Do you follow Sally Thomas on Facebook? She’s a serious poet who posts the most delicious poetic links. Yesterday I followed her suggestion to a piece by C.M. Burroughs called “How to Make a Poem.” For me, the best part of the essay were the poems she linked to–Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Hayden.
When I clicked through to read the Hayden poem, my response was visceral. I was back on the #12 Sandy bus turning south from Burnside on to 5th, reading this poem as a part of the Poetry in Motion series more than 15 years ago. It’s a stunning narrative poem that hits complex emotional notes. There’s longing and regret, gratitude alongside fear.
I wondered if in the vaults of the internet there would be some way to trace that collection of poems on buses. Low and behold, Poetry in Motion has collected the poems that ran in each city. Here’s Portland’s collection. Louise Erdrich. Tess Gallagher. Jane Hirshfield. William Stafford (never cared for this poem, would feel disappointed when I got on a Stafford bus. Spoiled). Makes me want to read the collections from Boston or Fresno or Salt Lake City.
Riding the bus from the Hollywood district downtown to school and later on out to work, spending long hours on the bus reading and writing. This was formative work for me.