butterfly wings,
Richly blended with the earthy odor of fungi,
A kaleidoscope of color unfolds beneath my feet,
This is what I live for.
I greet the day, thankful to be alive,
Right here, right now,
Sensing the world into which I have been born,
This is what I live for.
— Rick Van de Poll
How long has the seed waited
Dark, cold, paralyzed
There is no what could be
Soil softens with moist damp
enough, stirring a memory of
light, warm, other seasons
Courage to crack the shell
Green, untried, fragile
Pushing aside all the weight of the world
— Gloria Hussey
The Year Turns on a Winter’s Night
God grant us this long winter’s night, the grace
to see in sorrow’s veil and joy’s warm light,
this year that passes, leaves without a trace
save memories we hold both faint and bright.
And if by loss we measure time, we lose
sight of the gain that sadness does to each
impart; so now rejoice in all you choose
to hold at heart and to a New Year reach.
Then seek in what you as a traveler bring,
most precious of all you have known before.
No heavy burden’s worth a weighty thing
compared to that which lights your way once more.
Come bittersweets when sweet and bitter meld.
Now who’s the worse for knowing what they’ve held?
— John Lindberg
Over-Easy Eggs, A New Year’s Poem
I used to think Hope was some new vison you could wake to,
a morning without rain, an acceptance letter in the mail.
I believed it to be something small,
something that stopped a discouraging routine,
wiped down the breakfast table of depression,
something delivered like over-easy eggs to that table
by a force beyond my ordering.
All I had to do was sit there and wait
for any kind of good luck to be delivered,
and eventually it would be.
I liked the idea of that so much I’d cross the street
for eggs benedict once a week
and while eating it in the restaurant,
gaze out through the window and back across the street
to my modest studio apartment
and think to myself this is how Hope would look for me:
while devouring hollandaise and burnt coffee
and looking at each window of my apartment building
and thinking he’s got to be in one of those.
And I’d probably still be doing that,
if I didn’t know that in some form
this is what all displaced poets with MFA’s dream about
when they are not able to give back to society
with the words that have emboldened them
and made them self-certified experts on
how to find the golden thread inside failure and pull it.
Well, that dream ended imperceivably,
when, after years of my phone not ringing
and nobody coming to my door,
I found myself working at a gas station
of downward mobility I told myself I’d never work at,
in order to get my ex to stop bothering me
about not being able to get the book published
or find a university
or high school job teaching poetry.
A prolonged period, and by prolonged, I mean decades,
of not knowing if you can afford to put food on the table,
while in service to literature
and its power to cut through the yolk of the mind
for a kind of enlightenment,
has a way of closing Hope’s aperture and making it harden,
and why now Hope is something this Gen. Xer
with five lifetimes of student loans to pay back doesn’t wait for,
Now, I order the Hope in me to float above itself
in order to watch the poet sit at his desk each morning
before he goes to a work that still barely pays
the always fluctuating bills,
still barely puts food on the table.
Floating up there, Hope tells the child in me
who always wanted to be that poet,
that getting all discouraged and drying up in imagination
and attracting flies of self-loathing
while sitting for too long in front of the television
whose channel guide counts on your disgust to remain one,
is part of the process of becoming a poet.
That break with convention always makes me feel
like I’m a beginner on a kind of journey,
like I’ve got my backpack on, and I’m just starting out,
that no matter what I’m cooking up,
a way to be stable,
or a way to still feel like part of the world,
I’m cooking it just right.
And that, like the single, first night goer
who at midnight looks up
from a street corner he doesn’t need to leave his house to stand on,
in order to watch the fireworks in his memory of them
before the new year comes disappearing down,
I can vow to stand beside myself and hold my own arm
and even look into my own eyes,
as I kiss myself back and think to myself let’s start over
and do nothing again.
— Christopher Lawrence Russell
Perhaps (Ein Neues Jahr)
Perhaps this will be the year that the old,
dead Poplar at the end of the drive will fall,
but, for now, I’ll leave it standing at the circle.
It makes a better perch for crows
and migrant flocks, than firewood.
Perhaps this will be the year that human migrant flocks
Will be given a place to perch and less tribal vitriol.
Perhaps this will be the year with less war, less famine,
And fewer petty men with tyrannical egos.
Perhaps this will be the year with more kindness than hate,
More love, more fresh water, more clean air,
And more carbon sequestered.
Perhaps this year the viral toll will simmer down,
Into chronicity and background noise.
Perhaps this will be the year that hugs, handshakes and happiness
Outweigh mean spiritedness,
And love germinates like every Ukranian sunflower.
Perhaps we’ll have fewer holocaust deniers
and congressional holocaust liars.
Perhaps this is the year that I’ll construct
A birch bark box that holds water,
And the year we’ll protect the rights of my daughters.
As long as this chlorophyll coated molten cored sphere
continues its wobbly orbit
around our neighborhood star,
I’m gonna keep smiling at strangers,
As I roll up my sleeves
And pitch in.
— Brent Richardson
HORN OF PLENTY
Trips to the store
Choosing from a bazaar of needed “fruits of their labors”.
Pondering the best, not always the price for
Just the right items to fit satisfyingly, comfortably on a plate.
Thinking, planning of the bounty
To have it resurrected on the welcoming table.
Somehow we hear “Please pass the peas”, “I'll have more turkey” that
Draws us back to younger times.
A fleeting moment to share, cherish, to indulge in
Precious personal moments.
It's the clean up that allows us to consider
Reconsider our daily reality.
It's the putting away that cements
The shortness of the day.
Later it's a reflection, a satisfaction, a peaceful slumbering thought
Bordering on something we can do this coming year-
Sharing our “horn of plenty”.
— Tom Keegan
HELL OF A YEAR
Hard work every day
Shovel snow to make hay
Wait for Spring and longer days
Smell the dirt and sun’s rays
Get peas in the ground
See the garlic sprout
Work up a sweat
Regardless of weather
Put down my spade
Umbrella for shade
Intense bow making
Anxious for wreath making
10 broken ribs, 2 collapsed lungs
Shattered spleen, torn rotator cuff
Intense bow making
Ready for wreath making
Got it done
Life goes on . . .
— Emilie Langford
Light slowly emerges in the distance
At its own pace (surely not mine)
Pale pink filtered through white clouds
A new beginning, encouraged by hope
An artist’s backdrop, filled with the anticipation of what’s to come
Silhouettes of things past…love, loss, lessons learned
Backlit by the dawn of a new day
Envision your masterpiece
Colorful strokes, unexpected shades to bewilder and embrace
Let light flow
— Meg Trainor
All the Animals Lifted their Heads at His Faultless Chord
Pre-sundered, I call this
reflection that exists only
in the minds of old strangers
around the brutal corner:
canvas-blank wrists, as lost
as days—all that is
behind us; no, no longer us.
In a bloodless sunrise, I roll
into his arms, and accept
my body’s stellation.
He strokes my scars like Orpheus.
— Paul Goudarzi-Fry
After two long days—packing, sorting, jettisoning—
to change things up I think about going to Savers.
Before I threw away the cassettes
I listened to my recordings of answering machine messages—
my mother saying she loved me before she became sick,
a man whom I don’t even remember telling me I meant the stars.
I listened at night while I boxed books for donation,
parsing the words of ex after ex after decades-long silences.
Now it’s almost 5:30 and Savers closes soon. I breathe in ribbons
of dust as I drive—my car packed with things I’ve lived years with.
I park in with the others—truckloads of lamps, clothes, toys—
arriving just before closing feeling somehow delivered.
— Carla Schwartz