April is National Poetry Month, but how do we celebrate, as we continue to deal with the trauma of COVID-19? Harryette Mullen, who teaches poetry and literature in the UCLA Department of English, faces her feelings of loss during the pandemic by expressing gratitude for the small things. Mullen says she has been inspired by poet Carolyn Forché, who considers gratitude to be “the greatest healer.”
Here, Mullen shares a new poem, written for this moment in time.
fresh clean sheets, line dried in sunshine
gray cat with white stockings diverting a butterfly
weeds in my lawn, dandelions I could eat if I were hungry
grit and pebbles caught in the treads of my sneakers
spare lightbulb when the room goes dark
a pen that works, ink spent to make thoughts visible
faces of gentle strangers I may never meet
UCLA has a strong tradition of published verse, including alumni who have been named U.S. Poets Laureate. Pulitzer Prize winner Kay Ryan ’67, M.A. ’68 became the 16th U.S. Poet Laureate in 2008. When Juan Felipe Herrera ’72 was appointed in 2015, he was the first Latino to hold the post.
To celebrate National Poetry Month, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance has been posting a poem a day from the CAP UCLA Poetry Bureau Archives. Some poems explore spring, birds and animals; others are about quarantine, relationships and crème brûlée. By the end of April, all 30 poems will be available for download on the CAP site.
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s July 2021 issue.