Poetic Outbursts

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am a fan of poetry. I wasn’t when I was in high school. It’s thanks to Dr. Melissa Morphew (my past poetry prof and thesis committee chair here at SHSU) that I fell in love with words and then with poetry. She showed me it didn’t have to be thee and thou. It didn’t have to rhyme (and I still dislike rhyming poetry a great deal). Furthermore, she taught me that if you have something deep to say then it’ll be said without you having realized it, but the rest of the world will realize when you’re trying too hard. And it’s true!

I still love to write poetry, but, admittedly, I read more fiction than I do poetry. I don’t know why other than it’s a hard habit to break. I’m a science fiction/fantasy junkie. However, in honour of no reason in particular I’m focusing on poetry books today that we have in the Newton Gresham Library. These are books I’ve read and recommend to readers who love words, who love language, and who might be a bit hesitant about getting into poetry.

Admittedly, not all poetry makes sense all the times. Even some of the best poets, those prize-winners and laureates, might have poems that just go zoom right over my head, or that simply fail. It happens. It doesn’t make all poetry bad and it doesn’t make you a bad reader. You can enjoy poetry for its own sake without analyzing it just like you enjoy reading fiction for its own sake: You can enjoy the words, the sounds, the language. But, I have to say, a lot of joy does come from understanding what’s being said.

I have a guide available for those of you studying poetry or who want to do some further research at http://shsulibraryguides.org/poetry.

My favourite poet is Pablo Neruda. You can read a brief biography about this poet at the official website of the Nobel Prize. His use of language is gripping and his images very sensual in that you smell, taste, feel, hear, see so many things as he paints a picture with his words. We have several collections of his poetry. One of my favourite collections is Intimacies: Poems of Love in which Neruda’s love poems (in Spanish & English) are showcased with Mary Heebner’s sensual paintings. “…out of blood and love I carved my poems” from “Ars Magnetica” This book is a companion to On the Blue Shores of Silence.

I’ve also enjoyed Aaron Belz’ Lovely, Raspberry: Poems. Many of the poems made me laugh aloud. Belz clearly loves words and wordplay, though I don’t understand all the games he plays with the words, I appreciate much of it. You can read another review from the Boston Review. These poems are mostly short and quick and plenty of fun.

Charles Bukowski is another wild card poet I thoroughly enjoy. I was introduced to his poetry through a friend in graduate school who had a recording of a Bukowski reading he highly prized. I once saw someone in the airport reading Bukowski and it made me smile because someone was reading a poet I liked and because someone was reading poetry in an airport! What a lovely way to pass time. The Library has many of his books. His website is also a great place to go to learn more about him and his writing. I’m a fan of Allen Ginsberg, so it seems only natural to move to Bukowski. Bukowski can be in turns funny and angry, bitter but never really sweet. One memorable line (from the poem “Hitler’s Mama”): “…Hitler’s mother was more beautiful than any pineapple in the supermarket.” I don’t have any particular collection or book that’s my favourite. I just like Bukowski’s poetry and I’ve not read all his books back to back, but I buy them (for myself) as I come across them and randomly read selections.

Witch’s Dictionary by Sarah Kennedy cleverly uses details from the witch trials across Europe and America to craft witty, political (and politically relevant), and interesting poems. You can read a review of Kennedy’s book in the Winter 2009 Prairie Schooner.

Monkswear is another enjoyable and slim volume of poetry by Paul Quenon. Watch this YouTube video of an interview with Brother Quenon in which he also reads some of his poems. The book is a nice shine of light in the daily life of a monk. “Poems containing the memories, reflections, and whimsy of a monk long practiced in the stark details of the monastic life open up the interior world of the monks and give insight into its importance. The religious habit, the hood, and the scapular are viewed from within by one who moves about in a habit and makes sense of it in some individual and unpredictable ways.” (from Goodreads.com)

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