Thursday, April 10, 2008

So you don't think you like to read poems?

I have found that even people who love to read often exhibit a discomfort with or disinterest in poetry. Those same individuals react differently, however, when presented with a poem that seems especially apropos. Among my family and friends, I have a reputation for aggressively sharing poetry. My father, a minister, once described from the pulpit the difference between my four sisters and me. "Nancy is the daughter," he said, "who calls long distance to read a poem to me." All right, I confess. I'm the one.

I have another close friend who is an avowed reader of nonfiction, deeming fiction less signficant. Poetry? It doesn't even cross his radar screen. This week, though, we had a visit, and he said, "Hey bud, you haven't sent me a poem lately." Aha!

For those already lovers of poetry, I see no need in sharing reading lists. You can just go look on your shelf. For you reluctant souls, however, here is a list of some poets and books of poems I recommend:

Billy Collins, a former poet laureate, won my heart quickly. His site Poetry 180 is a great source not only for high school students and teachers but anyone wanting to dip into a variety of poetry--no lectures or quizzes in voled. Among his collections on my shelve are The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, and Sailing Alone Around the Room. I use his poem "Introduction to Poetry" in almost every class I teach. If I taught PE, I'd probably work it in there too. Other personal favorites are "Marginalia" and "The Lanyard." When Collins appeared in Hickory a few years ago, he read the latter. It was delightful to see the audience anticipating his next line and whispering aloud "a lanyard" at just the right point.

Another poet I discovered and love is Ron Koertge (pronounced curt'-gee). I love his books Geography of the Forehead and Making Love to Roget's Wife. He also has some young adult novels in verse. I especially recommend Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and The Brimstone Journals.

Ted Kooser, another recent poet laureate of the U.S. is such a charming gentleman whose poems touch on such ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Two I spot on my shelf are Delights and Shadows and Flying at Night. Kooser won many hearts through his mailing list of women to whom he sends a postcard with a Valentine poem each year. Two of my colleagues are beneficiaries of this gesture.

North Carolina has produced a bumper crop of poets (and writers in general). A few names you might consider include our state poet laureate Kay Stripling Byer. Among her books of poetry are The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest and Coming to Rest. Michael McFee from UNC-CH caught my attention as a Writers Almanac selection the week before I encountered him at a poetry workshop. Check out his collection Shinemaster. He also edited a collection of North Carolina poetry, The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat.

Look for James Applewhite's Lessons in Soaring, Jaki Shelton-Green's Breath of the Song or Mark Smith-Soto's Our Lives Are Rivers. I haven't even mentioned Fred Chappell, but not list of North Carolina poets (or writers) is complete without him. Likewise, Sally Buckner continues to produce fine poetry, including her most recent collection with a decidedly anti-war stance.

Need more? Just ask!

No comments: