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LYNNE THOMPSON: Hello! My name is Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles and I’m so happy to welcome listeners to this installment of Poems on Air, a podcast supported by the Los Angeles Public Library. Every week, I’ll present the work of poets I admire, poets who you should know, and poets who have made a substantial and inimitable contribution to the art and craft of poetry.
LYNNE THOMPSON: Avid readers of poetry are likely familiar with Nicole Sealy’s—a much admired poet in her own right—challenge that readers “read books by marginalized voices and buy their books from local independent bookstores”. In support of this challenge, and for the next two episodes, I’ll be highlighting two of these voices. First up, Lauren Russell, who served as the assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall of 2020, she joined the faculty of Michigan State University as an assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Russell describes herself as a poet as well as a write run hybrid forms. Her most recent poetry collection is Descent.
LYNNE THOMPSON: Today’s poem is "Peggy/ An Inventory" by Lauren Russell.
Peggy/ An Inventory
She has a recipe for cornbread and one for curing hog cholera and another for keeping quiet and another for children born too close together. She has a cast iron skillet and a pale blue bandanna and a steel thimble she slips over her finger when she works up a quilt, a shirt, a song. She has a wash pot and a boiling stick and a fear of haunts and a way of looking twice over her shoulder. She has an apron she rips into rages in one smooth motion and a song for every kind of weather but days when the sun will not shine out. She has a butcher knife and a paring knife, a knife for extracting chiggers, a knife for scraping hogs, and a knife she hides under her bed before births to soften the pain. She has a deep belly groan like the HE&WT Railway grinding toward Houston, and even her lullabies crack like kindling. No one will own to hearing her cry, but her laugh is the crash of breaking glass—sharp, high, and exactingly brief.
LYNNE THOMPSON: The Los Angeles Poet Laureate was created as a joint program between the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Public Library and this podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!
- Back to Poems on Air: Episode 73
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