Thursday, December 29, 2022

For Forest Poem by Grace Nichols


For Forest Poem 
Grace Nichols

Forest could keep secrets
Forest could keep secrets

Forest tune in every day
to watersound and birdsound
Forest letting her hair down
to the teeming creeping of her forest-ground

But Forest don't broadcast her business
no Forest cover her business down
from sky and fast-eye sun
and when night come
and darkness wrap her like a gown
Forest is a bad dream woman

Forest dreaming about mountain
and when earth was young
Forest dreaming of the caress of gold
Forest roosting with mysterious eldorado
and when howler monkey
wake her up with howl
Forest just stretch and stir
to a new day of sound

but coming back to secrets
Forest could keep secrets
Forest could keep secrets
And we must keep Forest

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Like a Beacon Poem by Grace Nichols

Like a Beacon Poem
by Grace Nichols

In London
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother's food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
saltfish/sweet potatoes

I need this link

I need this touch
of home
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Cat-rap Poem by Grace Nichols


Cat-rap Poem
by Grace Nichols

Lying on the sofa
all curled and meek
but in my furry-fuzzy head
there's a rapping beat.
Gonna rap while I'm napping
and looking sweet
gonna rap while I'm padding
on the balls of my feet

Gonna rap on my head
gonna rap on my tail
gonna rap on my
you know where.
So wave your paws in the air
like you just don't care
with nine lives to spare
gimme five right here.

Well, they say that we cats
are killed by curiosity,

but does the moggie mind?
No, I've got suavity.
When I get to heaven
gonna rap with Macavity,
gonna find his hidden paw
and clear up that mystery.

Nap it up
scratch it up
the knack is free
fur it up
purr it up
yes that's me.

The meanest cat-rapper you'll ever see.
Number one of the street-sound galaxy.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Biographies / Grace Nichols


Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols is a poet whose work has been central to our understanding of the important cultural Caribbean-British connection for nearly 3 decades. From her first collection, I Is a Long Memoried Woman (1983), to her more recent work such as Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009), she has uncovered with a disquieting lyricism and humour the various facets of life as a woman and as an immigrant living in the UK.

Nichols was born in Guyana in 1950, and moved to live in the UK in 1977. Her work is influenced by the history and culture of her homeland, in particular the oral story-telling tradition with its fantastic folk tales, the landscape and its rural tasks and the history of enslavement (particularly relating to women). ‘To My Coral Bones’ from Startling the Flying Fish (2006) explores the importance of Nichols’ Caribbean heritage, suggesting she has ‘alwayscarried deepthese islands’.

On arrival in the UK, Nichols’ work began to respond to the contemporary situation. She was one of a number of West-Indian poets, including Linton Kwesi-Johnson and John Agard, whose work also touched on racial tensions at a time when immigration was at the centre of the political debates under Margaret Thatcher’s government. Poems from her 1984 collection The Fat Black Woman’s Poems are an arresting and humourous riposte, presenting the unfettered thoughts of the heroine in the bath or at the shops. A later poem, ‘Hurricane Hits England’, expresses the connection between cultures, when a hurricane reminds her that ‘the earth is the earth is the earth’.

Her poetry is characterized not just by the themes above, but by an acute attention to the language which carries the poems. Her work marries the Creole of her homeland with standard English, creating new possibilities for rhythm and rhyme. As such, while reading her poetry on the page offers fascinating insights to the potential for linguistic hybridity, it is when spoken aloud that her techniques sing most powerfully.

In her reading for the Archive, Nichols’ voice brings the poems to life, giving free reign to the infectious lyrical sweep of her verse. For example, in ‘Praise Song for My Mother’ (which is on the current GCSE syllabus), there is a true harmony in the blend of the vibrant imagery, ‘the fish’s red gill’ and ‘the flame tree’s spread’, the haunting recollection of the past tense ‘You were’, and the forward movement of the repeated stanza structure and end-rhymes.

