American Life in Poetry: Column 176


Hearts and flowers, that’s how some people dismiss poetry, suggesting that’s all there is to it, just a bunch of sappy poets weeping over love and beauty. Well, poetry is lots more than that. At times it’s a means of honoring the simple things about us. To illustrate the care with which one poet observes a flower, here’s Frank Steele, of Kentucky, paying such close attention to a sunflower that he almost gets inside it.


You’re expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up. I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks up there to the dream she keeps lifting, where it’s noon all day.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2001 by Frank Steele. Reprinted from “Singing into That Fresh Light,” co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed., Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001, by permission of Frank Steele. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


~ by ericedits on August 7, 2008.

One Response to “American Life in Poetry: Column 176”

  1. i completely agree! poetry gives us a medium to transcend ourselves, and to also delve deeper into the essence of things like no other medium can.

    though one thing i’ve noticed that while poets and poetry seem to be pushed aside, misunderstood or discounted in our modern (illiterate – people just don’t read as much) age, the medium of the internet has allowed a sort of explosion to develop for those that value this type of expression. it will surface again i think…it’s just a matter of time. it’s such an essential historic medium of expression for humanity that it will again rise to a greater sense of prominence.


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