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The poetry of us more than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the united st - Poems | Poetry Foundation


The Plural of Us is the first book to focus on the poet’s use of the first-person plural voice—poetry’s “we.” Closely exploring the work of W. H. Auden, Bonnie Costello uncovers the trove of thought and feeling carried in this small word. While lyric has long been associated with inwardness and a voice saying “I,” “we” has hardly been noticed, even though it has appeared throughout the history of poetry. Reading for this pronoun in its variety and ambiguity, Costello explores the communal function of poetry—the reasons, risks, and rewards of the first-person plural.

Costello adopts a taxonomic approach to her subject, considering “we” from its most constricted to its fully unbounded forms. She also takes a historical perspective, following Auden’s interest in the full range of “the human pluralities” in a time of particular pressure for and against the collective. Costello offers new readings as she tracks his changing approach to voice in democracy. Examples from many other poets—including Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens—arise throughout the book, and the final chapter offers a consideration of how contemporary writers find form for what George Oppen called “the meaning of being numerous.”

Connecting insights to philosophy of language and to recent work in concepts of community, The Plural of Us shows how poetry raises vital questions—literary and social—about how we speak of our togetherness.

Morag Styles may be the only Professor of Children’s Poetry out there. Having recently taken up her new role, here she explains why poetry for the young matters – and why it is time to stop treating it as the poor relation of the adult form.

When I received notification that I had been promoted to a personal chair, amid the rejoicing was the question – professor of what? It didn’t take me long to decide, as in personal and research terms, my first love is children’s poetry, a field I have tried to promote from every possible angle throughout my professional life.

At around 7 or 8, children enter the domain of  playground rhymes, a private club from which adults are excluded, where chants, rhymes and parodies accompany games, or are just belted out for the sheer communal pleasure of it, the ruder and more shocking, the better! Some of the same rhymes I enjoyed in Scotland of the 1950s are still around today with references to  Elvis and Marilyn replaced by Wayne Rooney and Madonna. Here’s the sort of thing:

One of America’s most beloved writers offers both the best of her work and a spiritual road map. Spanning more than 50 years and featuring more than 200 poems, this collection shows Oliver, in the early years, turning away from grief and finding in nature a “vast, incredible gift.” Over time, as she carefully observes and records, Oliver extols the beauty and complexity around her and reminds us of the interconnectedness of living things. No matter where one starts reading, “Devotions” offers much to love, from Oliver’s exuberant dog poems to selections from the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Primitive” and “Dream Work,” one of her exceptional collections.

“Don’t Call Us Dead” opens with a moving sequence in which the speaker envisions an afterlife for all of the black men and boys who have been shot and killed by police. Smith also writes about sex, desire and the HIV diagnosis that resulted after one lover came over “& then he left/but he stayed.” As this stunning collection unfolds, the speaker weaves personal sickness with societal ills, wondering “just how/ will I survive the little/ cops running inside/ my veins.” These pieces pulse with the rhythms and assertiveness one expects from poetry slams.

The title poem of “Good Bones” went viral this year because its central theme — wanting to believe in the goodness of the world for the sake of one’s children — connected with so many people. The other pieces in this collection, Smith’s third, provide a fuller understanding of the complexities faced by the speaker, who tries to teach everything a child needs for survival, while admitting, “What can I say but stay/ alive? You’re new, and there’s too much to learn.” No matter the style or subject, the writing remains honest, compassionate and graceful, and the speaker maintains her determination to “love the world like a mother.”

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The Plural of Us is the first book to focus on the poet’s use of the first-person plural voice—poetry’s “we.” Closely exploring the work of W. H. Auden, Bonnie Costello uncovers the trove of thought and feeling carried in this small word. While lyric has long been associated with inwardness and a voice saying “I,” “we” has hardly been noticed, even though it has appeared throughout the history of poetry. Reading for this pronoun in its variety and ambiguity, Costello explores the communal function of poetry—the reasons, risks, and rewards of the first-person plural.

Costello adopts a taxonomic approach to her subject, considering “we” from its most constricted to its fully unbounded forms. She also takes a historical perspective, following Auden’s interest in the full range of “the human pluralities” in a time of particular pressure for and against the collective. Costello offers new readings as she tracks his changing approach to voice in democracy. Examples from many other poets—including Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens—arise throughout the book, and the final chapter offers a consideration of how contemporary writers find form for what George Oppen called “the meaning of being numerous.”

Connecting insights to philosophy of language and to recent work in concepts of community, The Plural of Us shows how poetry raises vital questions—literary and social—about how we speak of our togetherness.

Morag Styles may be the only Professor of Children’s Poetry out there. Having recently taken up her new role, here she explains why poetry for the young matters – and why it is time to stop treating it as the poor relation of the adult form.

When I received notification that I had been promoted to a personal chair, amid the rejoicing was the question – professor of what? It didn’t take me long to decide, as in personal and research terms, my first love is children’s poetry, a field I have tried to promote from every possible angle throughout my professional life.

