✨✍🏾Today’s Poet, Alexander Pushkin✍🏾✨

Russia’s most famous poet, Alexander Pushkin was born into one of Russia’s most famous noble families. His mother was the granddaughter of an Abyssinian prince, Hannibal, who had been a favorite of Peter I, and many of Pushkin’s forebears played important roles in Russian history. Pushkin began writing poetry as a student at the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo, a school for aristocratic youth. As a young man, Pushkin was immersed in French poetry and Russian Neoclassicism. His early output was generically diverse and included elegies, songs, and epistles.

After graduating in 1817, Pushkin threw himself into St. Petersburg society, pursuing pleasure as well as politics. Certain poems from these years commented on the limits of autocracy and directed invective toward high-ranking officials; they were circulated widely but never published and eventually came back to haunt Pushkin after their discovery amongst the belongings of the Decembrists, the military faction that rose up to challenge Nicholas I. Pushkin’s first major verse narrative, the mock epic Ruslan i Liudmila (1820), dates from his St. Petersburg period. Written in iambic tetrameter, the poem is a faux-fairy tale based on medieval Russian history. Pushkin’s first major success, the poem also generated controversy for its break with prevailing verse traditions. Soon after its publication, Pushkin was sent into exile in southern Russia for his outspoken political views. During the first years of his exile (1820-1823), Pushkin traveled to the Caucasus and Crimea, writing lyrics and narrative poems that exhibited debts to his recent discovery, in French translation, of the works of George Gordon, Lord Byron.

At the end 1823, Pushkin began work on his masterpiece, Evgeny Onegin (Eugene Onegin). Written over seven years, the poem was published in full in 1833. In it, Pushkin invented a new stanza: iambic tetrameter with alternating feminine and masculine rhymes. The poem is also notable for its inventive and exuberant language and social critique. And while Pushkin played with autobiography, the verse novel turned out to be more autobiographical than even he knew: like Pushkin himself, Onegin dies in a duel. In general, Pushkin’s life was marked by political and romantic scandal. Though Nicholas I eventually released him from exile, Pushkin’s work was frequently censored, his letters intercepted, and his status with the court remained tenuous until his death.

In 1831, Pushkin married Natalia Goncharova. Her beauty and favor at court led to many problems for Pushkin: Nicholas himself was infatuated with her, as was the French royalist George D’Anthès-Heeckeren who openly pursued Natalia for years. Pushkin eventually challenged D’Anthès to a duel, which he lost. He died on January 29, two days after being mortally wounded. While the court sympathized with D’Anthès, the Russian public mourned Pushkin. Fearing unrest, the government held Pushkin’s funeral in a small church, admitting mourners by ticket only. He was buried at dawn next to his mother at Svyatye Gory Monastery.

Pushkin’s most famous poems are decidedly Romantic in their celebration of freedom and defense of personal liberty, but his concise, moderate, and spare style has proven difficult for many critics to categorize. His many narrative poems, epics, and lyrics are mainstays of the Russian literary tradition and widely memorized. His works have inspired countless song cycles, ballets, and other artistic interpretations. In 1880, a statue of Pushkin was unveiled in Moscow, to speeches given by Dostoevsky and Turgenev, who claimed that the statue allowed Russians to claim themselves as a great nation “because this nation has given birth to such a man.”




✨✍🏾Today’s Poet, Kwame Alexander✍🏾✨



Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 32 books, including THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, HOW TO READ A BOOK, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, SWING, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious Carnegie Medal, and, his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. Some of his other works include BOOKED, a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD Nominee, THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE, and the picture books SURF’S UP, and OUT OF WONDER, which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award, The Dominion Energy Strong Men and Women of Virginia, and The 2018 NEA Read Across America Ambassador. Kwame’s belief in the power of poetry and literature to inspire, engage, and empower young people is the guiding force behind the #AllBooksForAllKids initiative he created in partnership with Follett. Kwame is the Founding Editor of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers whose mission to Change the World One Word at a Time. He’s led cultural exchange delegations to Brazil, Italy, Singapore, and Ghana, where he built the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded.







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✨✍🏾Today’s Poet, Carolyn Forché✍🏾✨

On April 28, 1950, Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit, Michigan. She studied at Michigan State University and earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University.

Forché’s books of poetry include: Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2004); The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Country Between Us (HarperCollins, 1982), which received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; and Gathering the Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), which was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets by Stanley Kunitz. She is also the editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (W. W. Norton, 1993) and the coeditor of Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001 (W. W. Norton, 2014).

Among her translations are Mahmoud Darwish’s Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems with Munir Akash (University of California Press, 2003), Claribel Alegria’s Flowers from the Volcano (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983), and Robert Desnos’s Selected Poetry, with William Kulik, (Ecco Press, 1991).

Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1992, she received the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum.

In 2013, Forché received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, given for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2017, she became one of the first two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize.

She is currently director of the Lannan Center for Poetry and Poetics and holds the Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She lives in Maryland with her husband.

Selected Bibliography

Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2004)

The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994)

The Country Between Us (HarperCollins, 1982)

Gathering the Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976)