Dana Gioia calls the Poetry Crisis Line

Happy Thanksgiving!

From “Poem 048: Thanks for Remembering Us” by Dana Gioia

KIM (counselor): Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
DANA GIOIA (caller): The flowers sent here by mistake, Signed with a name that no one knew, Are turning bad. What shall we do?
KIM: Have you tried plant food?
GIOIA: Our neighbor says they’re not for her
KIM: Not for her—for the flowers. What about cutting the stems?
GIOIA: And no one has a birthday near.
KIM: You don’t need an occasion to get a trim.
GIOIA: We should thank someone for the blunder.
KIM: If you want to.
GIOIA: Is one of us having an affair?
KIM: I couldn’t answer that if I knew.
GIOIA: At first we laugh—and then we wonder.
KIM: Confidentiality, you understand.

Diane di Prima calls the Poetry Crisis Line

Rest in peace, Diane di Prima (1934-2020), who passed while we were distracted by the election.

NEF (counselor): Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
DIANE DI PRIMA (caller): My friend wears my scarf at his waist.
NEF: Is your neck cold?
DI PRIMA: I give him moonstones.
NEF: Did he give your scarf back?
DI PRIMA: He gives me shell & seaweeds.
NEF: That’s no good. If they’re dry enough to keep you warm, they’ll be too brittle to wear.

Read “An Exercise in Love” by Diane di Prima here.

If all poems were limericks: “The Pope’s Penis” by Sharon Olds

If all poems were limericks:
“The Pope’s Penis” by Sharon Olds

It hangs in his vestments so well
like a clapper inside of a bell.
It goes where he guides,
and at night, like the tides,
it stands up in praise, which is swell.

Read the original here.

Happy 78th birthday to Sharon Olds!

[Note that the choice of material for today’s post has nothing to do with this recent news story.]

Chinua Achebe calls the Literary Fiction Crisis Line


Happy birthday to Chinua Achebe, who would have been 90 years old today.

COUNSELOR: Literary Fiction Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CHINUA ACHEBE (caller): An Umiofa man does not refuse a call.
COUNSELOR: Neither do I.
ACHEBE: He may refuse to do what is asked
COUNSELOR: Why? What are you going to ask me?
ACHEBE: But he does not refuse to be asked.
COUNSELOR: If it’s bad, you may not get to ask me twice.
ACHEBE: But the times have changed, and we must be fully prepared.
COUNSELOR: Wait–you think that’s why the polls were off? People refusing to be asked?


Emily Dickinson calls the Poetry Crisis Line

ROSIE (counselor): Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
EMILY (caller): Hope is the thing with feathers.
ROSIE: That’s a lovely name. What kind of bird is Hope?
EMILY: That perches in the soul
ROSIE: In the solarium? That sounds nice.
EMILY: That sings the song without the words
ROSIE: Is she a breed that can learn to talk?
EMILY: And never stops at all.
ROSIE: Have you tried putting a blanket over her cage at night?

The Poetry Crisis Line’s presidential endorsement


Because of the gravity of the current election, the Poetry Crisis Line is taking the unprecedented step of endorsing a presidential candidate for the first time in our three-year history.




The Poetry Crisis Line endorses Joe Biden, who knows firsthand the therapeutic value of poetry, yet who understands that words alone cannot replace a health care plan. We also appreciate Mr. Biden’s positions on climate change, biodiversity loss, and preserving our democratic institutions, so that we will continue to have a country to write poetry in and a planet to read it on. These plans may not be enough on their own, but they give us a beginning on which we can build. And his economic plans will support a strong economy and a stronger middle class. Of course, poets aren’t expected to understand economics, but we seem to understand it better than the current president.

Mr. Biden’s opponent has staked out positions on a range of issues, including bullying, corruption, police brutality, sexual assault, child abuse, global warming, dictators, and the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, these positions always seems to be in favor.

Some say he only seems to take this position because of biased coverage, since the criticism comes from left-wing figures like…uh… John Bolton, and establishment media darlings like…um…Noam Chomsky. In reply, the Poetry Crisis Line must acknowledge that we, too, are biased against bullying, corruption, police brutality, sexual assault, child abuse, global warming, dictators, and the spread of COVID-19—and we hope you are too.

By contrast, Biden is a relatable protagonist—seasoned, familiar with loss and grief, with a long road ahead. There is still room for character growth, and some outcomes are still unknown—yet after the past four years, we hope the audience understands that democracy is an interactive performance, and depends on all of us doing our part, at elections and in between. And in an interactive performance, it will be good to have a protagonist who listens, for a change.


Poe to You

Poe to You

Why do birds tap upon my door
And declare “Nevermore”?
Just like me, they long to read
Poe to you.

Why do bells never seem to cease?
I can’t get any peace.
Just like me, they want to read
Poe to you.

In the cellar there’s a cask
Of aged amontillado; I
Invited you to come and have a drink,
Then I bricked you up inside the wall
and then installed a toilet and a sink.

Aaah, aaaaaah, poe to you,
Aaaaaaah, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah! poe to you.

Now your heart beats beneath the floor—
I can hear through the boards.
Just like me, it longs to read
Poe to you.

Aaaaaaaaah! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!
Poe to you.

A summary of the final 2020 Presidential Debate

Yeah, we may be kind of political for the next couple of weeks.

CHRIS WALLACE: You will meet two men. One always lies. One sort of tells the truth. I can’t tell you which is which because I work for Fox.
KRISTEN WELKER: [to Wallace] I got this. [to candidates]: Who would your opponent tell me to vote for?
WALLACE: I told you they were inscrutable.
WELKER: [serious side-eye]
TRUMP [internal monologue]: Nailed it!