POETRY: discussion and more....
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lisapeet: ..."So I'm leavening that with The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, which are lovely, and because over and over I keep seeing the ebook on sale and I keep almost pulling the trigger but then thinking I could just get the library ebook, I'm mooting this point by reading the library ebook of Adam Haslett's Imagine Me Gone."
avaland: >lisapeet: "I've not been an especially big fan of Donald Hall, but I adore the work of his wife, Jane Kenyon."
lisapeet: ">avaland: "I like them both in different ways—hers have much more depth, but there's something Robert-Louis-Stevenson-like about his that reminds me of me as a kid first reading poetry. If that makes any sense whatsoever."
avaland: > lisapeet: "That does make sense. Most of my contact with him has been since the death of Jane. I went to a reading for his collection Without and it was so, so sad. It's been really interesting to see his latest collection selling well (for poetry, that is) now that he is deceased (but then, I am in NH so one would expect it).
Good to find another reading poetry. I think we may be a dying breed."
lisapeet: >avaland: "You may be right. I was a big poetry reader as a little kid—I started off on children's collections and was given a few really good gateway books as well, and it was taught in my grade school. The usual stuff, but that was enough—I still remember the fascination some of those poems held for me. and that set me up for a lifelong poetry habit. But I'm not sure how many people not in their 40s or 50s got that early inoculation."
avaland: > lisapeet: "At age 10 our class had a field trip to Longfellow's birthplace and it had a profound effect on me. I'm not sure I can tell you why (I'm nearly 63, btw), but it began a great lifetime love affair with poetry."
I will say that my kids never laugh harder while reading than while reading the poetry of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky."
"There is a group of poetry readers in the 75'ers. Mark, Joe, and Paul. Each one of them has a thread where they talk about the poetry they are reading. I am not sure if they have a thread devoted just to poetry, but any one of them would know for sure. Just check out their threads in the 75 challenge group."
ladyofthelodge: Regarding the poetry discussion: I was introduced to poetry in elementary school. We memorized and recited poems. I still remember "In Flanders Fields" in its entirety. I also had to memorize a poem in German class, and can still recall bits of it in German. I have not read poetry lately, other than Shakespeare. My book group once grabbed onto a book of Cowboy Poetry and that was a fun read. Shel Silverstein still has a place upon my shelf, although I have not opened him lately. My dear departed spouse could recite The Cremation of Sam McGee from memory!
I find poetry speaks to me in a way fiction does not, although there is fiction I find very lyrical or poetic. It offers me a succinct way of seeing or feeling things that are not mine, yet leaves a door open to include me. Contemporary poetry offers me this often, but not always, in a kind of music that one can tune our ears to hear.
These days, I tend to like short-line poetry, where the poet is succinct and where every word counts. And I like poetry that has music imbedded in it. I want to see things in a different way; I want to make a connection. I enjoy poets who only write poetry (i.e. Carol Duffy, Nikki Giovanni, Eavan Boland), and some who also write fiction (i.e. Margaret Atwood, Ron Rash, Michael Crummy, Helen Dunmore, Julianna Baggott...etc). I've not read enough of the younger poets yet to advise (though I'm working on it).
I think you would need need to sample through an anthology to see what you like and what you don't. Caroline Kennedy edited an anthology a few years ago, She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems that is quite nice, very accessible with good choices. Might be a good place to start.
Otherwise, at our bookstore, we sell a fair number of Mary Oliver collections, and have done well with Billy Collins. Both are very accessible poets. As is the UK's Carol Duffy.
There are audios of poets reading on the Poetry Foundation website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org
I Ask My Mother to Sing
by Li-Young Lee
She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.
I was writing some poetry of my own by aged 8. I go through jags of both reading and writing it now.
I've just managed to persuade my RL book group to read The Rattle Bag an anthology chosen by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Other fine anthologies are Bloodaxe's Staying Alive, and Being Alive. Bloodaxe have a great catalogue of international poets and poetry in translation.
Here's Heaney reading one of my favourite of his poems, 'Digging'
Another poet that I love is Galway Kinnell, although he went through some odd experimental stages. "St. Francis and the Sow" is one of my all-time favorites; you can read it or hear Kinnell reading it here:
Well, sorry, not sure why the hot link isn't working, but here's the link and a copy of the poem.
