Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Poetry

Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Phoenix Poets

This year, for National Poetry Month, we’re delighted to share poems from the three latest books in our Phoenix Poets series: No Sign by Peter Balakian, Proceed to Check Out by Alan Shapiro, and The Lookout Man by Stuart Dischell.

We’ll be celebrating Poetry Month over on our social media channels as well, so be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for more news from the Phoenix Poets series and from our amazing client presses. You can also shop a selection of our recent poetry titles here.

For this post, we’ve selected a poem from each of the Phoenix Poets books published this season. We hope you enjoy them!

From Peter Balakian’s No Sign


Looking up—a galaxy is
any star skidding into black.

A black hole is my love. Who knows what’s
in the next cushion of air.

What if a hole is just a Greek urn
or Serra’s paint-stick spiral?

It’s past midsummer and specks
of light are wings of giant birds;

I’ll hang my torn soul on that,

take the flash of a star,
the white line of a plane,

hear the ocean sound of words,
hum-blaring horn of wind.

When I wake in gray light:
black rocks, cardinals,

yellow lilies, cumulonimbus.
The grass is drying on me.

A deer’s eyes
burn through the pines.

From Alan Shapiro’s Proceed to Check Out


I was my own ghost
even before
I learned to depend
without affection
on affection.

An almost shape
of chalk dust
at the mercy of a
drafty bedroom
where wire hangers

when I pass them
ping so singly faint
the echoes echo
for the company.
Does it even matter

who got tired
and left this book
of me half-
read, facedown
like spread wings

frozen in mid-flight
in lamplight
on the bedside table?
This vapor of an I,
this camp tale

of a dry ice
mimicry of burning
steam is made
of marks that make
the words that shout

out all at once from all
the pages pressed
so deafeningly tight
together not a single
one of them is heard.

And you, whose touch
I needed only
to more keenly
feel just how
untouchable I am,

I’d like to think
you comprehended—
later, if not then—
that I couldn’t
make sense of you,

of being with you
till you couldn’t bear
to turn another
page and left;
that leaving was

the only sound
I could hear and
could only hear it
once the long
fade-out faded

too faint to be heard.

From Stuart Dischell’s The Lookout Man


The light is so light
I cannot feel it on my shoulders
Even though I am naked
As a sculpture in the park
Of my yard. I ask the sky,
How much does the light weigh?
Is it heavier inside or out of doors?

I hear thunder.
What is the weight of thunder
Or the sound of a voice
When its speaker is gone?
Why like the thunder
Does its meaning increase
Like the silence of a starless night
Or the last breeze of August?

What did August weigh?
Was it more than the notes from a horn
Or the memory of a linen dress
And a figure’s absence in the hall?
What is the weight of a color?
Does green cost more than red?
If I could save forever,
Would I buy a bracelet of blue?

All three books are available now on our website or from your favorite bookseller.