Morningside Lights





For 100 years, the Pulitzer Prizes have celebrated the leading writers and artists of our time. This year’s theme, TRAVERSE, invites participants to create lanterns inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. Over the course of the week, visiting artists Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Processional Arts Workshop have helped community members imagine and design vibrant lanterns that illuminate passages by great poets who have received this distinctive honor over the past century.

Explore the poems that inspired the lanterns.

"here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones."

From "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight", Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell (Pulitzer Prize 1983)

"Your uncle stashed silk and linen, lace and silver in a suitcase on a ship that
docked not far from here;"

From "Home", Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian (Pulitzer Prize 2016)

"...the sky
Shows blue as flames that break on a red sea in which black coals float:"

From "The Crystal Lithium", The Morning of the Poem by James Schuyler (Pulitzer Prize 1981)

"Do not be afraid of no,
Who has so far, so very far to go."

From "Do Not Be Afraid of No", Annie Allen by Gwendolyn Brooks (Pulitzer Prize 1950)

"The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,"

From "The Man-Moth", Collected Poems by Elizabeth Bishop (Pulitzer Prize 1956)

"Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird. "

From "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens (Pulitzer Prize 1955)

"Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence wire."

From "There Will Come Soft Rains", Flame and Shadow by Sara Teasdale (1918 Pulitzer Prize winner for Love Songs)

"Red mushroom labyrinths;
lightening-bolt mazes,
Painted in caves,


From "The Way West, Underground", Turtle Island by Gary Snyder (Pulitzer Prize 1975)

"Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
singing inside
creek music, heart music,"

From "For All", Turtle Island by Gary Snyder (Pulitzer Prize 1975)

"the rats are flying. For the rats
have moved in, mostly, and this is for real."

From "Prisoner of Shark Island" with Paul Muni", 77 Dream Songs by John Berryman (Pulitzer Prize 1965)
"You gave me
in secret one thing
to perceive, the
tall blue starry
strangeness of being
here at all."

From "The Only Animal", Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright (Pulitzer Prize 2004)

"For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face."

From "The Bat", The Waking by Theodore Roethke (Pulitzer Prize 1954)

"When the light poured down through a hole in the clouds,
We knew the great poet was going to show."

From "The Great Poet Returns", Blizzard of One by Mark Strand (Pulitzer Prize 1999)

"The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream."

From "The Emperor of Ice-Cream", Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens (Pulitzer Prize 1955)

"With green rock gliding, a delicate schooner
Decked forth in cockle-shells,
They sailed till tide foamed round their ankles"

From "Dream with Clam-Diggers", The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Pulitzer Prize 1982)

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,"

From "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening", New Hampshire by Robert Frost (Pulitzer Prize 1924)

"A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings;"

From "The Swan", American Primitive by Mary Oliver (Pulitzer Prize 1984)
"Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being—a Starman"

From "Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?", Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Pulitzer Prize 2012)

"Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls."

From "Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?", Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Pulitzer Prize 2012)

"A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter"

From "Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?", Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Pulitzer Prize 2012)

"The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored"

From "A Prodigal", Collected Poems by Elizabeth Bishop (Pulitzer Prize 1956)
"on that flickering horizon
The guns were pumping color in the sky."

From "I Dreamed That in a City Dark as Paris", At The End Of The Open Road by Louis Simpson (Pulitzer Prize 1964)

"The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;"

From "The Waking", The Waking by Theodore Roethke (Pulitzer Prize 1954)

"Women with drums who fly over Tibet.
or elder wilder goddesses reborn"

From "The Way West, Underground", Turtle Island by Gary Snyder (Pulitzer Prize 1975)

falling lightly again in the garden
and the dogs sleeping on the dark floorboards"

From "Accompaniment", The Shadow of Sirius by W. S. Merwin (Pulitzer Prize 2009)

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."

From "The Waking", The Waking by Theodore Roethke (Pulitzer Prize 1954)
"...Ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring!
Catholic bells-!"

From "The Catholic Bells" by William Carlos Williams
though our garden
could be one bean
and we’d rejoice if
it flourishes"

From "The Best of It", The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan (Pulitzer Prize 2011)

"half of him rising through a roof
like some sea spirit from a wave
to turn shaped slates into fish scales "

From "Shadow Hand", The Shadow of Sirius by William Stanley Merwin (Pulitzer Prize 2009)
"Sky-high, where mariners had fabled news
Of IS, the whited monster."

From "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket", Lord Weary's Castle by Robert Lowell (Pulitzer Prize 1947)
"their vials half full of gold powder;
stubs of wax pencils;
frayed brushes with tooth-bitten shafts"

From "The China Painters", Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser (Pulitzer Prize 2005)

"I began swallowing watermelon seeds by the handful hoping something take root: a vine, a silence."

From "Four Improvisations on Ursa Corregidora - after Gayl Jones", Digest by Gregory Pardlo (Pulitzer Prize 2015)

"From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That's all
There was to it."

From "A Piece of the Storm", Blizzard of One by Mark Strand (Pulitzer Prize 1999)

"and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies"

From "Morning Poem", Dream Work by Mary Oliver

"We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon."

From "We Real Cool", The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks

"scallops and
lion's paws
sculptured to the
tune of retreating waves "

From "Song", Pictures from Brueghel by William Carlos Williams (Pulitzer Prize 1963)
"Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer."

From "Live", Live or Die by Anne Sexton (Pulitzer Prize 1967)

"I never turned anyone into a pig.
Some people are pigs; I make them
look like pigs."

From "Circe’s Power", Meadowlands by Louise Glück

"The owl in the darkness, that good darkness under the stars."

From "Hum, Hum", A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

"These birds pursue their errands
On curvatures of air;
They lash the sky with ribbons,
With wakes of wrinkled blue,"

From "Anthem", Collected Later Poems by Anthony Hecht

"Language was filling my head, wild exhilaration
Alternated with profound despair—"

From "The Story of the Day", Faithful and Virtuous Night: Poems by Louise Gluck



  • Check out the Pulitzer Prize website to browse the complete list of winners in poetry from the past century.
  • The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing has compiled a wonderful online resource called PennSound where you can hear great authors reading from their own work. Explore their audio recordings of Pulitzer Prize-winning poets, including Wallace Stevens reading “The Auroras of Autumn” in 1954, the year before he won the Pulitzer Prize. Here are some other recordings we especially love:

Rae Armantrout, including excerpts from Verse (Pulitzer Prize 2010)
CK Williams, including excerpts from Repair (Pulitzer Prize 2000)
Yusef Komunyakaa, including excerpts from Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (Pulitzer Prize 1994)
James Schuyler, complete reading of The Morning of the Poem (Pulitzer Prize 1981)
William Carlos Williams, including excerpts from Pictures from Brueghel (Pulitzer Prize 1963)

  • On view through December 23, 2016 at Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library is an exhibition of ephemera celebrating the Pulitzer Prize Centennial, including highlights from the poetry collection. Visit Butler Library, 6th Floor East.

Morningside Lights concept and direction by Processional Arts Workshop. Co-produced by the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre at Columbia University, in collaboration with Friends of Morningside Park. This year’s theme was developed in collaboration with Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and their concurrent exhibition celebrating the Pulitzer Prize centennial.