“Lucille Clifton’s ‘blessing the boats’ is a brief, beautiful poem that always sets me free. It takes me on a journey both beyond and into myself. Full of love ‘in the face of fear,’ its simple structure contains a profound expression of the hope that sustains and ultimately can deliver us to a place of safety and peace.”—M. Wilson.
In this time of uncertainty and great concern, many people are turning to poems to seek words of wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that prompts reflection and centers us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In response to this need and to help our readers stay connected in the weeks ahead, the Academy of American Poets invites the public to join in a new initiative called Shelter in Poems.
To participate, select a poem that gives you hope from the Poets.org collection and post a sentence or two about why the poem inspires you on social media with the hashtag #ShelterinPoems.
Beginning next week, the Academy will consider responses and gather the poems and testimonials in a special newsletter and sharing it online each week. The Academy will not be able to use all submissions and will edit for house style and length.
If you are moved to record a one minute video of yourself offering the name of the poem and your statement, the Academy will also be selecting videos to share.
We also encourage you to join Shelter in Poems by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s leading champion of poets and poetry with members in all fifty states. Founded in 1934, the organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; Teach This Poem and other award-winning resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. In addition, the Academy of American Poets coordinates a national Poetry Coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. This year the organization has awarded more funds to poets than any other organization, giving a total of $1,250,000 to poets at various stages of their careers.
Poems to Take Shelter In
Here is a selection of poems that were chosen from Poets.org by our readers for you to take shelter in:
“Kentucky River Junction” by Wendell Berry
“Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove
“Given to Rust” by Vievee Francis
“Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo
“On the Fifth Day” by Jane Hirshfield
“Variation on a Theme” by W. S. Merwin
“I used to be a roller coaster girl” by jessica Care moore
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W. B. Yeats
“In Naomi Shihab Nye’s ‘Kindness,’ I recognize that showing up for each other—to see and feel and empathize with both the difficult and the beautiful—is the crux of this thing. As part of the recovery community, I’ve learned how important it is to live each moment, one day at a time, not only for myself but for the greater community. Although it’s easy today to feel overwhelmed by anxiety and suffering, reaching towards others is always a worthwhile endeavor.”—S. M., Switzerland.
“Emma Lazarus’s ‘The New Colossus’ actually changed the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, which originally had nothing to do with immigration. The poem redefines America as a ‘nation of immigrants,’ and allows us to think of ourselves as great not because we are warriors, but because we are generous and welcoming. This was its meaning when my grandparents came here at the turn of the twentieth century, and it is still the meaning for many millions of Americans.”
—Alicia Ostriker, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
“‘Women’s voting rights at one hundred (but who’s counting?)’ by Evie Shockley serves as a reminder of the necessity to wake up and take action—even when COVID-19 is looming all around us. Even when it seems like our purpose in life is significantly declining amidst this sheltering in, the one thing we can do is make sure we never lose sight of what needs to be done in order to guarantee a safe future for everyone.” —Leslie R. G.
“I return to ‘The Layers’ by Stanley Kunitz at times of sadness and grief. He reminds me once again to embrace my losses, to understand that they are as much a part of me as my triumphs.”—Lee R.
“Jon Davis’s ‘Gratitude’ is a poem which understands bitterness, failure, loss, and defeat. How do we take shelter if not under the umbrella of gratitude?” —Jim M.