The Poetry of US

If you’re still look­ing for hol­i­day gifts or start-the-year-with-a-treat gifts for your home, class­room, a host present, some­thing last­ing … con­sid­er this book. 

The Poetry of USThe Poet­ry of US 
edit­ed by J. Patrick Lewis
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, 2018, 192 pages

Not every­one can trav­el to all the dots on our country’s map, but this book trans­ports us through­out Amer­i­ca with the pow­er of poet­ry, engag­ing all our sens­es. There are more than 200 poems that cel­e­brate the taste, smell, weath­er, peo­ple, col­ors, and feel­ings of our Unit­ed States.

Patrick Lewis has gath­ered thought-pro­vok­ing, inspir­ing, some­times fun­ny, always evoca­tive poems from past and present, fea­tur­ing Robert Frost and Nao­mi Shi­hab Nye, Gwen­dolyn Brooks and Vic­tor Hernán­dez Cruz, Bill Holm and Joseph Bruchac. Cur­rent poets are well-rep­re­sent­ed, giv­ing this book a time­ly presence.

Pub­lished by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, the pho­tos are as appeal­ing as the poems … togeth­er they cre­ate a book to savor and return to again and again. The design is so well done that I’ve begun to take note of which design­er is respon­si­ble for which book at Nat­Geo. Thank you, Kathryn Rob­bins, for this gem.

Help­ing read­ers, you’ll find a Table of Con­tents by loca­tion, a sub­ject index, a list of books about types of poet­ry, and a final note by Mr. Lewis that invites you to write your own poet­ry about the places you love.

To con­vince you, I’m includ­ing very brief por­tions of the poems so you will acquire this book. You will find the poems and pho­tos irresistible.

from The Poet­ry of US, copy­right J. Patrick Lewis and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, LLC, 2018, pages 62 – 63, poems by Eric Ode, “Stand­ing Out­side Grace­land” and “The Hall”

From “New York Notes” by Har­ry Shapiro (page 40)

  1. Caught on a side street
    In heavy traf­fic. I said
    To the cab­bie, I should
    have walked. He replied,
    I should have been a doctor.”

From “Asian Mar­ket” by Lin­da Sue Park (page 42), in both Eng­lish and Kore­an Hangul

Sweets in a pink and green box
with a secret. You can eat the wrapper.”

From “Ode to a Knish Shop” by Lesléa New­man (page 43)

Mrs. Stahl’s sold kasha knishes
Boy oh boy, were they delicious!”

From “El Paso’s Light” by Pat Mora (page 127), trans­lat­ed into Span­ish by Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura.

El Paso: even in the desert cold, a city of warm smiles.”

El Paso: aún en el frio del desier­to, una ciu­dad de son­risas cálidas.”

Every page turn pulls me on, find­ing the unexpected:

From “Mar­i­on Mitchell Mor­ri­son,” by John Barr (page 128)

The words he would like to be remem­bered by:
‘Feo fuerte y for­mal,’ by which the Mex­i­cans mean
‘He was ugly, strong, and had dignity.’
Even his crit­ics agreed, the man on screen,
and the man you met were one and the same John Wayne.”

from The Poet­ry of US, copy­right J. Patrick Lewis and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, LLC, 2018, pgs 18 – 19, “Whale Watch, Cape Cod,” by Stephen With­row, and “Friend­ship Cir­cle — 7:30 AM,” by Richard Michelson

Silence in North Dako­ta,” by Bill Holm (page 110), caused me to stop breath­ing. Read the entire poem, a smidgen will not have the same effect.

I res­onat­ed deeply with a read­ing of “Sacred Land” by Lau­ra Pur­die Salas (page 93). I live in Min­neso­ta and it’s about the Bound­ary Waters Canoe Area. It’s perfect.

You’ll find the poems that con­nect you to your own experiences.

This book is not only about the places, it’s about the events that con­nect the liv­ing and the dead, the peo­ple who pro­vide the col­or and the tex­ture of our surroundings.

(Do take a peek beneath the dust jack­et — what a treat!)

The book begins with this quote: “All poet­ry begins with Geog­ra­phy.” (Robert Frost).

This book emphat­i­cal­ly does.

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Laura Purdie Salas
5 years ago

What a great review. I haven’t made it to all the poems you cit­ed, yet. I’m read­ing a poem or two at a time, real­ly soak­ing each one up. I feel like I’m on a tour of my coun­try, get­ting to know the behind the scenes bits that they don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly show you on the tourist sites:>) I’m so pleased you liked “Sacred Land”! Thanks, Vicki.

David L Harrison
5 years ago

Same here, Lau­ra. I’ve enjoyed each poem and don’t want to reach the end.