For National Poetry Month: Love and Memory

Written by TaraShea Nesbit, Writer-in-Residence, Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

Our 2024 Writer-in-Residence, TaraShea Nesbit, is an award-winning author and teacher. Attend her upcoming workshops and writers' office hours. And, listen to her as host of CHPL's "Inside the Writer's Head" podcast. 

Dear Library Friends,

I write this letter to you on the last day of National Poetry Month. Today I’m thinking about a quote by poet William Carlos Williams that was painted on the wall in a classroom at The Ohio State University, when I went there, from 1999-2003, that shored up my want to be a writer: “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Poetry, that writing that is not news, but surely nourishes and informs so many of us.

On this last week of National Poetry Month, I offer two poems and two poetry writing prompts if you’d like to try writing a poem of your own, as well as links to poetry collections in the stacks that you might check out. If you write something from these prompts, I’d love to chat with you about them at the Writer-in-Residence office hours next month!

What is poetry?  Definitions vary widely, even from poets. Emily Dickinson said she knows it is a poem if: “I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off.”  Audre Lorde described poetry as “Not only dream and vision: it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” There are so many ways to describe and appreciate poems, and no right way. Today, I invite you to play around with writing a poem.

Writing Inspiration: Alex Dimitrov’s “Love”

Today’s writing poetry invitation is inspired by Alex Dimitrov’s long poem, “Love” which you can read in full here.

Here is an excerpt of the poem:

I love you early in the morning and it’s difficult to love you.

I love the January sky and knowing it will change although unlike us.

I love watching people read.

I love photo booths.

I love midnight.

I love writing letters and this is my letter. To the world that never wrote to me.

I love snow and briefly.

I love the first minutes in a warm room after stepping out of the cold.

I love my twenties and want them back every day.

I love time.

I love people.

I love people and my time away from them the most.

I love the part of my desk that’s darkened by my elbows.

I love feeling nothing but relief during the chorus of a song.

I notice that the poem is end-stopped, meaning each line ends with a period, and that what the speaker loves is not always the expected thing. For instance, the speaker loves people, but “my time away from them the most.” You might also notice that the speaker loves and appreciates sensations, loving the warmth of a room after being in the cold.

A Writing invitation: What Do You Love?

If you’d like to try to write a poem yourself, you could begin a sentence with “I love…” and finish it with whatever pops into your mind. See if you can write ten sentences about things you love. See if you can write twenty. See if you can describe ten things you love that you can hear, smell, touch, and/or taste. See if you can love things that others might not love or admit to loving things that others might not think of especially loving, or favorable to love.

The Writing Inspiration: Joy Harjo’s “Remember”

For the second prompt, take a look at Joy Harjo’s poem “Remember”, noticing whatever it is you notice as you read. If you choose, reading aloud can offer you the bonus experience of hearing how much delight poems offer us in terms of sound.

“Remember” by Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,

know each of the star’s stories.

Remember the moon, know who she is.

Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the

strongest point of time. Remember sundown

and the giving away to night.

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled

to give you form and breath. You are evidence of

her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

Remember your father. He is your life, also.

Remember the earth whose skin you are:

red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth

brown earth, we are earth.

Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their

tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,

listen to them. They are alive poems.

Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the

origin of this universe.

Remember you are all people and all people

are you.

Remember you are this universe and this

universe is you.

Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.

Remember language comes from this.

Remember the dance language is, that life is.


The Writing Invitation: What Do You Want to Remember?

What Do You Want to Remember? After reading Joy Harjo’s poem, try out writing sentences of what you, too, hope and want to remember. They could be things very meaningful to you now that you do not want to forget, or things you feel like you need help remembering, or any other way you might feel inspired by Harjo’s poem! I notice that in Harjo’s poem, she moves sentences through multiple lines, rather than ending each line with a period. That’s one of many ways you might play around with writing poems.

Office Hours

If you’d like to chat about writing poems, essays, novels, or any other form of creative writing, I’d be thrilled to meet you during the May Writer-in-Residence office hours, which are open to all. If the slots look full for office hours, please still register, as space often opens up off the waitlist. I’ll also be leading a write-in, “Storytelling [Taylor’s Version]” in June, where we will write together inspired by some of the craft moves Swift makes in her lyrics.

Poetry Collections

“Love” by Alex Dimitrov from Love and Other Poems

“Remember” by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses

The quote above by Audre Lorde is from the essay, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury" found in her collection Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde's The Selected Works of Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde's The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde

Emily Dickinson's The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

The quote from Emily Dickinson is from a letter she wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson of August 16th, 1870, found in her collected letters (The Letters of Emily Dickinson).

The quote above by William Carlos Williams is from his poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" found in his book Asphodel, That Greeny Flower & Other Love Poems

Sending you so much love and good wishes for your writing aspirations this month. Even if you only have five or ten minutes to write, those little bits, added up, can make something very beautiful.



Share your poems in the comments below! And learn more about CHPL’s Writer-in-Residence and upcoming events with 2024 Writer-in-Residence TaraShea Nesbit on our website, opens a new window.