Join me, Mark Scarbrough, on this bookmarked journey through some of the best lyric poetry in English . I've got a passion for small, evocative poems. I'd like to share that with out--as well as those poems, of course! Together, we'll encounter the core things that make us human: love, the inner life, the emotions, our notion of purpose, and our relationship with the natural world around us. Join me. We humans are made for each other!
Ellen Bass, "How To Apologize"
I found this poem while I was seeing my dad through his death. I thought of it a lot during those awful months. I thought about what I needed to apologize for. I thought about what he needed to apologize for. I thought how no fish would ever make it up between us--but how right Ellen Bass was to make it a meal, an apology, a bony fish no one wants but everyone needs.
Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I explore Ellen Bass's poem "How To Apologize," just recently published in THE NEW YORKER. This work hit me where I live. And its construction is nothing short of genius.
Bernadette Mayer, "[Sonnet] You jerk you didn't call me up"
How can something published in 1968 be so 2021?
It can because it's a lyric poem by Bernadette Mayer, a poet whose work may well define what I think is great about lyric poetry.
Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I take a look at this fabulous and very adult sonnet by one of the best American poets working still today.
Rage? You bet! But in sonnet form.
Emily Dickinson's Poem #1108 ("The Bustle in a House")
I'm back from a long hiatus. I didn't mean to go on one. My dad died. Or as I keep saying, he went over a cliff and took me with him.
I wanted to record this podcast episode because it's about a poem I said over and over to myself this summer as I helped him die. It's also one of the last things I ever said to him. I hope you'll find it as moving and lasting as I did. It sustained me. I couldn't ask Dickinson for any more. I couldn't ask lyric poetry for any more.
Hayley Mitchell Haugen, "Would You Please Stop Whistling, Please?"
A warning, first off: this lyric poem has language, imagery, and incidents that are difficult to bear. If you have children with you, you'll want to save this episode for another time.
Hayley Mitchell Haugen's poem, "Would You Please Stop Whistling, Please?" brought me up short the moment I found it. It's an example of control that I cannot imagine. It's also emotionally insightful in ways I wish I were. I hope you'll give it a listen, despite the rough subject matter. This is confessional poetry at its best: it reveals its speaker even more than the speaker believes she's being revealed. I don't know whether this is true confession or not. It doesn't matter. It hits. And that's what the best of lyric poetry does.
Caitlin Seida, "Hope Is Not A Bird, Emily, It's A Sewer Rat"
It takes a brave writer to lead the charge against Emily Dickinson. Especially in my books! You know how much I love Dickinson. But I may love Caitlin Seida's riff off a famous Dickinson poem just as much.
This poem became something of my mantra when I was recently in Texas for a month, helping my dad die. I had no idea I'd do what I did. I didn't even know he was that sick. He went over a cliff and took me with him. I used lines from this poem over and over again to help me get up off the couch and go give him his next round of pain or nausea meds.
I hope you'll find the audacity in this poem as compelling as I do. And I hope you'll understand that hope lasts, like a sewer rat. It survives in the worst places. Because that's the very nature of hope.
Donna Hilbert, "Rosemary"
Here's a poem that's deceptively small. It's actually a sonnet, broken into an octet and a sestet. And it does what sonnets do best: it turns the world strange.
Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I explore Donna Hilbert's short poem "Rosemary" on this episode of the podcast Lyric Life. We'll look at the ways Hilbert encodes loss into imagery--and talk about the ways we can write more effectively about loss and love, following Hilbert's example.
If you want to learn more about Donna Hilbert, check out her website, donnahilbert.com.
All podcasts I’ve listened to so far
Thank you for using “…you slay me”. And all the other ways you open my mind in your podcasts. I find myself stopping your voice to catch up. Thank you for educating and inspiring me. Your voice, itself, has a lyrical cadence. For a number of years I’ve been looking for a door to poetry. Thank you for opening it. My son heard your Dante podcasts and invited me to enjoy your poetry commentary.
Love this podcast!
I just stumbled upon it a few days ago and have been binging episodes since. I love how he approaches the poem in terms of “what it’s doing.” Highlighting the moves of a poem is very instructive to me both as a writer and as a reader.
I thoroughly enjoy this podcast. I avoided literature classes in college; as a poet, i hated the vivisection of poems, on principle. But these are not that — they are deep appreciations of poems rather than clinical dissections. I love how he reads each poem so carefully and completely, awake to the nuance, to the music, to every aspect of it. And it’s fun to listen to as well.