Wednesday, March 25, 2015

POEM: "Congress Avenue, Austin, Sunset"

Congress Avenue, Austin, Sunset

Free-tailed bats go dropping from the bridge
And sorting into swarming patterns. Cloud
Of tiny black ambassadors, a smidge
Sonoran, chiropteran, coils to clash
Like Iceland’s vulcan vagabonds of ash.

Evening’s bat attraction tempts no crowd
In Sixth Street bars. Few cars. Camera flash
Lights a tourist couple, beetle-browed
From overseas, staring beyond the ridge
Of the overpass, at creatures past the edge

Of all they used to know. Below, a splash
As one bat nabs a bug or biting midge
Off Lady Bird Lake. Floating trash
Cheapens the view, losing color. Loud
Hunting cries emit, echo, enshroud.

© 2015 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Friday, March 6, 2015

"Running Away" -- a Shakespearean sonnet

Running Away

Early I woke and, shaking, walked outside.
Chilled, half daring, I should have been in bed
And not in darkness willing myself to hide
Too spooked in woods, I took the road instead.
Eleven then, I knew enough to climb
Off gravel up the weedy verge. A car
Could swerve and run me over. Counting time,
Five miles from town, I’d never walked that far.
Two crows dropped down and picked apart a mole.
I shouted, tossed a stick. Cawing, they flew
To a low branch. I scratched a shallow hole
And there I nudged the creature with my shoe
Then covered it in brush. Ahead my track
Was barred with sun. I broke and started back.

© 2015 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Poems of mine will soon appear in...

"City in Winter" -- a poem for February

City in Winter

Cabbies holler from yellow toboggans,
“Uptown, downtown—where to, Mac?”
Huskies tug them over slush piles,
Sixteen mush-mutts to a pack.
Sidewalk vendors deal in shovels.
Shop signs lend a neon glow,
Blue, to ice-encrusted buses
Budged like bison through the snow.

Bundled children riding reindeer
Race from block to block. A bear
Has blundered out of hibernation
Snarling up the thoroughfare.
A parliament of snowy owls—
There!—awakes and shares a perch:
A fire escape where I am watching,
A street across from a buried church.

© 2015 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Crackles of Speech: Poems by Steven Withrow is here!

BIG NEWS: My first collection of poems, CRACKLES OF SPEECH, is now available for purchase (along with a preview) at this secure link through 

This book is a gigantic milestone for me -- more than a decade of work and play -- and I am grateful for your support!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I have poems in two groundbreaking books

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have released an amazing anthology of poems and classroom activities for grades K-5, and my poem "Green Sea Turtle" is part of the fifth-grade section.

J. Patrick Lewis chose my "Moray Eel" and "Mussel" for this beautiful collection of poems and photographs. It's an honor to be published alongside many of the greatest poets for children (and for anyone) of all time: Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, David McCord, Valerie Worth, X.J. Kennedy, Carl Sandburg...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What It Means to Be a Poetry Advocate, or How a Poet Is Like an Egret

A short essay/mission statement for my new organization, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults:

Poetry is pronounced dead, and reborn, so often that a phoenix metaphor springs too easily to mind. Poetry's fiery demise and ashy reincarnation might be the oldest news in literature; Sumerian scribes must have jived about it in cuneiform.

A more complex metaphor, and the one I prefer, is to see poetry not as a rising firebird, but as a wading waterbird.

Take the egret, for example. Its French name, aigrette, means both “silver heron” and “brush.” During breeding season, long filamentous feathers waterfall down the egret’s buff back, and these decorative plumes, prized by hunters and hatmakers a century ago, nearly brought about the egret’s extinction.

But the egret kept on, standing long-legged in liminal space—that transition point between land and water, past and present, life and death—stirring wavelets with its wings and harpooning breakfast with its bill.

Poets, too, live on this threshold: colonial or solitary, motionless or migratory as it suits us. This has always been our way.

In creating a grass-roots, not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing poetry for kids and teens, I am not concerned with staving off poetry’s passing or reinventing poetry’s purpose for a new generation. Rather, I am celebrating poetry as a living thing—as many living things at once—and I’m sharing it with everyone I know or hope to meet.

To advocate for poetry, in my view, is to live with an intense love of written and spoken language and a willingness to tell and show others (especially the youngest) how you feel and why.

Each day new poets are born.

There’s no phoenix flash or gunpowder delivery.

Just the raised voices of hatchlings, their musical, crook-necked cries.