The Litocrat
The Litocrat

February Poems We Recommend

The Litocrat will launch soon – in the meantime, enjoy these previews:

1.  February Poems (below)

2.  Short Stories for Spring

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Photographs of Jayne Cortez, Boris Pasternak, Tamiko Beyer, Margaret Atwood, Jacqueline Woodson and José Olivarez. (Photos by Bob Berg, Tribune News Service, Jean Malek, Toshi Widoff-Woodson and Marcos Vasquez)

We welcome February by recommending six excellent poems to read (aloud or quietly), each one themed around the shortest month of the year: 

February” by Margaret Atwood, 

February” by Tamiko Beyer, 

Under the Edge of February” by Jayne Cortez, 

February 12, 1963” by Jacqueline Woodson, 

February” by Boris Pasternak, and 

February & my love is in another state” by José Olivarez.

These poems are hosted by Poetry Foundation, Poets.orgPoetry Out Loud, Poems Found in Translation and Poetry Explorer.

Here are details about each poet:

  • Margaret Atwood (“February”), whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries, is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning TV series, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; The MaddAddam Trilogy; The Heart Goes Last; and Hag-Seed. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka International Literary Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. In 2019 she was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in Great Britain for services to literature and her novel The Testaments won the Booker Prize and was longlisted for The Giller Prize. She lives in Toronto. Learn more about Margaret Atwood at https://margaretatwood.ca, and read her poem “February” here.

    • Tamiko Beyer (“February“) is the co-editor of Poetry as Spellcasting: Poems, Essays, and Prompts for Manifesting Liberation and Reclaiming Power. Her other books and chapbooks are Last Days (Alice James Books), We Come Elemental (Alice James Books), Dovetail (co-authored with Kimiko Hahn, Slapering Hol Press) and bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poetry and articles have been published widely, including by Denver Quarterly, Idaho Review, Dusie, Black Warrior Review, Georgia Review, Lit Hub, and the Rumpus. She publishes Starlight & Strategy, a monthly newsletter for living life wide awake and shaping change. She has received awards, fellowships, and residencies from Lambda Literary, PEN America, Kundiman, Hedgebrook, VONA, and the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, among others. She is a queer, mixed race (Japanese and white), cisgender woman and femme, living in on Massachusett land. A social justice communications writer and strategist, she spends her days writing truth to power. Learn more about Tamiko Beyer at https://www.tamikobeyer.com, and read her poem “February” here.

      • Jayne Cortez (“Under the Edge of February“) was an African-American poet, performing artist, publisher, and activist who remains widely celebrated for her political, surrealist, and dynamic innovations in language, lyricism, and visceral sound. In addition to publishing a number of collections, including Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere (1996) and Mouth on Paper (1977), she released several recordings, many of which feature her band, the Firespitters. She has been described as a lyrically innovative and visceral poet, and her work has been presented at universities, festivals, and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Widely anthologized, her work has been translated into 28 languages and featured in publications such as Poems for the Millennium and Postmodern American Poetry. Cortez was the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as awards such as the International African Festival Award and the American Book Award. She was also the founder of the Watts Repertory Company and her own publishing company. She lived in New York City until her death in 2012. Learn more about Jayne Cortez at: https://poets.org/poet/jayne-cortez, and read her poem “Under the Edge of February” here.

      • José Olivarez (“February & my love is in another state“) is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by The Adroit Journal, NPR, and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he co-edited the poetry anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association and named a Debut Poet of 2018 by Poets & Writers. In 2019, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Learn more about José Olivarez at https://joseolivarez.com/, and read his poem “February & my love is in another state” here.

      • Boris Pasternak (“February“) was a Russian poet, novelist, composer, and literary translator. He achieved international renown as the author of Doctor Zhivago (1957), a novel that takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Second World War. Zhivago was rejected for publication in the USSR, but the manuscript was smuggled to Italy and was first published there in 1957. Banned in Russia as anti-Soviet, Pasternak’s controversial prose work was hailed as a literary masterpiece by both American and European critics, but its publication was suppressed in Russia until 1988. Pasternak’s poems (including those collected in his first book of poetry, My Sister, Life) and his translations of stage plays by Goethe, Schiller and Shakespeare remain popular. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958, an event that enraged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which forced him to decline the prize. In 1989, Pasternak’s son Yevgeny finally accepted the award on his father’s behalf. Learn more about Boris Pasternak at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/boris-pasternak, and read his poem “February” here

      • Jacqueline Woodson (“February 12, 1963“) is an American writer of books for adults, children, and adolescents. She is best known for her National Book Award-Winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, and her Newbery Honor-winning titles After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. Her picture books The Day You Begin and The Year We Learned to Fly were NY Times Bestsellers. After serving as the Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, she was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress for 2018–19. She was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2020. Later that same year, she was named a MacArthur Fellow. Learn more about Jacqueline Woodson at https://jacquelinewoodson.com, and read her poem “February 12, 1963” here.