At around 7 or 8, children enter the domain of  playground rhymes, a private club from which adults are excluded, where chants, rhymes and parodies accompany games, or are just belted out for the sheer communal pleasure of it, the ruder and more shocking, the better! Some of the same rhymes I enjoyed in Scotland of the 1950s are still around today with references to  Elvis and Marilyn replaced by Wayne Rooney and Madonna. Here’s the sort of thing:

The Plural of Us is the first book to focus on the poet’s use of the first-person plural voice—poetry’s “we.” Closely exploring the work of W. H. Auden, Bonnie Costello uncovers the trove of thought and feeling carried in this small word. While lyric has long been associated with inwardness and a voice saying “I,” “we” has hardly been noticed, even though it has appeared throughout the history of poetry. Reading for this pronoun in its variety and ambiguity, Costello explores the communal function of poetry—the reasons, risks, and rewards of the first-person plural.

Costello adopts a taxonomic approach to her subject, considering “we” from its most constricted to its fully unbounded forms. She also takes a historical perspective, following Auden’s interest in the full range of “the human pluralities” in a time of particular pressure for and against the collective. Costello offers new readings as she tracks his changing approach to voice in democracy. Examples from many other poets—including Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens—arise throughout the book, and the final chapter offers a consideration of how contemporary writers find form for what George Oppen called “the meaning of being numerous.”

Connecting insights to philosophy of language and to recent work in concepts of community, The Plural of Us shows how poetry raises vital questions—literary and social—about how we speak of our togetherness.

Morag Styles may be the only Professor of Children’s Poetry out there. Having recently taken up her new role, here she explains why poetry for the young matters – and why it is time to stop treating it as the poor relation of the adult form.

When I received notification that I had been promoted to a personal chair, amid the rejoicing was the question – professor of what? It didn’t take me long to decide, as in personal and research terms, my first love is children’s poetry, a field I have tried to promote from every possible angle throughout my professional life.

At around 7 or 8, children enter the domain of  playground rhymes, a private club from which adults are excluded, where chants, rhymes and parodies accompany games, or are just belted out for the sheer communal pleasure of it, the ruder and more shocking, the better! Some of the same rhymes I enjoyed in Scotland of the 1950s are still around today with references to  Elvis and Marilyn replaced by Wayne Rooney and Madonna. Here’s the sort of thing:

One of America’s most beloved writers offers both the best of her work and a spiritual road map. Spanning more than 50 years and featuring more than 200 poems, this collection shows Oliver, in the early years, turning away from grief and finding in nature a “vast, incredible gift.” Over time, as she carefully observes and records, Oliver extols the beauty and complexity around her and reminds us of the interconnectedness of living things. No matter where one starts reading, “Devotions” offers much to love, from Oliver’s exuberant dog poems to selections from the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Primitive” and “Dream Work,” one of her exceptional collections.

“Don’t Call Us Dead” opens with a moving sequence in which the speaker envisions an afterlife for all of the black men and boys who have been shot and killed by police. Smith also writes about sex, desire and the HIV diagnosis that resulted after one lover came over “& then he left/but he stayed.” As this stunning collection unfolds, the speaker weaves personal sickness with societal ills, wondering “just how/ will I survive the little/ cops running inside/ my veins.” These pieces pulse with the rhythms and assertiveness one expects from poetry slams.

The title poem of “Good Bones” went viral this year because its central theme — wanting to believe in the goodness of the world for the sake of one’s children — connected with so many people. The other pieces in this collection, Smith’s third, provide a fuller understanding of the complexities faced by the speaker, who tries to teach everything a child needs for survival, while admitting, “What can I say but stay/ alive? You’re new, and there’s too much to learn.” No matter the style or subject, the writing remains honest, compassionate and graceful, and the speaker maintains her determination to “love the world like a mother.”

The Plural of Us is the first book to focus on the poet’s use of the first-person plural voice—poetry’s “we.” Closely exploring the work of W. H. Auden, Bonnie Costello uncovers the trove of thought and feeling carried in this small word. While lyric has long been associated with inwardness and a voice saying “I,” “we” has hardly been noticed, even though it has appeared throughout the history of poetry. Reading for this pronoun in its variety and ambiguity, Costello explores the communal function of poetry—the reasons, risks, and rewards of the first-person plural.

Costello adopts a taxonomic approach to her subject, considering “we” from its most constricted to its fully unbounded forms. She also takes a historical perspective, following Auden’s interest in the full range of “the human pluralities” in a time of particular pressure for and against the collective. Costello offers new readings as she tracks his changing approach to voice in democracy. Examples from many other poets—including Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens—arise throughout the book, and the final chapter offers a consideration of how contemporary writers find form for what George Oppen called “the meaning of being numerous.”

Connecting insights to philosophy of language and to recent work in concepts of community, The Plural of Us shows how poetry raises vital questions—literary and social—about how we speak of our togetherness.