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Poems hold power. As my colleague Hannah Giorgis put it: “Whether by conveying the scale of national grief during a pandemic, or exposing the relentlessness of racism, poetry has already created new ways of experiencing, and surviving, life’s darkest chapters.”
I asked writers and editors from around our newsroom to choose a poem worth revisiting in this fraught moment. Consider memorizing one. Or just let their selections fall over you, stanza by stanza, offering a little bit of solace and a little bit of wonder.
“FROM BLOSSOMS” BY LI-YOUNG LEE
“From Blossoms” is an ode to the small moments and the everyday objects that hold treasured memories. I love the idea that we, too, can carry within us an orchard to soothe our minds during times of crisis. In this heavy moment, Lee’s words remind me that days of sweetness, of joy, and of community still exist, and will one day bloom again.
— Morgan Ome, assistant editor
“LANDLESS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT” BY NATE MARSHALL
What is a homeland for me? maybe a boat? certainly not a country, writes Nate Marshall in “landless acknowledgement,” which is also the opening poem of his new book, FINNA. I’ve been thinking a lot about lineage lately, about the stories we have that tell us who we are and where we come from. And I’ve been thinking about the limitations of tracing those stories for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. I love how Marshall reimagines the idea of a homeland in this poem, such as when he writes, closest i got to a homeland is not never calling the police. closest i got to a homeland is my daddy’s laugh in a spades game. We’re in a moment that demands taking a history of violence and building something new, and that’s what Marshall does so beautifully in this poem.
— Clint Smith, author of the poetry collection Counting Descent and incoming Atlantic staff writer