226 total words    

1 minutes of reading

A friend recently told me a lot of poets
don’t consider Mary Oliver a poet
Build that wall. Build that wall.
What puts a poet on the right side of an MFA
with a self-published chapbook
moldering in the basement of a Salvation Army
until it finally becomes useful as kindling?

Anyone who feels deeply, who cannot betray the raw grit of
a word for a shoehorned rhyme—anyone for whom ink is an
extension of feral spirit—anyone whose feet sink into a line
until they forget where their skin ends and begins—anyone
who rescues a person from the brink with a vision of the
shared threads between unlikely things—anyone who knows
warp needs weave, ebb needs flow, waxing needs waning,
light needs shadow, but flotsam or jetsam can float to shore
alone—anyone who hears music under the concrete, in
clouds, or in silence—anyone who writes because they don’t
know how else to scream at normal, how else to crack a
dam, how else to fling stones at giants, how else to make
sure there are no more glass houses or ceilings—these are
our poets.

May they never need a degree or a person
spilling their meet-and-greet cocktail on their nametag
to provide official confirmation and welcome to the club.
May they never doubt the breathing worlds
that pour fire through them and dance: emberglow on paper.

  • Gavin Van Horn

    Gavin Van Horn is Executive Editor for Humans & Nature Press Books. He is the author of The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds (University of Chicago Press, 2018), and co-editor of the award-winning Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations (Humans & Nature Press, 2021), Wildness: Relations of People and Place (University of Chicago Press, 2017), and City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

More Stories & Ideas

Scroll to Top