Following the Light: The End of National Poetry Month

“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.” — Robert Hass, “Faint Music”

In the morning, my man and I work in the kitchen. He writes about horse racing and I work on freelance projects for magazines. We make coffee and occasionally stare out the window trying to catch searched-for words, or comment on the sheer frenzy the small cardinal in the cherry tree seems to be working itself into. Then, in the afternoons we move to our own offices and work alone for the rest of the day. This is the concentrated work, usually the fiction or poetry work that requires me to read out loud to myself (my own frenzied cardinal moments). After a few weeks of this routine, I realized that we were simply following the light. Once the morning sun had moved to its afternoon place, we followed it to our afternoon rooms. I liked the idea of following the light, the turn of the world instructing our various locations.

For me, writing poetry is like that. Following the thread. The simple movement of the world, the continued tilt, the clink of sun shepherding me around. As we end National Poetry Month, I wish everyone a steady following of the light wherever it may be and wherever it may lead (even if it delivers, eventually, the necessary encounters with the dark).

After a week of rain and tornado warnings, the sun is back in the kitchen. I’ve been reading some of my favorite big-ticket poems lately (my own top twenty hits of all time). I like to think that returning to my favorite poems is like listening to great classic rock on the car's radio when the good weather returns. I encourage this kind of behavior. Turn up your radio poems. Play them all spring and summer and rock out by the river. Sing along. Loud.

Then, when you get a little quiet time, push your singular self into the big, wild, sun-filled place of the brain, make a lot of unusual noises, and trust the world’s weird wheel. I'll try and do the same.

Originally Published: April 30th, 2011

Ada Limón is the author of Lucky Wreck (2006), This Big Fake World (2006), Sharks in the Rivers (2010), and Bright Dead Things (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. She earned an MFA from New York University, and is the recipient of...