Her poetry for children is characterized by the same rhythms as her other poetry, although the subjects are designed to appeal to a younger audience. ‘Cat-Rap’, included here, proves that Nichols herself is ‘The meanest cat-rapper you’ll ever seeNumber one of the street-sound galaxy’.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Hurricane Hits England by Grace Nichols

Hurricane Hits England 

by Grace Nichols

It took a hurricane, to bring her closer
To the landscape.
Half the night she lay awake,
The howling ship of the wind,
Its gathering rage,
Like some dark ancestral spectre.
Fearful and reassuring.

Talk to me Huracan
Talk to me Oya
Talk to me Shango
And Hattie,
My sweeping, back-home cousin.

Tell me why you visit
An English coast?
What is the meaning
Of old tongues
Reaping havoc
In new places?

The blinding illumination,
Even as you short-
Circuit us
Into further darkness?

What is the meaning of trees
Falling heavy as whales
Their crusted roots
Their cratered graves?

O why is my heart unchained?

Tropical Oya of the Weather,
I am aligning myself to you,
I am following the movement of your winds,
I am riding the mystery of your storm.

Ah, sweet mystery,
Come to break the frozen lake in me,
Shaking the foundations of the very trees within me,
Come to let me know
That the earth is the earth is the earth.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Epitaph on a Hare by William Cowper


Epitaph on a Hare

Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue,
    Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne’er tainted morning dew,
    Nor ear heard huntsman’s hallo’,

Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
    Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domesticate bounds confined,
    Was still a wild jack-hare.

Though duly from my hand he took
    His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
    And, when he could, would bite.

His diet was of wheaten bread,
    And milk, and oats, and straw,
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
    With sand to scour his maw.

On twigs of hawthorn he regaled,
    On pippins’ russet peel;
And, when his juicy salads failed,
    Sliced carrot pleased him well.

A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
    Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
    And swing his rump around.

His frisking was at evening hours,
    For then he lost his fear;
But most before approaching showers,
    Or when a storm drew near.

Eight years and five round-rolling moons
    He thus saw steal away,
Dozing out all his idle noons,
    And every night at play.

I kept him for his humor’s sake,
    For he would oft beguile
My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
    And force me to a smile.

But now, beneath this walnut-shade
    He finds his long, last home,
And waits in snug concealment laid,
    Till gentler Puss shall come.

He, still more agèd, feels the shocks
    From which no care can save,
And, partner once of Tiney’s box,
    Must soon partake his grave.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Alexander Pope / Epistle to Miss Blount, On Her Leaving the Town, After the Coronation


Epistle to Miss Blount, On Her Leaving the Town, After the Coronation

As some fond virgin, whom her mother’s care
Drags from the town to wholesome country air,
Just when she learns to roll a melting eye,
And hear a spark, yet think no danger nigh;
From the dear man unwillingly she must sever,
Yet takes one kiss before she parts for ever:
Thus from the world fair Zephalinda flew,
Saw others happy, and with sighs withdrew;
Not that their pleasures caused her discontent,
She sighed not that They stayed, but that She went.
She went, to plain-work, and to purling brooks,
Old-fashioned halls, dull aunts, and croaking rooks,
She went from Opera, park, assembly, play,
To morning walks, and prayers three hours a day;
To pass her time ‘twixt reading and Bohea,
To muse, and spill her solitary tea,
Or o’er cold coffee trifle with the spoon,
Count the slow clock, and dine exact at noon;
Divert her eyes with pictures in the fire,
Hum half a tune, tell stories to the squire;
Up to her godly garret after seven,
There starve and pray, for that’s the way to heaven.
Some Squire, perhaps, you take a delight to rack;
Whose game is Whisk, whose treat a toast in sack,
Who visits with a gun, presents you birds,
Then gives a smacking buss, and cries – No words!
Or with his hound comes hollowing from the stable,
Makes love with nods, and knees beneath a table;
Whose laughs are hearty, tho’ his jests are coarse,
And loves you best of all things – but his horse.
In some fair evening, on your elbow laid,
Your dream of triumphs in the rural shade;
In pensive thought recall the fancied scene,
See Coronations rise on every green;
Before you pass th’ imaginary sights
Of Lords, and Earls, and Dukes, and gartered Knights;
While the spread fan o’ershades your closing eyes;
Then give one flirt, and all the vision flies.
Thus vanish scepters, coronets, and balls,
And leave you in lone woods, or empty walls.
So when your slave, at some dear, idle time,
(Not plagued with headaches, or the want of rhyme)
Stands in the streets, abstracted from the crew,
And while he seems to study, thinks of you:
Just when his fancy points your sprightly eyes,
Or sees the blush of soft Parthenia rise,
Gay pats my shoulder, and you vanish quite;
Streets, chairs, and coxcombs rush upon my sight;
Vexed to be still in town, I knit my brow,
Look sour, and hum a tune – as you may now.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Heather Christle / People Are a Living Structure Like a Coral Reef


