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Poetry Moment: Mary Szybist and 'Here, there are Blueberries'

Poet Mary Szybist
Poet Mary Szybist

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Mary Szybist is the author of two books of poetry, most recently Incarnadine, from which today’s poem is drawn and which won a National Book Award. Szybist is the Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. But she grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and, in her words, “still feels most at home in the Alleghenies.”

Mary Szybist’s poems are marked for their lyricism and their interrogations of faith, existence, and spirituality. Like Gerard Manley Hopkins, who spoke of a world ‘charged with the grandeur of God,’ Szybist confronts in her poems the presence of the ineffable, of what fills us with awe. In “Here, there are Blueberries,” the poet sounds the enduring questions that make us human, full of sentience and often burdened by our self-awareness. In today’s poem, Szybist asks: “I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me…what should I fear...of whom should I be afraid?” She grounds these questions in the things of the ‘bright world’ to which she continually returns—the clouds, the blueberries, the body with its hands and fingers, the meadow. All are the evidence Szybist assembles to reveal the traces of what can only be indirectly glimpsed.

Here’s today’s poem—

Here, there are Blueberries

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon & stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.

What taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds

swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.

You must live for something, they say.
People don’t live just to keep on living.

But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.

That was “Here, there are Blueberries” by Mary Szybist.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with us today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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