A Community Poem Inspired By Broken New Year's Resolutions As 2020 rang in, there were inevitable promises to diet, exercise and save money. Poet Kwame Alexander shares a community poem of audience-submitted couplets inspired by broken New Year's promises.

A Poem For Those Who Dropped The Ball On New Year's Resolutions

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With the new year comes new promises and new goals, new friendships and new rules.

KWAME ALEXANDER, BYLINE: But some rules, Rachel, are meant to be broken.

MARTIN: They are, aren't they?

ALEXANDER: Yes, yes.

MARTIN: Kwame Alexander is our poet in residence, and he joins me here in the studios.

Hello, Kwame.

ALEXANDER: Rachel, glad to be back in D.C.

MARTIN: OK. Well, I am glad you are here in the flesh, in the studio because we need you to help us unveil another fabulous community poem.

ALEXANDER: And this one is extra fabulous.

MARTIN: Extra fabulous (laughter).

ALEXANDER: So when we were last together, you said one of your resolutions was to write more poetry.

MARTIN: I actually didn't. I said - not write, like, have in my life.

ALEXANDER: Well, you just did it, so I'm holding you to that. That's my point.

MARTIN: (Laughter) All right, fine. Yeah. OK, so last time we asked you, our listeners, to send in couplets of your abandoned New Year's resolutions.

ALEXANDER: We thought it might be a light way to not take ourselves too seriously. No judgments, people.

MARTIN: Right. So we got over 500 creative and thought-provoking lines and poems. And then you, Kwame, did your thing. You combined some of your words into a poem of epic proportions.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. I took all of their poems, and I created one of our crowdsourced community poems. But let's switch it up this week.


ALEXANDER: These beautiful, amazing couplets all have a musical flow. They really came alive musically with rhythm and rhyme.

MARTIN: That makes sense - music and poetry, one in the same.

MARTIN: My friend Nikki Giovanni says poetry and music are very good friends. So let's recite this month's crowdsourced community poem with a little music underneath. What do you think?

MARTIN: Yeah, let's do it. What do we got? All right. So here we go. All our contributors to this poem are listed on the NPR website. You should go check it out. Kwame, you start. Here we go.


ALEXANDER: Here's to my treadmill, incomplete without the sound of slapping feet. Eating healthy, getting abs, but chips and chocolate up for grabs. Oh, banana pudding from the deli, how did you get inside my belly?

MARTIN: I was a vegetarian all the way to 10 a.m. My goals quickly turned to apathy - at least I eat happily. People acting all highfalutin because they said they've sworn off gluten.

ALEXANDER: Why do my resolutions fail? Why can't I just eat that kale? What makes me want to put my fork into that plate of spiced pulled pork?

MARTIN: Why do I shun vegan potpourri after I resolve to go fat-free? I think I shall come next new year, vow no more pizza, no more beer. Then perhaps I might instead choose green tea and pita bread.

ALEXANDER: To the pounds I vow each year to lose, each time a few more from which to choose, to stop feeding my Krispy Kreme addiction, to watch less news, read more fiction.

MARTIN: To the running shoes gathering dust by the back door, to the unfinished dissertation I habitually ignore, to all the papers I did not grade, to all the beds I never made.

ALEXANDER: Though I promised to timely fold, laundry in the dryer lays there cold, I resolve to not procrastinate. I'll start tomorrow. Is that too late?

MARTIN: Junk mail towers, a teetering stack, the will to sort it I clearly lack. A new resume, that's what I want. Alas, can't find the perfect font.

ALEXANDER: Oh, sweet tenor ukulele, last year's holiday treasure, you filled my heart with sunshine songs in spite of ill wind weather. A year gone by on wistful sigh, no lessons and no learning. A lifetime worth of unsung soul, such longing and such yearning.

MARTIN: Every year, I vow to change the world before I die. Every year, the world changes, and I didn't even try. Every year, since giving birth, I vow no longer will I curse. But damn it, I'm a parent.


ALEXANDER: From all the speeding I do that is not legal to the sister-in-law I still love to needle, I resolve to be ever so nice and kind. On January 2, I changed my mind.

MARTIN: Promised myself I would write this couplet. Sorry to say, it just isn't done yet.

ALEXANDER: Sure, my 2020 goals are going just fine, I get them all done if I could just find the time.

MARTIN: The long walks I promised to my dog. The men at bars I would not snog. Long morning runs and lifting fog. Calorie counting in this food log.

ALEXANDER: Candidates for office I should uplift with walks and calls and poll place shifts. Grocery shopping with more thrift. The long lost friend, your misplaced gifts.

MARTIN: Bills, please pay yourself on time. To all of you, I send these rhymes. Worry not, I have a notion. I can fix this with a potion. Gather the coals, the cauldron set, add in three fresh drops of sweat, a chicken egg not yet hatched, prescription pills finally fetched.

ALEXANDER: Sprig of flowers not yet bloomed, more home cooking fills the room.

And lastly here - the secret seed, that dead goldfish I didn't feed, I free you from your frozen disposition, the unclean refrigerator in my kitchen. And one day soon I'll drink this stout after I take my sweet dog out.

MARTIN: (Laughter) An excellent way to start off the first month of this new year.

Kwame Alexander, thank you so much. I'm so glad to have you here in the studio. He's a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION and the author of "The Undefeated."

Thank you.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Rachel. And I really want to thank all of our listeners for trying poetry.

MARTIN: Yeah, it's awesome.


That was Rachel and Kwame Alexander. And we should note that this week, Kwame won the Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award for his children's book "The Undefeated."

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