The cynical say that National Poetry Month is all about selling poetry books, and of course there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to buy more poetry. I thought that I would post some reviews of poetry books this month - not necessarily new ones, but some of my favorites. I'll start this week with some of the poetry books on my nightstand and my bookcase.Poem A Day: Volume 2
, edited by Laurie Sheck, has, as its title suggests, 366 poems in it, one for each day of the year, including February 29th. The subtitle promises "a wide range" of poems, and the book delivers. The poem for April 1st is by William Carlos Williams, the one for April 2nd is by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a Brazilian modernist poet who died in 1987, the one for the 3rd is by Ellen Bryant Voigt, who was born in 1943, and today's is by Henry Vaughan, who lived in the 1600s. Tomorrow's is a Haiku by Oshima Ryota, from the eighteenth century. It's fun to find new poets this way, and while I don't read this book every day, I do find myself turning to it quite often.
The anthology Good Poems for Hard Times
was edited by Garrison Keillor. Many of these poems show up in the Writer's Almanac
. Keillor's Introduction is wonderful and I love his section headings, too - "Kindness to Snails," "Whatever Happens," "Simpler than I could find words for." All are quotes from one of the poems in the section. I think most of the poems in this anthology are great choices. Some were already familiar to me - there's some Donne, Shakespeare, Stafford, and others. Many were delightful new discoveries.
I started reading Billy Collins a couple of years ago. Nancie Atwell introduced me to him (and to many other authors and ideas, I should add). Since then I've acquired a couple of his collections. One I just pulled off my bookcase is The Art of Drowning
. I love Billy Collins. Here he is talking about how glad he is that he won't be going to Italy this summer: "Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice, I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning paper, all language barriers down, rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way." (From Consolation
, which you can read the rest of here
.) In Thesaurus
(which you can read here
), he writes: "It could be the name of a prehistoric beast that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up in its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary." How can you not love a guy who writes stuff like that?
Billy Collins also wrote the preface to Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems
. I couldn't resist buying this book. For one thing, it's in a wonderful Everyman Pocket Poets Edition - hardback, with a ribbon bookmark attached, and the inscription on the front endpaper: "Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide, in thy most need to go by thy side." And for another, it has such great poems in it. Ever wonder what the love replied to the passionate shepherd? Christopher Marlowe wrote the original poem, which begins, "Come live with me, and be my love," and his contemporary Sir Walter Raleigh wrote The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
, where she essentially says, "You've bought me a bunch of cool presents, but I have a bit more sense than that, thanks." Here we see several other replies, and different versions of the original invitation, too. But that's just the beginning. The book is full of responses - poets replying with their work to something another poet wrote, participating in the "Great Conversation," as Collins' preface points out. To Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts
, Randall Jarrell answers, "About suffering, about adoration, the old masters disagree." Billy Collins himself writes, "As far as mental anguish goes, the old painters were no fools." Both go on to discuss other paintings. Annie Finch makes the Coy Mistress respond to Marvell, beginning with these words, "Sir, I am not a bird of prey: a Lady does not seize the day." Edward Hirsch writes the letter back to the River Merchant's Wife of Ezra Pound's poem, saying, "Sometimes the world seems so large, you have no idea." This anthology is so much fun - go buy it and support a poet or two.Here's today's roundup.