People Are a Living Structure Like a Coral Reef
by Heather Christle

People love to clean their ears and I love people

very much They are everywhere! Every single

thing I love I love for windows only and if

one window reflects another then friends

for me it’s all over And in the windows are trees

and in the windows are people What are they even doing

with their hunger and in their new shirts They are

taking care of themselves and they are taking each other out

for lunch Oh even the rain has to love them People

are just too attractive! and the rain places itself

on the window in order to be closer to the people

the ones who are eating The ones who are

busting out vigor Oh people You have to love

people They are so much like ourselves

Monday, December 19, 2022

To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall by Kim Addonizio


To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably 

in the Next Stall


If you ever woke in your dress at 4am ever
closed your legs to someone you loved opened
them for someone you didn’t moved against
a pillow in the dark stood miserably on a beach
seaweed clinging to your ankles paid
good money for a bad haircut backed away
from a mirror that wanted to kill you bled
into the back seat for lack of a tampon
if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire
ripped out the stitches in your heart
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Orange by Wendy Cope


The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange –
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave –
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

 From Serious Concerns (Faber) 

Friday, December 9, 2022

‘That orange, it made me so happy’ / 50 poems to boost your mood

 Illustration: Nathalie Lees

‘That orange, it made me so happy’: 50 poems to boost your mood

Humour, beauty, solace ... the right poem can bring a ray of sunshine. Andrew Motion, Kayo Chingonyi, Tishani Doshi and other poets recommend the verses that lift their spirits

Brian Bilston, Kayo Chingonyi, Ella RisbridgerAndrew Motion, Hannah Lowe, Andrew McMillanElif ShafakRishi DastidarTishani Doshi and Mary Jean Chan

Sat 26 Nov 2022 09.00 GMT

Brian Bilston poet
 Photograph: MacMillan

Brian Bilston
Poet and novelist

1) Hope Is the Thing With Feathers, Emily Dickinson
2) Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!], Frank O’Hara
3) Not My Best Side, UA Fanthorpe
4) Aimless Love, Billy Collins
5) Survivor, Roger McGough

Poetry refreshes the parts that other words cannot reach and, like the little bird of Emily Dickinson’s Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, contains the strength to sustain us even in the “chillest land / And on the strangest sea”. But a poem doesn’t have to be explicitly inspirational to do that. Frank O’Hara’s Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!] hoicks us up off the floor with its sheer exuberance and breathlessness: we have no choice but to be swept along. And what could be more helpful than a poem that pokes fun at how ridiculous we all are, as presented in UA Fanthorpe’s wickedly funny triptych Not My Best Side, giving voice to the characters in Paolo Uccello’s painting Saint George and the Dragon. Of course, laughter can provide the biggest pick-me-up of all, and there are few poets funnier than Billy Collins. In Aimless Love, through celebrating a wren, a dead mouse and a bar of soap, he helps us fall back in love with life. Finally, in terms of a strategy for coping with all that the world throws at us, who can better that offered by Roger McGough in his short poem Survivor?

