Guttman CC’s Favorite Poems

We asked the people of Guttman Community College to share poems that have a special meaning to them. These are their selections.

“St. Francis and the Sow” by Galway Kinnell

Selected by James Mellis: “This poem reminds me that there is beauty everywhere, if we only take the time to recognize it.”

“Kopis’taya (A Gathering of Spirits)” by Paula Gunn Allen

Selected by Colette Montoya-Sloan: “As a queer, Indigenous woman, I feel blessed to have Paula Gunn Allen as an ancestor. Her poetry speaks to me as her descendant and reminds me to honor my people and my homeland.”

“Prospective Immigrants Please Note” by Adrienne Rich

Selected by April Burns: “So much about this poem is relevant to the human experience but especially the immigrant and first-generation college student experience. The risk and consequences of crossing or not crossing, the threshold of the door, which increasingly is the door to a college or university, resonates with me. Doors are choices that ask you to risk change before knowing what the change demands. It’s interesting to consider what Rich meant by the risk of remembering your name. Did she mean who gave it to you and where you come from? Rich warns that crossing is both entering and leaving, and while you may be able to peer back at the goings on, you can longer change them, as you are no longer of them – you are somewhere, someone else. All learning requires a leap of faith, through fear, fire or naivete, and variously demands that you both remember as well as forget your name.”

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

Selected by Errol Olton: “We all carry so much pressure on ourselves (e.g. life, job needs, and roles we play to others), quickly forgetting to stay grounded in our being. When I read this short poem, it reminds me to be mindful of my existence, kind to my being, and tapped into what lights up my life.”

“Fear” by Judrān Khalīl Jubrān

Selected by Lori Ungemah: “A friend posted this poem on New Year’s Day, 2021, and it resonated in me. It feels like we have been living in fear (fear of COVID, fear of nothing returning to normal, fear of new normal), and this poem just made me think/realize that all we can do is move forward. Also, every New Year’s Day I jump into the ocean at Coney Island with my family and friends, so this poem felt appropriate on that day. Become the ocean!”

“Living Proof” by Andrea Gibson

Selected by Joanna Wisniewski: “‘Living Proof’ reminds us we are not alone and there is light even in our darkest moments. Andrea Gibson is so captivating. Their work is touching and raw.”

“Whitey on the Moon” by Gil Scott Heron

Selected by Andrew Bennett: “It addressed social and class disparities occurring in the 70s, and we still see them today. All of which is generally at the expense of lower-class citizens. It is playfully spoken, but very serious in nature.”

“The Guy In The Glass” by Doug Winbrow

Selected by Jesse Allen: “It’s simple and dated, but the message is clear – it doesn’t matter what the world thinks about you, rather it is what you think about you that matters.”

“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay

Selected by Meghan Gilbert-Hickey: “For me, poetry does two important things: it helps me express myself and it helps me understand the selves of others. A social justice poem like this one does both. In “A Small Needful Fact,” Ross Gay uses such simple language to humanize Eric Garner–when so many media outlets were falsely trying to characterize him as a hulking criminal. It shows us that he was gentle and peaceful and that his life, like all Black lives, had and continues to have immense value.”

“Angels of the Get-Through” by Andrea Gibson

Selected by Dana LePage: “I heard this poem performed by the poet for the first time virtually during the Pandemic. It’s about surviving the most difficult year of your life. It evokes so many feelings of joy, pain, grief, grace, and love. It helps me feel strong and hopeful.”

“Miracle Fair” by Wisława Szymborska

Selected by Niesha Ziehmke: “I think of this poem like an old friend because I’ve loved it for such a long time. I first heard this poem from my stepdad, who was over the moon about Wislawa Szymborska. When he first read it to me, he was practically jumping out of his chair with the excitement of how beautiful the poem was. Since then, this poem has followed me around and found ways into a speech or landed as a perfect quote in a card. I think it has lived with me so long because it reminds me to pay attention to the simple magic in everyday life – the ordinary miracles, ‘just this orchard, from just that seed’.”

“Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Selected by Karla Fuller: “Something about this poem is very soothing to me. Also, I read it, loved it, told my mom the name of it and she knew exactly which poem and who wrote it. She had to recite it for class in high school!”

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

Selected by Rodrigo Cortopassi Goron Lobo: “Because it is a roadmap to personal integrity and presents strong character traits. I see “If” as a valuable ethics landmark.”