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Poetry Friday: Poetry Isn't Cancelled

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Kristan Hutchison
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The COVID-19 outbreak has quickly changed life as we know it. People are out of work, and staying home from work if they can. Many things have shut down across the region, including restaurants, shops and museums, to name a few. In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, KNAU listener Kristan Hutchison offers us a ray of hope with her original poem The thing with feathers still sings. Kristan works at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Since the museum is currently closed and she’s staying home for now, Kristan sent us a voice memo of her reading.

Kristan Hutchison:

I’m Kristan Hutchison. I work at the Museum of Northern Arizona. Of course, like all museums, we’re closed right now which is a very strange and difficult situation for everybody. It kind of reminds us of Night in the Museum to wander through the empty galleries, actually.

The thing I’ve been realizing is I really am trying to find ways to focus on what is still going on that’s positive, which can be difficult right now. We’re so inundated with the news, and the difficulties, and everything that’s cancelled. So, I found myself seeking out every little thing that’s not cancelled or that is still happening in this world: walking through our galleries and looking at the art and saying, ‘Ok! Art is not cancelled!” Maybe we can’t all see it, but it’s still there. Spring is not cancelled. Poetry is not cancelled.

So, I was inspired to write this poem. We have a little poetry group at the museum that meets on Wednesdays, and so I was thinking last Wednesday about what I wanted to write. I didn’t want to cancel the group, and we were going to meet via conference call, and the only thing I could think about writing was my reactions to the moment that we are in and how there were still these rabbits that were coming by the window of my office in the museum, and still the neighbors who were bringing us eggs when I went to the grocery store and couldn’t find any eggs, but our neighbors that same day brought us eggs from their chickens, and all these little things that were still good. And so I wanted to write about that feeling of hope. And when I think of hope, I think of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers.

So, I titled this poem The thing with feathers still sings:

From branches and balconies

mismatched melodies meld

across open spaces,

filling barren places.

The closed schools,  

quiet playgrounds,

empty churches,

shuttered shops,

and silent cities

listen

for greetings shouted

as neighbors wave and bring eggs

to those without chickens

and children climb in the trees.

The world remains open,

unfurling leaf by green leaf.

Daffodils push boldly up

through mud and March snow.

Young rabbits chew new grass,

and the willows furred tips swell,

rustling in the breeze.

When pink touches the peaks

families gather at kitchen tables

pushing aside the days’ work,

innocent hands scrubbed raw

with soap and song.

(Music: Spring, by Antonio Vivaldi)

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu. 

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Gillian came to KNAU in 2001 as a freelance reporter. Her first story won an Arizona Associated Press Award. Since then, Gillian has won more than a dozen Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting, writing, editing and documentary work. She served as KNAU’s local Morning Edition anchor for many years before becoming News Director and Managing editor in 2013. When she’s not working, Gillian likes to spend time in the natural world with her dog, Gertie. She is an avid hiker, skier, swimmer, and reader.