Amy Key

Kayo Chingonyi
 Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

Kayo Chingonyi
Poet and editor

6) “The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings”, Donika Kelly
7) Brand New Lover, Amy Key
8) Against Complaint, Roddy Lumsden
9) Caveat, Fiona Benson
10) From Blossoms, Li-Young Lee

I’m particularly moved by poets who sing from the rooftops, as in Donika Kelly’s wonderful poem – a tender though not sentimental pick-me-up for when you are so enamoured of someone that you find yourself playing slow jams in the early hours of the morning. The immediacy of desire also suffuses Amy Key’s Brand New Lover, with its woozy soft focus and tense interplay of disclosure and guardedness. When I find myself whingeing, the best medicine is Roddy Lumsden’s Against Complaint, which affirms that most stoic of maxims, “It could be worse”. There is, in so many things, a small crack through which hope can enter. Which brings to mind Fiona Benson’s gorgeous little poem Caveat (published below), which, read in the midst of tribulations, will surely gladden the heart like an empathetic hand on the shoulder. And when I need to remember happier times I look to From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee, a poem which swells with hard-won joy like a peach ripening on the branch

Ada Limón

Ella Risbridger

Editor of the anthology Set Me on Fire: A Poem for Every Feeling

11) How to Triumph Like a Girl, Ada Limon
12) To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall, Kim Addonizio
13) Goodtime Jesus, James Tate
14) People Are a Living Structure Like a Coral Reef, Heather Christle
15) Poem in Which I Practise Happiness, Joe Dunthorne

What I like in a poem is jokes, and what I hate is a poem that takes itself too seriously. I love being spoken to directly by the poet, and I love a poem that makes me feel we’re getting to the secret heart of everything: in these five, that’s reached through rain on a window, “lady horses”, good money for a bad haircut and using a guinea pig as a telephone. Also, Jesus having a cup of coffee. I love a poem that knows happiness is tough, even if you “make it look easy”, like Ada Limon in How to Triumph Like a Girl (published below). I love Kim Addonizio for knowing that “joy is coming” (To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall, a real banger of a title). I love James Tate’s Goodtime Jesus for its perfect punchline: “Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody”. And I love Heather Christle’s People Are a Living Structure Like a Coral Reef, especially for her unabashed use of the exclamation mark. I love poems about connection. I love poems about people. I love poems about stuff. In the words of Joe Dunthorne’s Poem in Which I Practise Happiness, “I love the piano./ I love true crime./ I love the sun/ when it arrives/ like a tray/ of drinks.”

Seamus Heaney

Andrew Motion.
 Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

Andrew Motion
Former poet laureate

16) Epistle to Miss Blount, Alexander Pope
17) Epitaph on a Hare, William Cowper
18) Hurricane Hits England, Grace Nichols
19) In My Country, Jackie Kay
20) Postscript, Seamus Heaney

The idea that poems might be an easy means of cheering ourselves up is enough to make anyone feel depressed, especially if the poems themselves are determined to be cheerful. Remember Hardy: “If way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst”. That might overstate the case a little, but he’s right about the relationship between (relative) optimism and realism. For this reason, four of my choices are poems that admit – with varying degrees of candour – what problems need to be overcome, in order for their speakers to find equilibrium of some kind. Boredom and isolation in the case of Alexander Pope’s affectionate Epistle to Miss Blount; grief in William Cowper’s apparently small-scale (but in fact expansive) Epitaph on a Hare; homesickness and the difficulties of home-making in Grace Nichols’s Hurricane Hits England; and racist hostility in Jackie Kay’s In My Country. In my fifth choice, Seamus Heaney’s Postscript (published below), an affirming flame is allowed to blaze more defiantly, but it’s still battered and blustered by the winds of the world.

