Say Yes to generous offers

The Friday Photo
February 26, 2016

What happens when you say yes to generous offers?
Two friends contributed their talents to make a gift I wanted to send to two poets who inspire creativity in communities across our country.

This is the year I learn to say Yes to generous offers.

Nikki Haley has no time for poetry

Newly inaugurated South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley didn’t have time for two minutes of poetry written for her second swearing-in yesterday. Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina’s poetry laureate, has written poems for the last three gubernatorial inaugurations. This year Haley decided that two minutes couldn’t be spared for an original poem written by Wentworth.

Marjory Wentworth
Marjory Wentworth

In the past, according to NPR, Wentworth chose themes of nature and animals for previous ceremonies. For Haley’s second ceremony Ms Wentworth penned a poem focused on elements of South Carolina’s history, including its ports where slaves were shipped in for sale. And where the Confederate flag still flies next to the state’s flag at the state capital.

Wentworth is invited to read her poem at a ceremony organized by the state’s NAACP chapter on Martin Luther King, Jr Day next Monday, which she will do. In the meantime, U. S. Rep James Clyburn, who represents South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, read the poem yesterday from the floor of the House of Representatives. Wentworth’s poem is included in NPR’s coverage.


April is National Poetry Month. Rural and Progressive is posting favorite poems shared by writers and poets. Today’s was contributed by writer and artist Patti Digh.


Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995

Patti b&w
I studied English and Art History in graduate school, specifically the interplay between art (spatial, instantaneous form) and literature (linear, temporal form). So I thought to share a series of poems written about one painting, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” to show how spatial forms are translated differently by various writers into written form.
And then I realized I was letting my head lead. I decided to let my heart lead instead, and chose this poem about kindness.

I have known for some time what I want on my tombstone: “She was kind and generous.” This poem about kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye was the first poem I ever read by her. My friend, Catherine Faherty, pointed me to it years ago and it resonated deeply with me. Naomi is a songwriter as well as a poet, Catherine told me.

When Catherine’s friend, Mary Ann, was dying of cancer just a year after Mary Ann’s 20-year-old daughter, Meta, had died in a car wreck, Catherine called Naomi Shihab Nye. She told her that when Meta was a baby, Mary Ann had sung songs by Naomi to her. She asked if Naomi would sing some of those songs to Mary Ann on the phone as she prepared to die and be with her daughter again.

And so, the poet sang to a dying woman she had never met.

The size of the cloth of sorrow is so huge, and only kindness makes any sense anymore.

Patti Digh is the author of “Life is a Verb” and “The Geography of Loss,” along with 5 other books. She lives near Asheville NC with her family.


The Useless Machine and why poetry won’t make your day easier

Last year on National Poem in Your Pocket Day I wanted to be well prepared, so I asked my friend Dennis Kirschbaum for a suggestion. He sent me a beautiful tribute to coffee.

Today Dennis’s work is featured on Laura Shovan’s blog Author Amok. As always, Dennis packs big ideas into a small space. I laughed out loud more than once. You will too.


Rural and Progressive

Disclaimer: Rural and Progressive is a self-published website. Any contributions supporting the research, web platform, or other work required for the owner and any invited guest contributors, is not tax deductible. Rural and Progressive is not operating as a nonprofit entity.