Last week we celebrated the news that W.W. Norton granted us permission to reprint five poems by the monumental Molly Peacock, a wonder of a woman and a presence as a poet.  Today we offer two servings of her food for thought, but first some facts about their creator.  Molly Peacock has garnered innumerable honors and performed inestimable services to poetry and society.  Among them are her service as Poet-in-Residence at Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; past president of the Poetry Society of America; and one of the originators of Poetry in Motion, the inspired program that placed poetry on subways and buses.  The word ‘indomitable’ comes to mind when thinking about Molly Peacock, a woman who understands the power of words and has a power over them like no other.


What we don’t forget is what we don’t say.
I mourn the leaps of anger covered
by quizzical looks, grasshoppers covered
by coagulating chocolate. Each word,
like a leggy thing that would have sprung away,
we caught and candified so it would stay
spindly and alarmed, poised in our presence,
dead, but in the shape of its old essence.
We must eat them now. We must eat the words
we should have let go but preserved, thinking
to hide them. They were as small as insects blinking
in our hands, but now they are stiff and shirred
with sweet to twice their size, so what we gagged
will gag us now that we are so enraged.


Putting a burden down feels so empty
you almost want to hoist it up again,
for to carry nothing means there is no “me”

almost.  Then freedom, like air, creeps in
as into a nearly airtight house, estranging
you and your burden, making a breach to leap in,

changing an airless place into a landscape,
an outdoors so full of air it leaves you breathless,
there’s so much to breathe.  Now you escape

what you didn’t even know had held you.
It’s so big, the outside? How will you ever carry it?
No, no, no, you are only meant to live in it.

This wide plain infused with a sunset?  Here?
With distant mountains and a glittering sea?
With distant burdens and a glittering “me,” here.

Reprinted from CORNUCOPIA: New and Selected Poems by Molly Peacock. © 2002 by Molly Peacock. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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  • Karen Hunyadi July 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I never heard of Molloy Peacock until I read a recent article in the Hartford Current that made reference to her poem Anger Sweetened. I decided to look it up and I was amazed at how much her two poems shown above, Anger Sweetened and Putting a Burden Down spoke to me. I recently concluded the legal aspect of a terrible divorce. My anger smolders and I am trying to let go of my burdens. These two poems went right to my heart, soul and gut. Thank you Molly Peacock for so elegantly speaking my thoughts and emotions.

  • Barbara Sabol October 16, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Molly is a wonderful writer and teacher of writing – she shapes poems with language and images that resonate, and her influence on her students resonates, poem to poem, as well.

  • Mark Brown October 16, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Lovely well-crafted poems that work so well together! Just standard fare for Molly. Her poems are consistently inventive and pithy, yet welcoming, like a warm meeting with a friend who gets you thinking about…just stuff…and then oops! there’s an epiphany. Great to see them shared here.

  • Elizabeth W October 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Wow… Especially the grasshopper one. Such a fitting metaphor and so evocative I can practically taste the chocolate (and the grasshoppers’ leggy texture! Urk!)

  • Susan C Brown October 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I love seeing these poems of Molly’s. There’s a lifetime of understanding in the images, insight that leaves my insides rearranged from the truth that has blown through me. Thank you.

  • Cynthia Allar October 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Whoa! Go Molly!

    I love her work, as always since I discovered her in 2002, as an MFA student at Spalding University. And her mentoring has meant the world to me! Whatta woman!

    Read Second Blush!

  • Kate Buckley October 15, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for featuring Molly Peacock. I’ve long been an admirer of her work and had the great pleasure of studying with her at Spalding. What fun to see her marvelous poems here!