Poetry: ‘News reach of the women dead in them sleep’

I studied with Shara McCallum in the MFA poetry program at the University of Southern Maine. Her new book This Strange Land has just been published and includes her series of “Miss Sally” poems in Jamaican dialect. Based loosely on conversations with her grandmother, McCallum’s poetry here is stunning and clear.

Miss Sally on the Grandmother Fires
by Shara McCallum

Hear what I tell yu: God promised Noah,
No more water. The fire next time.
That evening, mi sit down on the verandah
teking in a lickle fresh air when news reach
of the women dead in them sleep.
Lickle by lickle, the rest of the storey come out:
two young boys acting like men, like God himself.
153 dead—and fi what? Fi win election?

Mi dear, in all mi years I never imagine
is so low we would stoop.
For a people who know
what it is to be the lamb,
how we go lead our own
to slaughter?

Shara McCallum is the author of This Strange Land, just out from Alice James Press. Her two previous collections of poetry are Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003) and The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press). Born of Afro-Jamaican and Venezuelan parents in Kingston, Jamaica, she lives with her husband and two young daughters in central Pennsylvania, where she directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at Bucknell University.

Poem: Annie Finch’s Summer Solstice Chant

I studied with Annie Finch at the Stonecoast MFA creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine. She’s now the director.

Tupelo Press has just released a CD of Annie reading all of the poems in her 2003 collection titled Calendars, with musical interludes played on Celtic harp with Anglo-Saxon tunings by Mac Ritchey of the ensemble 35th Parallel. Here’s an appropriate selection:

Summer Solstice Chant
June 21

by Annie Finch

The sun, rich and open,
stretches and pours on the bloom of our work.

In the center of the new flowers,
a darker wing of flower

points you like a fire.

Point your fire like a flower.

From Calendars by Annie Finch (Tupelo Press).