American Life in Poetry: Column 686


Though most of the poems we publish in this column are about staying at home in America and noticing what's happening around us, our poets do sometimes go abroad. Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota's poet laureate, has sent you the following picture postcard from Ireland. It's from her latest book, The Green House, published by Salmon Poetry.

Playing the Pipes

This morning in Dingle, the clouds
bellied down over the mountains
and broke into grey, white, and blue.
Winds flagged through the palm trees
that the man from the "Big House"
brought back to the bay long ago.
Up Greene Street, the school kids
in their dark uniforms gather
on the sidewalk by the Spar store.
Long ago, this was a Spanish town,
east of the Blasket Islands and west of
Connor Pass. The harbor is full of sails.
The piper sits in his little shop
on the rounding road, selling penny
whistles, telling anyone who will listen
how many ways there are
to vary the sound, how much
there is to think of all at once.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Joyce Sutphen from The Green House, (Salmon Poetry, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Joyce Sutphen and the publisher.   Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.