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Saturday, October 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘Origami’ by Joyce Sutphen

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

We haven’t published nearly enough poems written for young people, and here’s one I like a great deal, by Joyce Sutphen, the current Minnesota poet laureate, written for her granddaughter, Ellie. Of course, like much good poetry, it’s for both young and old.


It starts

with a blank sheet,

an undanced floor,

air where no sound

erases the silence.

As soon as

you play the first note,

write down a word,

step onto the empty stage,

you’ve moved closer

to the creature inside.


a square

can end up as frog, cardinal,

mantis, or fish.

You can make

what you want,

do what you wish.

Poem copyright 2018 by Joyce Sutphen and reprinted by permission of the author. American Life in Poetry is supported by the Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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