Poetry Moment: K.A. Hays and 'My New Year's Resolution is to Become a Plant'
Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.
Today’s poem is “My New Year’s Resolution is to Become a Plant” by K.A. Hays.
The poem comes from Hays’ most recent and fourth book of poetry, Anthropocene Lullaby, which will be published next month. In the late 1930s, Hays’ grandfather immigrated to western Pennsylvania from Calabria, Italy. The majority of her extended family remains in the state, including Hays, who was born in Phoenixville. Since 2005, she has been living in Lewisburg, where she teaches at Bucknell University.
This week many of us have made or are making all sorts of resolutions—to spend less, lose weight, be kinder to ourselves (and perhaps others). The title of Hays’ poem is delightfully subversive of our New Year’s tradition focused on self-improvement. Declaring the speaker’s intent to become a plant, the poem invokes the names of several commonly found plants as incantation, to will the speaker’s consciousness to morph from its animal nature into that of a plant’s. What are the qualities of plants she so admires? To answer that is to remember that the poem is part of a book called Anthropocene Lullaby, a collection which is a lyric meditation on the environmental crisis of our age. Hays’ poem asks that we actively reject ways of living driven by self-interest in favor of those directed by helping and sharing, ways embodied by the plants she aspires to become.
My New Year’s Resolution is to Become a Plant
& I wonder if plants sense a hermit thrush tuning eerie
through huckleberry serviceberry catberry possumhaw
holding space & twining the roots
in the held space / holding the soil & I’m here & I’ll hold you
/ I want to hold you huckleberry catberry possumhaw hold
until the soil goes sand
& the shrubs give to rock & the seaweed roots in intertidal flats
& in all the air I wonder
what’s a barnacle’s relationship with seaweed on a shared boulder
& could it be
a holding / a helping / does one need the other
to hold clear
a way of being in sun & multiple not to be named
/ labeled but holding barnacle sand crab & being held by
barnacle sand crab possumhaw catberry serviceberry––
That was “My New Year’s Resolution is to Become a Plant” by K.A. Hays.
Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at WPSU.org/poetrymoment.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.