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New Places

April 11, 2013



Every year, when National Poetry Month comes around in April, I get excited about the encouragement to read and re-read poetry. It makes me happy to know there are others out there like me who look to poetry for solace. I think poems are the parents of all other writing, and they comfort me, give me refuge.

Unlike other years, this year I’m not teaching, which means I’m not reading as much poetry. But I’m determined to make room for it in my life. Reading poetry is an exercise—if you’re open to it—in mindfulness, in contemplation. It encourages us to look at the world around us and find beauty, depth, and mystery.

Still, a lot of people feel intimidated by poetry. That’s why I always liked to share poems that were simple and seemingly direct. Playful, even. They remove some of the barriers and help almost anyone enjoy. Two of the poets whose work I turn to again and again to make me smile or to make me breathless are Richard Brautigan and Lucille Clifton.



“Map Shower” 

by Richard Brautigan


I want your hair

to cover me with maps

of new places,


so everywhere I go

will be as beautiful

as your hair.


(A kooky-looking guy, no doubt, but that Richard Brautigan sure knows how to write.)




“the making of poems”

by Lucille Clifton


the reason why i do it

though i fail and fail

in the giving of true names

is i am adam and his mother

and these failures are my job.







the soul of your


all of my bones



Hope you find some time for poetry this month! Check out for a variety of great poems, interviews, audio clips…. Do I sound too much like a teacher?

Images of Lucille Clifton and Richard Brautigan via

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Burrell April 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Jana: Totally agree with your post today and love the image of ‘poetry as the parent of all other writing.’ So true. I recently took an online course on modern American poetry through Totally free and the professor (Al Filreis at UPenn) is amazing! Highly recommend it.
Also, fyi: I discovered your blog while searching for passages/ comments to quote in the Quaker Corner – in Friends’ Central’s weekly parent e-newsletter (which I edit each week). I am enjoying reading your work! Thank you.


Jana April 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Thanks, Beth! When I worked at Friends Journal, I worked a bit with Al Vernacchio when he published his article “Friends Schools and Healthy Sexuality.” Nice to “virtually” meet you. And I will check out that course!


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