National Poetry Month is almost over, but that doesn't mean you've run out of time to enjoy some great poems this April. Seven stellar poets will be reading their original work on Bustle's Instagram in honor of this annual celebration of poetry. You can read all seven poems below, as well as check out Bustle's IGTV to watch their videos for yourself.
The poets Bustle's partnered with all bring different styles and points of view to the genre. Rupi Kaur is beloved for her short, visual and highly-Instagrammable poetry. Poet Catherine Cohen is also known as a comedian, podcaster, and voice actor, much like Jamila Woods, who rose to prominence for her music. Another participant, Jenny Zhang, wrote the award-winning short-story collection Sour Heart, and her next book, My Baby First Birthday, is out in May. Contributor Olivia Gatwood is the author of two poetry collections and will make her fiction debut with Whoever You Are, Honey in 2022. Lang Leav is the bestselling poet behind Love & Misadventure, Lullabies, and The Universe of Us. Finally, Nate Marshall co-curates Haymarket Books' BreakBeat Poets series, and his latest book, Finna, is out later this year.
"poem I wrote after I made you tell me I was sexy four times today" by Catherine Cohen
I’m finding quarantine to be an amazing time to revert to the basest, most vile
version of myself I’ve worked years to outgrow
I’m reading a book about the guy who discovered the color “mauve”
and googling vintage wallpaper don’t tell me what day it is
I’ve never been patient I don’t know how to “let something go”
people love encouraging self-care until it’s inconvenient for them
everyone on twitter is upset and that’s the point
one time I had a trainer who was like instead of having 4 drinks in one night
you should have 4 drinks in one week and I was like yeah
that’s definitely an amazing idea
boys love getting haircuts
boys love analogies
boys love arguing and calling it philosophy
this guy who wronged me just liked my comment on our mutual friend’s Instagram I’m almost 30
Cat Cohen is the co-host of Seek Treatment with Cat & Pat, available wherever you listen to podcasts.
"Sonnet for the Clove of Garlic Inside Me" by Olivia Gatwood
Yesterday I groveled in the bathroom,
broke a nail against my denim crotch,
squirmed in line, twisted knees at the grocery store,
dug up a buck to buy a bulb of you,
come evening you were in my bathroom, then
skinned knuckle caught in the quarter machine
plucked, peeled, and wedged into my copper mine
you small burn, you small baker, kneading bread
in a dark, damp room, working overtime.
Sam says, The taste will work its way to your mouth
by morning, and that's how you know it worked,
and when I fish you out with my whole hand
you take the thick poison with you, martyr
lily, saint of soil, sear me clean again.
Olivia Gatwood's Life of the Party is available now.
"self-love" by Rupi Kaur
i went for my words
the i can'ts. the i won'ts. the i'm not good enoughs.
i lined them up and shot them dead
then i went for my thoughts
invisible and everywhere
there was no time to gather them one by one
i had to wash them out
i wove a linen cloth out of my hair
soaked it in a bowl of mint and lemon water
carried it in my mouth as i climbed
up my braid to the back of my head
down on my knees i began to wipe my mind clean
it took twenty-one days
my knees bruised but
i did not care
i was not given the breath
in my lungs to choke it out
i would scrub the self-hate off the bone
till it exposed love
Rupi Kaur's the sun and her flowers is available now.
"aubade for the whole hood" by Nate Marshall
today i offer my self
all the small kindnesses.
i’m out here
with breath in my body
though it may be stank
& body in my control
though it may be too soft
or too large or not enough.
today i offer the whole crib
a jam we ain’t heard in a minute
& permission to turn the news down
& move a hip like a suggestion
to a lover.
on this day i declare the pockmarked
street i grew up on a miracle.
i declare the bills, even the overdue
ones, a blessing. who knew
that we would still be here
to see these injustices. how can we measure
the disrespect of lack against that precious surprise?
today i tell myself truths
other than the one that makes me low,
i give myself the gift of a joke with the homies.
today i stay woke
to all the terror
but also to my favorite food
or my favorite place
or my best hope for our people
& i work to make all
my best lives possible.
Nate Marshall's Finna is out on Aug. 11 and is available for pre-order today.
"bad day" by Jenny Zhang
i cut my hair
then paid again
to cut more hairs
then paid more
to cut again
then again i paid
again i cut
i cut and paid and cut and paid
still so ugly
I cud die
it's not fair
ppl who are already loved
are the best candidates
for more love
while ppl in mortal danger
try to dodge
all the saviors
who wanna make heroes
out of our peril
Jenny Zhang's My Baby First Birthday is out on May 12 and is available for pre-order today.
"You Had Me Once" by Lang Leav
You had me once—
wild and willing;
you wanted a lover
who took you to the edge.
Wasn't it I—
who gave you that feeling?
A love that danced
upon a ledge.
Then came another
who offered you safety—
and you chose to be
with her instead.
Lang Leav's Love Looks Pretty On You is available now.
"Blk Girl Art" by Jamila Woods
after Amiri Baraka
Poems are bullshit unless they are eyeglasses, honey
tea with lemon, hot water bottles on tummies. I want
poems my grandma wants to tell the ladies at church
about. I want orange potato words soaking in the pot
til their skins fall off, words you burn your tongue on,
words on sale two for one, words that keep my feet dry.
I want to hold a poem in my fist in the alley just in case.
I want a poem for dude at the bus stop. Oh you can’t talk
ma? Words to make the body inside my body less invisible.
Words to teach my sister how to brew remedies in her mouth.
Words that grow mama’s hair back. Words to detangle the kitchen.
I won’t write poems unless they are an instruction manual, a bus
card, warm shea butter on elbows, water, a finger massage to the scalp,
a broomstick sometimes used for cleaning and sometimes
Jamila Woods' album "Legacy! Legacy!" is available now.