If you are trying to be a better poet, you know that writing poetry is only half the work. Reading good poetry is the other half. It is what informs your sensibilities, introduces you to new techniques, makes you jealous (in a good way) so you work even harder to find just the right images, sounds, rhythms.
I read a lot of poetry, because it helps me become a better poet. It also makes me a better writer in general. I also read poetry just because. For me, it is a source of enchantment, a kind of hope, a place to dream.
There is so much to choose from in the world of poetry, but here are a few ideas for you or a friend, this holiday season…
1. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. This is an excellent resource book and includes a lot of great classic poems, grouped by form. It’s the book my daughter Sara once stole away; she later returned with poems of her own: sonnets, pantoums, villanelles, sestinas.
2. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words is a fun little book that will get you playing with words in new ways.
3. The Butterfly’s Burden. This collection, by a Palestinian poet, never fails to make me swoon. Take this little untitled poem for instance: The fog is darkness, thick white darkness/peeled by an orange and a promising woman.
4. Of course we recommend any of our titles. Beauty, style, unique ways of seeing the world, real voices. That’s what you can expect from a T. S. title.
5. How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry. Hirsch says poetry is “a secret that can no longer be kept a secret.” If you’ve wondered why and how you should read poetry, this book will give you some unexpected and delightful answers, so that maybe you’ll find yourself saying, like he does, “It always carries me away.”
6. Nine Horses: Poems. One quiet Sunday, I read this entire book of poetry to my kids. They loved it. Collins is pure grown-up, but he’s accessible at many levels. One of our favorites was about the neurotic fear of a mouse who might burn the whole house down by accidentally striking a match in the walls.
7. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems. Neruda will teach you the power of the image. Abstract language takes a back seat to poppies, a green knife, footsteps light as flour dust. I am particularly enamored with the love poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Twenty Love Poems, 7”: Leaning into the evenings I toss my sad nets/to that sea which stirs your ocean eyes.
8. The Anthologist is one of the funniest books I’ve read. Part fictional memoir of character ‘Paul Chowder, ‘ part terrific insight into the inner workings of poetry. The running story of Sara Teasdale is both fun and poignant, as is the character’s own failed love-life with Roz.
9. The Art of Recklessness. Not an easy read, but somehow I can’t put it down. The force of Young’s voice, the liveliness and depth of his observations, and sometimes the surprisingly simple interjections (no one can ruin poetry by trying to write it!) make for a profound and sometimes winsome read.
10. Every Day Poems. One of the best things I ever did for my poetry writing was to start reading a poem a day. This daily poetry delivery (weekends excluded) makes it simple, and gives me joy in the morning.
Post by L.L. Barkat. Visit L.L. at Seedlings in Stone, for more on writing, poetry, art and life.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In December we’re exploring the theme The Villanelle.