Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Encouraging Word about Chapbooks, Take 2

Friday before I left the office for the long weekend break, I tried to publish a post about poetry. Never having had bad luck on this blog, I didn't think to save what I was posting, but when I clicked Publish, it all went away. Although I can't possibly remember everything I wrote, I'm going to try again.

Whenever I start spouting off about National Poetry Month--or poetry in general, I am either dismayed or disappointed at the number of reading friends who never consider poetry. In a way, I think Billy Collins may have been correct when he said that "high school is where poetry goes to die." I've tried not to be one of those teachers, but I do remember crossing paths with the ones who inflicted poetry on students rather than tantalizing us with it.

I've always loved poetry, but in the last few years, as I have been writing more, I have also been reading more. My suggestion to anyone who is reluctant or intimidated about reading poetry is that you start with a chapbook. These slender volumes usually have only 25-30 poems, usually focused on a central theme. The investment in time and money is minimal, but the payoff is often quite wonderful. This month, I've committed to read some of the chapbooks I've accumulated this year. I've dipped into a few, but I want to read the whole book at once to get the full effect.

I've started with Breathing Out by Bruce Niedt, a friend I've not actually met. Bruce participates in Poetic Asides, the online poetry community where I've been writing for two years now. In Bruce's work, I recognize a kindred spirit, and I enjoy his approach to a writing prompt. I'm not sure if his blog title Orange Peel inspired the first poem in his collection, a sensuous poem called"How to Peel an Orange," or vice versa. In "The Little Shoplifters, the speaker of the poem observes birds feasting on a spilt bag of seed at the home improvement stores. Another favorite of mine from this chapbook is "All the Clocks in My House are Set to Different Times."

Chapbooks are available in many places. If you check the poetry section of a book store, especially the indies, you may find volumes by local or regional poets. If you keep an eye out for readings in your area, you can usually pick up books published by the poets reading. Several presses that feature poetry have an online presence, even on Facebook.

Before ruling out poetry altogether, I suggest you try it again, this time with no essay to write, no multiple choice test to take. Read for the pleasure. That's why poets write, you know. As William Carlos Williams said, "If it ain't pleasure, it ain't a poem."

1 comment:

Bruce Niedt said...

Thanks for the shout-out and "mini-review", Nancy!