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Poetically Yours Ep. 85 - Finding solace during hard times

Welcome to Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s segment highlights Susan Azar Porterfield.

Porterfield has three books of poetry—In the Garden of Our Spines, Kibbe (Mayapple Press) and Dirt, Root, Silk, which won the Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize. Individual poems have appeared in The Georgia Review (finalist, Loraine Williams poetry prize), Barrow Street, Mid-American Review, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Rhino, Puerto del Sol, Poetry Ireland Review, Slipstream, Room, Ambit, and elsewhere. She’s the editor of Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk (Ohio UP) and has written on poetical subjects for Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Translation Review, The Midwest Journal of the Modern Language Association. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry and a Fulbright grant to Lebanon. Here’s a brief note by Porterfield, explaining the inspiration behind her poem.

In Time and pandemic, one of the things I think we long for is normalcy. And we have come to understand even more how luminous normalcy can be. The poem I'm going to read is a celebration of just the loveliness of lying in your own bed in your own house. Next to someone you love, whether you're young lovers or you've been married a million years, just how glorious it is to have that kind of intimacy and regularity.

The poem I'm reading is called “Anonymous,” and it's based on -- or take off of a poem. That is a medieval poem. Only four lines long. It is written by somebody called Anonymous, we don't really know who wrote it. It's very famous poem, and it's called “Western Wind.”

Western wind, oh, Western wind, w
when will Val blow the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
and I in my band again?

"And I think in that poem, you see, such longing, such longing for home and love," Porterfield said.

Here’s Porterfield’s poem “ Anonymous.”

What if, after the crying and banging doors,

sirens, and tubes threaded down the throat

or wormed along the veins, crevices given up

to hands that do not love you, after

the ice of steel, tug of latex, Lysolized sheets

and light tight as swaddling, what if,

suddenly, thank-you Christ,

you’re in bed and there’s your lover,

and here’s the dog, and the house is humming in that 3:00 a.m. oh,

you know way that unbuckles your brain,

and your blankets bless your sinking, and outside you hear

it’s raining, it’s raining a small rain down.

Here’s Porterfield’s poem “ Anonymous.”

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.