Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poetry for Christmas

If you check out any bookstore, you'll find the poetry selection sparse. Usually the chain stores will carry Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman--all those poets you already have on your shelves if you have any poetry at all. Independent bookstores are more likely to offer more regional or local poets. One of the best opportunities to add to your poetry collection--and the most enjoyable--is a poetry reading. If you watch the newspaper, you will often see notices for authors' readings, some at bookstore, some on campuses or even at coffee houses. You don't even need to live in a big, bustling city to find such events.

In Hickory, North Carolina, where I live now, a poetry event is hosted at least one Tuesday a month at Tasteful Beans, a downtown coffee shop. Since I teach a Tuesday night class this semester, I'm usually unable to attend, but last night we were on fall break, so I took advantage. Each month, Scott Owens, who coordinates the event, invites one or two featured poets to read their works. Other poets, many unpublished, can also sign up for open-mike to read. Last night, the readers included a student and even the proprietor of the coffee shop. The featured poets, Helen Losse and Debra Kaufman read from their poems, some from most recent publications.

Debra Kaufman of Mebane, NC, has just published a book of poems called Moon Mirror Whiskey Wind, a collection unified by a thread following a girl called Destiny. For reasons I find difficult to explain, I have always collected files on esoteric topics. One folder contains what I call "Barbie Lit," writings about that disproportionate icon of my childhood. Kaufman's collection has a poem called "To a Barbie."

Helen Losse, the other featured poet, is the poetry editor for online mag, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I had heard her read before and regularly follow her on Facebook. Her new book, Better with Friends, is prayerful without being religious (or didactic or sanctimonius.) She went on to read poems from her next book.

Scott Owens also read from Sea Trails, a poet who is homebound for health reasons. This book juxtaposes journal records of a sailing trip she took with a lover along the coast. I was particularly intrigued by the pairing of genres. This, I knew, would make a perfect gift for a sailing friend.

Owens suggested considering poetry books--especially those by the authors who had been gracious enough to travel to Hickory to read for us--as Christmas gifts. He mentioned a man who used to stand on King Street in Boone, reciting poems and selling them for a dollar apiece. These collections offered them at less then thirty cents each, he told us.

Later, when I told him that I loved buying poetry for gifts but sometimes wanted to keep them for myself, he told me he gives poetry to others hoping that when they realize he loves poetry, they will return the favor. Not a bad idea!


1 comment:

DeadMule said...

Thanks for the kind words, Nancy. Helen Losse