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The Changing Meaning Of 'Home,' Described Through Poetry

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For many people, the last year has been one of illness, loss and isolation. For others, it's been a year safely tucked in at home, which can offer a new perspective on what it means to be home. Poet Tess Taylor has selections from a couple poems that speak to an appreciation for that sense of being stuck.

TESS TAYLOR: This poem was published in Poetry Northwest, which is just a fabulous journal. And it's by Camille Dungy. She's a brilliant essayist and poet both. And it's clearly from early days of the pandemic.

(Reading) Ceremony. An uncle died. Another aunt was taken to the hospital. The moon swells again. This feels like the early days of parenthood. We swap watch, focus on raising the child. We've seen times like this before, we say. Also, these times are like nothing we have ever seen.

Those of us that are parents remember such a profound unsettlement of those days when you bring your first child home and your world is upended and thrown into a different sense of time than you've ever experienced before. And you're sort of left alone, staring at this new being and making sense of days in a different way. Well, those first days of the pandemic, I think, for some of us, felt like that. They were just as if there was a rip in the texture of time.

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TAYLOR: The next poem is a poem about gardening, which I think some of us have taken to as a pandemic hobby. But also, it's about garden gnomes, which is a really, I think, a sidelong vision of being rooted, you know, as if you're sort of stuck in a garden for a year. And it's by Stephanie Burt, who is a fabulous poet based at Harvard. And I just want to read it because if you've felt really stuck, maybe you've actually been feeling gnomish.

(Reading) Love poem with horticulture and anxiety. Of course we have feet of clay or fins. Of course we made promises - everyone does - that we will make good, but not today. We cherish our oversized shoes. Our garden also has sylphs that only we can see and peonies and badger tracks and a sandstone Artemis and colors not found in nature except in flower beds - intense maroons, deep golds, sleek pinks, warm blues.

I think this is a poem that actually says it's OK to be stuck. It's OK to be watching this time pass. Things are flowering that you may not even understand. You are stuck. You are in this garden. This world is enormous and beyond you. And there's a beautiful surrender to just watching. And so there's a way in which just trying to think what are the good parts of this strange year that we'll treasure, that feels like a particularly domestic assignment and a way of circling this strange life that we've been thrown into and having the chance to evaluate what is it that I have figured out how to love this year.

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SHAPIRO: That's poet Tess Taylor, sharing poems by Stephanie Burt and Camille Dungy. Tess' most recent poetry collection is "Rift Zone."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.