Saint Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
I was a really early convert—grew up in a traditionally bookish household (dad was a professor, mom an eternal student who read widely), and I think they felt it was their moral imperative to introduce me to poetry as soon as I could read. And I just ate it up. I think at that age you're smitten by both the imagery and the innovative use of language (and hey, rhyming!) so easily—e.e. cummings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Coleridge, you name it. I went through a lot of plain old mass market paperback anthologies when I was very little, but two instances stand out: one was the anthology Reflections on a Gift of a Watermelon Pickle, which is actually aimed at kids but it was really fresh at the time of publication (1967, so I probably read it a few years later... but not many). But early early on was the first poem I remember—and I always roll my eyes a bit when people say stuff like that, but I shouldn't because in my case it's absolutely true—which was probably from A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Happy Thought," quoted here in its entirety:
The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings
(A sentiment that, in spite of my slightly cynical self, I still hold deep in my heart). It was also the first poem I ever memorized, maybe not such a stretch there. But I got really into memorizing poems a few years later, when I was I don't know, ten? I still remember much of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," which I loved in the same way I loved Middle Earth and Narnia around that age.
Oh, and also I went through the "My Book House" series, which I probably inherited from an older sibling. Super old school, but I adored them, especially the illustrations.
More later, but I gotta get to work...
>6 Caroline_McElwee: "Digging" is one of my favorite Heaney's also. I have not read more than a collection or two of his, but that poem was in one of them.
I wrote my first poem at 10. The same year I knit a nose warmer and wore it to class. LOL. I read more consistently than I write it these days.
I think japaul22 (reposted in #2 above) noted she did not connect with the classic poets and wondered if she might connect better with contemporary poets. How might we suggest one begin?
I've not got to Galway Kinnell yet, though I have many US/Canadian poet favourites including Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Jane Kenyon (as mentioned by Lois above), Elizabeth Bishop, Lawrence Ferlenghetti, Maya Angelou, Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher to name but a few.
>8 lisapeet: ooo, like your books Lisa. We didn't have 'My Book House' in the UK.
I’ve downloaded She Walks in Beauty. I like how it’s organized but again I’m not sure if I should start at the beginning and read straight through or jump around. What do you prefer?
I almost never read a poem only once. I read it on average 3 times before I move on to the next. Poetry tends to be very layered, and each reading is likely to enhance how you feel about it. I'd suggest not worrying about understanding everything. As well as being layered, poetry works on more than one level as an experience IMO, so the content, the rhythm, and sometimes that something that is intuitive, that in some way speaks to the reader in a way that maybe they can't put into words. If you are comfortable doing so, read it aloud. Don't worry that you may be unused to doing so and feel self-conscious even when alone. It's not a performance.
As a total starter with poetry, why don't you just try a poem a day, and make friends with it, read it a few times, set it aside. See if it draws you back. Then another the next day. Maybe the volume will drag you back more often...
By Fady Joudah
wouldn't hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
Until it left on its own accord.
If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn't a place to call home
And you'd get to go biking
She said that's how others
Become refugees isn't it?”
And >7 Cariola: how cool to study with him. I love that Kinnell poem too, thank you—I always have a soft spot for animals in poetry.
>15 LadyoftheLodge: I'm pretty sure I wore that one out too.
One place I discover a lot of new contemporary poetry is through Poetry Daily's Poem of the Day. A recent favorite, from last week:
Light, which I dreamt was a decoder
of everything, falls
uneven in piles on snowdrifts.
A final loose lasso of geese flies:
Someone sleeps in the next room,
his breath curt stutters.
Inside I look at a book of mosaics:
shattered bones recomposed.
The abbreviated glass resolves
an evening lake.
It is so pleasurable to recognize strangers
—the brain likes this little glory,
moment to crow over.
Lately I recognize myself more and more
like an explanation stepping out
from the woodwork of fact.
I am special and irrevocable,
under the skin of skin of stone.
Whoever is in the next room stirs and creaks
in sleep. The sound of his motion rearranges me.
Pleiades Press / LSU Press
The Random House Book of Best-Loved Poems edited by Louis Phillips
The Great Cat part of Everyman's Library Pocket Poets
Christmas Poems part of Everyman's Library Pocket Poets
I love the small size of these books, as they easily fit into a pocket, handbag, or back pack. I like to just flip through them and read random poems. The Random House book had an inscription on the inside from my dear departed husband, which made me smile! Just a little reminder that he is still there!
>12 japaul22: Don't let us overwhelm you!
