The Cheer

William Meredith

reader my friend, is in the words here, somewhere.
Frankly, I'd like to make you smile.
Words addressing evil won't turn evil back
but they can give heart.
The cheer is hidden in right words.

A great deal isn't right, as they say,
as they are lately at some pains to tell us.
Words have to speak about that.
They would be the less words
for saying smile when they should say do.
If you ask them do what?
they turn serious quick enough, but never unlovely.
And they will tell you what to do,
if you listen, if you want that.

Certainly good cheer has never been what's wrong,
though solemn people mistrust it.
Against evil, between evils, lovely words are right.
How absurd it would be to spin these noises out,
so serious that we call them poems,
if they couldn't make a person smile.
Cheer or courage is what they were all born in.
It's what they're trying to tell us, miming like that.
It's native to the words,
and what they want us to always know,
even when it seems quite impossible to do.



In light of the Coronavirus crisis, Poetry Daily has started an impromptu series, What Keeps Us.
For the rest of March, we will post poems to sustain and uplift through trying times. Each poem is accompanied with an image by author-illustrator Juana Medina We thank you for reading and hope that you will share poems with your friends and neighbors. Please be well.

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William Morris Meredith, Jr. (1919 — 2007) was an American poet and educator. He was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 to 1980.

A contemporary of Berryman, Bishop, and Lowell, William Meredith shared neither the bohemian excesses of the Beats nor the exhibitionist excesses of the “confessional” poets. Rather, he was known as a poet whose unadorned, formal verse marked him as a singular voice.

Winner of the 1997 National Book Award for Poetry

"For the past 45 years [Meredith] has looked generously and hard at our common human world. . . . William Meredith's work suggests that we can recognize the hardest truths about ourselves and still live in the world."
New York Times Book Review

"When you finish this book by Meredith, you have a strong sense of the man who wrote it, of a life well-lived."

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