If you don’t dress in black or hang out in coffeehouses, why would you want to read poetry? I mean really, you squeaked through all those high school English classes and managed to overcome a college survey course in world lit, so why would you now want to read poetry again? Unless you are a poet, or a student, most people do not read a lot of poetry.
Bookin’ with Sunny, along with fiction, also reviews poetry, and Joanne Mallari’s latest review of Poets’ Guide to America (Brooklyn Arts Press) is just a sample. Life is busy (even in a recession) and time is of the essence. And that is why poetry should be among the things you read. Most poems are seldom more than one page long (and lots are even shorter) and although you might not completely understand the poem at first, who cares? There will be no test! You can go back and reread it. It’s not like rereading a novel, it’s a poem, not even a chapter!
When the subject of poetry comes up, I’m often asked if I actually go out and buy poetry books. I do. Right now I’m going through Linda Pastan’s Traveling Light (W.W. Norton & Co.). I will review this marvelous collection, just as soon as I stop rereading it to choose the best poems to highlight. If you are a grandparent or if you remember your grandparents, this book is a must, and just to prove it, here’s the opening stanza of a poem titled Anatomy: In the tenement/of the body/generations have left/their mark. In much the same way of rereading Pastan, I’m rereading Wislawa Szymborska’s Here (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt). Just because a poet has won the Nobel Prize or has a name that doesn’t come trippingly off your tongue, shouldn’t scare you off. Szymborska’s poetry is accessible (you’ll get it), gritty and human. For all you readers who like your verse in metered rhyme – take heart! Rhyme is making a comeback. Well, not in a big way like my first book of poetry, RLS’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, but it’s there, just not always at the end of a line.
I’m also rereading Michael Palmer’s Thread (New Directions). For those of you who have never read Palmer, I will not explain why I think he is always worth reading, but probably not for everyone. And I don’t think I’ll ever screw up enough courage to review anything he’s written. But I will recommend Patrick Pritchett’s fine review of Thread at http://jacket2.org/reviews/against-elegy-michael-palmers-book-dead.
Poetry reviews should be available in a review site for a general readership. The three above-mentioned poets just happen to be what’s on the table next to my reading chair at the moment. There are new poets, young and old, poetry of the recent past and those poems of ancient times; poetry is written in a language you may not even realize you are familiar with. It is that portable language of sound, sight, heart and mind. It is both shadow and light, it follows and precedes us, every step of our lives.