I sometimes read a single poet collection cover to cover, but other times I skip through the pages, back and forth, eventually covering it all. I do the same with anthologies. I will read all manner of poetry, and on any subject, even translations*, but there are certainly specific poets and poetry that I am drawn to.
*I often feel I am missing something in translated poetry.
I found I started by reading one poem. I would read it, then sit on it for a while, and then read it again. It was kind of like reading a really interesting section of a book and then stopping to let it sink in. Later I would read more of them at once (because they interact, even in anthologies), I would just keep going until my head said stop. (Often ~ten) Some would stick and then I would wonder why and I would go back to them.
I think poetry should come free and easy, no commitment. You don’t need a book. Sometimes a magazine that’s not too experimental is perfect (avoid Iowa review!!) You could buy an issue of Poetry magazine, and if you get into it you can follow up and listen to the podcast on the same issue (free) and here authors read their own works. Makes a difference.
What makes poetry different is that you don’t read to get to the end. You don’t count pages or pace and you don’t have an endpoint. It’s a now kind of thng.
I like that Daniel, and agree with it too.
I also find that while I can work at a book to see if it'll grow on me, or if my feelings/opinion change as I go, poetry either clicks or it doesn't for me. There are some poems I've come back to at very different times in my life that have struck me differently, but mostly it's either/or. And that toggle switch is pretty random—I don't favor particular styles or trends or eras, and while there are some poets I love and come back to over and over—Frank O'Hara, Mary Oliver, Louise Gluck, Galway Kinnell off the top of my head, but many more that I'm not flashing on—a lot of it is just random brain firings related to time or place or circumstance or the sound they make in my head. One of the reasons I like that Poetry Daily Poem of the Day is because it's also so random.
Krista Tippett often has poets on her On Being podcast, which I also love—hearing them talk about their work and then read it.
I read long poems more like a novel, but carefully; I am about to read a translation of Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso, it is in two volumes.
I'm currently dipping into a new, small anthology, American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time, selected by Tracy K. Smith (current poet laureate of the United States). It's a mix of contemporary poetry by a mix of contemporary poets. I'm skipping around in it now, but will settle in eventually and read it cover to cover.
So far I'm liking a lot of the advice given here. I'm not thinking about "finishing" this collection or reading it in order. I'm just dipping in and out of it - finding that some I like and some I don't want to read past the first line.
One I have connected with, probably because two of my best friends and I turned 40 this year:
Girlfriends by Ellen Doré Watson
First and last, mirrors
whose secrets we keep in a home-
made petrie dish
(sometimes they give us ideas)
I mean the ones who say the unwel-
come when it matters
whose kids watch us for clues
whose kids we watch for clues
Not the ones who decided there was
too much too true of them in our
eyes, and ran,
but the ones who'll be around to see
us bald or one-breasted and we
who'll know to say what can't be
said (with their skin)
whose bodies, spreading or starved,
whose husbands (or lack of) it's
okay to disapprove, or almost
whose girlfriends are ours by proxy
who share these assumptions and
would their last Godiva, valium,
who, even seven states away, are
where we land
Completely agree that most lyric poetry is best approached by dipping in as the fancy takes you and not trying to read a lot at once. I usually keep at least one poetry book on my bedside table, which often doesn't get touched for weeks on end, and at other times is dipped into energetically (at the moment it's Ingeborg Bachmann's turn; before that it was Tony Harrison).
A couple of people mentioned the importance of listening to poetry - also agree very strongly with that! Hearing the poet (or a good actor) performing the poem is a completely different experience from seeing it cold on the printed page, and it's often the best way into a poem or poet who is new to you. (But the poetry collection you eagerly bring home from a reading, with the poet's signature still wet on the flyleaf, is all too often a disappointment...!)
Memorising poetry is something that usually only gets mentioned in the context of traumatic experiences at school, but - if you have that sort of mind - it does make sense to do it occasionally. Memorising a poem you love is the best possible way of having it with you at all times and being able to get it out and play with it when you need it. Obviously works better for poems in strict form than for free verse. (And best of all for dreadful earworms you would prefer to forget, like the verse of Mrs Hemans...)
Writing poems yourself is also a good thing to do, provided you exercise decent restraint about inflicting them on others. Even just making up a few lines of silly jingly parody and working out why they sound wrong can really help you to make sense of what the poet is doing.
Jennifer- glad you’re enjoying that collection
I want one that features classic as well as modern poetry and is basically the structure of Break, Blow, Burn -- a brief introduction to the poet/poem, a reading of the poem, then a discussion or analysis of it. So far, the few I've tried are just reading of poems.