Sharon Olds

Hannah Lowe Author Costa prize winner
 Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi

Hannah Lowe
Winner of the 2021 Costa book of the year for her collection The Kids

21) Great Western Road, Donny O’Rourke
22) Belle Isle, 1949, Philip Levine
23) Beginning in a City, 1948, James Berry
24) What the Living Do, Marie Howe
25) Looking at Them Asleep, Sharon Olds

The poems that lift my spirits are those that find beauty in the domestic and everyday. Donny O’Rourke’s Great Western Road describes a Saturday well spent, a list of jubilant images that builds to a declaration: “God Glasgow it’s glorious / just to gulp you down in heartfuls”. Philip Levine’s Belle Isle, 1949 finds wonder in a teenage night swim in the Detroit River, “to baptise ourselves in the brine / of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles”. James Berry’s Beginning in a City, 1948 mixes public history with personal remembrance, telling of how the newly arrived Jamaican migrant survives his first night in England, ending with a headstrong optimism: “So I had begun. Begun in London.” Marie Howe’s beautiful elegy for her brother What the Living Do lifts my spirits by emphasising how the small things make a life and should be cherished, as does Sharon Olds’s Looking at Them Asleep. I love the surprise and precision of Olds’s use of metaphor to describe her children sleeping: “oh the son he is sideways in his bed / one knee up as if he is climbing / sharp stairs up into the night”.

Elizabeth Bishop

Andrew McMillan
Andrew McMillan Photograph: undefined/Urszula Soltys

Andrew McMillan
Poet and editor

26) Filling Station, Elizabeth Bishop
27) Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong, Ocean Vuong
28) Final Curve, Langston Hughes
29) “There is no life or death”, Mina Loy
30) Provisional Eternity, Mark Strand

I’ve spent time recently searching for release from my own anxiety and co-editing an anthology, 100 Queer Poems. The twin missions of trying to reorient my mind and immerse myself in piles of poetry reminded me of the solace a good stanza or line might bring. Think of that great ending to Elizabeth Bishop’s Filling Station, “somebody loves us all”; it often comes back to me when I feel isolated or alone. The journey towards better loving ourselves is perhaps more important (and yes, I know RuPaul said that better). Ocean Vuong’s Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong (published below), with its invocation “Ocean, don’t be afraid”, is a poem I often return to, as is Langston Hughes’ wonderful Final Curve. Mina Loy’s “There is no life or death” says it’s OK to sit in the flux of things; it rejects absolutes, and its rhymes and syllables pull us forward into possibility. Ultimately, my mood is boosted by just being at home with my boyfriend and our dog; that reminds me of a Mark Strand poem that hugs you with the warmth of a shared duvet, Provisional Eternity. It’s the simplicity of “this”, “this never wanting it to end”; it reaches beyond sex, beyond lust, into a state of comfort and ease between two people. I used to have it pinned above my desk, but now it’s just on the noticeboard of my mind.

Cavafy, Yannis Psychopedis, 2013 (oil on canvas)

Elif Shafak

31) All Rivers at Once, Rumi
32) Ithaka, CP Cavafy
33) Remember How We Forgot, Lemn Sissay
34) [the] north[ern] [of] ireland, Pádraig Ó Tuama
35) Old Tongue, Jackie Kay

Poetry is deeply personal. You might struggle to explain to yourself, let alone to others, why you feel emotional when you read a certain poem; how it remains with you afterwards, like a childhood memory lodged in your heart. Poems can take you within, making you aware of parts of yourself you have neglected; and they can also lift you up and carry you near and far, connecting you with people and experiences beyond borders. When I was younger, for a long time I assumed that being an immigrant, I could not fully understand or enjoy English verse; there would always be something I would miss out – a broken piece, an invisible shard. That I came to adore reading poems in a language other than my mother tongue, I owe to many wonderful poets who challenged my fears and encouraged me to dive in. Today I see poets as a tribe of their own, impossible to narrow down to national boxes. Like Walt Whitman, they contain multitudes. First, I would love to recommend All Rivers at Once by the wonderful Rumi, whose voice is needed in today’s polarised world more than ever before. This poem for me is primarily about connectivity and compassion. I am a big fan of CP Cavafy, and I read his work time and again - especially Ithaka. Lemn Sissay’s voice is a balm for our troubled times; Remember How We Forgot is incredibly moving. Pádraig Ó Tuama’s [the] north[ern] [of] ireland contains so much pain, memory and resilience, it will deeply resonate with readers across the world. And then there is the inimitable Jackie Kay: I love the courage and wisdom in her Old Tongue.

