Today's poetry for today's world

Adele Kenny 


Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction).  Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals worldwide, and her poems have appeared in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill.  She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, including two fellowships from the NJ State Arts Council.  A former creative writing professor, she is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and poetry editor of Tiferet.  Her new collection of poems, What Matters, is now available from Welcome Rain Publishers.  Please visit her website: http://adelekenny.com

or poetry blog: http://adelekenny.blogspot.com/.






Click on any book cover to buy Adele Kenny's books. 




Of Feathers, Of Flight


…if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come right …

and that peace and tranquility will return again.


                                                                                 – Anne Frank


That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest,

   and we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told

us the mother would know our hands and

   never take it back.  Spring that year was a


cardboard box, cries for eyedropper food –

   feather-stalks stretched into wings.  We

knew, of course, that we couldn’t keep it.

   (Later, we would mark the spot with stones


and twigs – where the bird fell, where we

   let it go – and sometimes, stopped in the

middle of play, would point and say, there,

   right there.)  The day we freed it, it beat, a


heart-clock (wound and sprung in Ruth

   Levine’s old hand) that, finally, finding

the sky, flew higher than all the briars

   strung like metal barbs above the fence –


a speck of updraft ash and gone.  Heaven,

   fuller then for one small bird, spread its

blue wing over us and the tree and Mrs.

   Levine who, breathing deeply, raised her


numbered arm to the light and moved her

   thumb over each fingertip as if she could

feel to the ends of her skin the miracle

   edge of freedom, of feathers, of flight.




– from What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

First Published: Merton Seasonal, 2007

Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize, 2007







The Trains




We felt them first.  Fingers pressed to the rails,

     a dull rumble filled our hands and hummed into

our arms before the cone of light, the great clatter


of metal against metal.  Trestled high, above the

     bridge on Grand Avenue, we knew those tracks

went on forever, between trees that lined the ties


like stations of the cross.  The hill was forbidden but

     holy, thick with clover, ripe with berries in spring.

The year I was nine, an April blizzard swept the


sky and we went to the trains in the dark.  The wires

     strummed into sparks, the rails were a dazzle of

shadows.  Our faces – ghosts of our selves – reflected


in every train car window, lines of breath etched in

     passing glass.  Above us, chimney smoke hung like

smears of candle grease among the clouds.


We were grubby and poor, but we believed.  We said

     our prayers, ate fish on Fridays, and never rode

those trains.  We could only kneel in something like


wonder, something like praise, and wait for the

     tracks’ reverent shudder. The memory is a gauze

engine that time blows through and keeps me small.




– from What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

First Published: Paterson Literary Review #36

Allen Ginsberg Award 2006







Somehow the Angel




It happens like this: the sudden waking,

your heart skipped and flipped, lungs

strung like pebbles on wire; and that

next breath – you’re sure you can’t it,

but you do breathe.


You think sleep, and not sleep.  You think

about pills, about taking all the pills –

what that would mean, where you would

be if you weren’t here – and you

almost consider it.


Always, then, the old angel wheezes in.

Not quite luminous, never on his knees,

his wings creak, beat at oblique angles

(all that flapping – it’s hardly celestial),

but his own


weight escapes him, and he flies toward

you, wrists like bells ringing, a miracle in

each fist.  You say you believe (though

you know you talk to yourself) – you

believe in anything


with wings, no cage to hold it, and it’s

okay, it’s okay – the angel walks you up

the stairs.  Over the trash bin.  Dumpster.

And, somehow, somehow, you pull

yourself through.




­– from What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)

First Published: Lips Magazine 32/33 







Writer’s Tip: Dylan Thomas wrote, “You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick . . .  you’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps . . .  so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.”  With that in mind, discipline yourself for the process of revision, of learning to play critic to your own creation.  As you revise, ask yourself, “Do I really need that word, phrase, or line?”  Sometimes it will be necessary to sacrifice words or images you love for the sake of the poem. 




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