What the internet recommends
Hmmm, maybe want I want is a Great Courses on poetry.....
>32 ELiz_M: Ian McMillan’s “The Verb” can be very good. It’s not always about poetry, but when he’s talking to a poet he asks very penetrating questions. I’ve just been listening to the very interesting extended reading/interview he did with Douglas Dunn.
The mists rise over
The still pools of Asuka.
Memory does not
Pass away so easily.
As mentioned above, On Being often has poets as guests, reading their work and talking about it and their own history.
Minority poets, queer poets, immigrant poets, refugee poets—a younger generation of outsiders in America has found itself on the inside, winning prizes and acclaim with ambitious debuts. Exploring and exploding identity in new ways, these voices are also—of all things—drawing crowds.
I'll post a link when it gets posted online. I haven't had time to read it yet.
BTW, here in the states there has been an adorable reprint of Carol Ann Duffy's first collection as UK Poet Laureate, The Bees. It's a good choice if you wish to try a single poet collection (of a living poet).
How Poetry Came to Matter Again.
PM me if interested.
(looking forward to more of this - but that article title puts me off, it's probably a great article, but did it ever not matter?)
It's something Dutch towns do quite a lot of these days, but I don't really have a feel for how common it is elsewhere (I don't remember coming across any notable examples in the UK, for instance, but I have seen a few in Germany). You commission a poet to write something about a specific place (or take an existing poem), and an artist or craftsman to come up with an interesting way of inserting the poem into the landscape.
A few examples of different ways of doing this that I've seen:
Leiden - most people who've visited the Netherlands (and all who were at the LT get-together with Darryl a couple of years ago) will have seen the billboard-size poems by great poets from around the world painted on blank gable walls around the centre of the university city.
Maassluis - "the longest poem in the Netherlands" is an acrostic presented to walkers and cyclists a line at a time over a distance of 600m along the bank of the river. In keeping with the shipbuilding heritage of the town, the lines are plasma-cut into rusty steel plates. https://www.maassluis.nl/over-maassluis/nieuwsberichten_42951/item/informatiepal...
Rural Limburg - in my walks I've come across many examples of poems left at strategic points in the countryside. Sometimes neatly engraved into stainless steel (as in the example below from Swier, near Nuth); sometimes carved in stone; sometimes chiseled into split logs and obviously meant to rot away and disappear after a few years.
I also thought of Simon Armitage's words inscribed on rocks on a walk in Yorkshire - https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/its-world-simon-armitage-poe...
Here, Bullet by Brian Turner
Ballistics by Billy Collins
Sonnets of the Cross (a limited chapbook edition) by Joseph Bathanti
Singing a Tree into Dance by Jaki Shelton Green
Breath of the Song by Jaki Shelton Green
I also like Robert Morgan's poetry, but do not have any collections by him. There are some poems (with audio) on his website http://www.robert-morgan.com/poems
>36 avaland: I have a self-made book of all the poems I cut out of my The Atlantic and Poets & Writers magazines. Have found some real gems in there, but also some that don't necessarily resonate with me.
Instructions to Vampires
Kareen Fleur Adcock (b. 1934/02/10 in Papakura, North Island, New Zealand)
Fleur Adcock, from Poems: 1960—2000 (2000)
I would not have you drain
with your sodden lips the flesh that has fed mine,
and leech his bubbling blood to a decline:
not that pain;
nor visit on his mind
that other desiccation, where the wit
shrivels: so to be humbled in not fit
for his kind.
But use acid or flame,
secretly, to brand or cauterise;
and on the soft globes of his mortal eyes
etch my name.
LT informed me today is Samuel Menashe's anniversary, a man careful with words. I found this Bloodaxe tribute - and recommend the video (if it works for you) http://bloodaxeblogs.blogspot.com/2011/08/samuel-menashe-1925-2011.html
I should have said I liked this for is honesty and how it points the way to poetry, I quite liked that poem on youtube too.
I've noticed LT tell me today would have been Rimbaud's birthday - not that he'd have been sentimental, probably. But since I noticed:
I like this translation as it ends with 'light' (I know the French is 'jour').
but back to time - I noticed it is Dylan Thomas' birthday:
Edit - and Sylvia Plath too, but I can't find any links to poems of hers I feel like sharing that look legit. I'd suggest 'The Moon and the Yew Tree' right now.
but I'll stop posting these birthdays now I think.