Rishi Dastidar

Rishi Dastidar
Poet and critic

36) Delight in Disorder, Robert Herrick
37) Hiroshima, 1961, Holly Singlehurst
38) Soulcraft, John McCullough
39) The Orange, Wendy Cope
40) The Tiger, Nael

“A fine distraction” tends to be what I want from a poem to cheer me up. My first stop is always Robert Herrick, and especially Delight in Disorder. I never fail to be charmed by the beguiling twinkle that runs through it. Also beguiling is the way Holly Singlehurst’s Hiroshima, 1961 frames the joy of playing with your shadow and being bathed by sunlight. John McCullough’s Soulcraft ruminates on light too, a “private neon”, crucial for lifting him when “a flock of days descends / and my soul flickers, goes to ground”. The poem rises from here, reminding us that something as simple as rain can revive our spirits again. And if not the weather, how about a piece of fruit? Wendy Cope’s delight in the mundane is always a tonic. The Orange (published below) is an exquisite example of this: who doesn’t love those rare days that are “quite easy / I did all the jobs on my list”? For me, though, the best mood boost is witnessing an underdog hero overcome formidable odds to triumph in nail-biting circumstances. So I hope Nael’s The Tiger, written when he was just six, has you punching the air in joy the way I do every time I read it.

Marina Tsvetaeva

Tishani Doshi

41) Recreation, Audre Lorde
42) Ode to My Husband, Who Brings the Music, Zeina Hashem Beck
43) An Attempt at Jealousy, Marina Tsvetaeva
44) I Will Greet the Sun Again, Forough Farrokhzad
45) Fucking in Cornwall, Ella Frears

Partly because I’ve recently spent time as a caregiver, and partly because legislation around the autonomy of women’s bodies continues to be so depressing, I looked for poems of the body, poems of desire, that could inject what Audre Lorde called the “lifeforce” into me. Let’s begin with Lorde’s Recreation, which believes a body can be made into a poem. I wanted to collect female voices and create a web of ancestry between them – so, the tenderness of Zeina Hashem Beck’s Ode to My Husband, Who Brings the Music contrasts with the bristle of Marina Tsvetaeva’s An Attempt at Jealousy. Then there’s the perseverance of Forough Farrokhzad, who brings us to the “love-filled threshold” in I Will Greet the Sun Again, and the sheer sexiness of Ella Frears’s Fucking in Cornwall - “Do you remember what it felt like to dig a hole all day/ with a tiny spade just to watch it fill with sea?/ I want it like that.”

Mary Oliver

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan
Winner of the 2019 Costa poetry prize for Fleche

46) Canopy, Emily Berry
47) If There Is an Afterwards, Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo
48) Poplar Street, Chen Chen
49) Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
50) When the War Is Over, WS Merwin

Five poems come to mind that might offer solace during these troubled times. The first is Emily Berry’s Canopy, which she describes as an “anti-Rock-a-bye baby”: it’s about survival and connection, and I return to it over and over. I had the pleasure of rereading Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo’s work as a judge for this year’s Jhalak Prize. In their latest collection Like a Tree, Walking, If There Is an Afterwards stood out to me as a shimmering poem about loss and silence. My third poem is Poplar Street, by the American poet Chen Chen. It concludes his debut collection, and is one of the most hopeful poems I have ever read about self-acceptance, love and forgiveness. The final two poems I have found particularly moving in the wake of the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver and When the War is Over by WS Merwin. Both are about what it  means to live, which is a question always worth asking.