Thursday, April 01, 2010

Top 10 Poetry Picks

Black bird

It's National Poetry Month. How could I pass up the chance to share my Top 10 Poetry Picks? Or (harder question), how can I narrow it to just 10? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... :)

1. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. This one turned my older daughter's poetic life around. She discovered she's a better poet when she writes in form, and has tried sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and pantoums. I'm still trying to play catch-up to this 12 year old. :)

2. Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West I can always trust Maureen Doallas for the best poetry recommendations. This one offered poets I'd never read before. Some of the background stories and poems brought tears; others made me laugh out loud. Includes some Rumi poems that supposedly have never been published in any other collection.

3. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (English and Spanish Edition) Dramatic poetry, and often very moving. I'm trying to memorize the Spanish versions after reading the English versions on the facing pages. Being a newbie to Neruda I wasn't sure which volume to choose and was pleasantly surprised when someone in-the-know told me he thinks this is the best set of translations he's seen. Also, Kathleen Overby reminded me I must watch Il Postino again, since it's framed around the exile of Neruda.

4. Valentines is a delightful volume of love poems, some of which will make you laugh, sigh, or gasp. (I remember being surprised by the one where the owl loved the mouse and... ate him! :) Kooser wrote poems for women all over the nation, each Valentine's day, until his list exceeded 2000 and the postage got too costly. I'm glad he finally put them in a book.

5. Nine Horses: Poems is whimsical (and sometimes unexpectedly poignant). Again, I loved a mouse poem (this time the mouse wins, so to speak, when it runs through the house with a lighted match). One Sunday afternoon I read this entire volume to my kids. They loved it.

6. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words is technically a book on writing poetry (and therefore includes fewer poems than others on this list). But it's one of my favorite poetry books, because it really can help a person write better poetry (whether a seasoned poet or newcomer).

7. The Song of the Horse: Selected Poems 1958-2008. Sam Hazo won me over when I went to hear him read. Such a lively and thoughtful man! His poems are like little conversations or stories, which makes sense, since Hazo often pulls his poetry from life-overheard.

8. Tabloid News: Poems. Leax takes a simple element — the tabloid news headlines — and turns them into surprisingly haunting poems. We find ourselves empathizing with fantastic and monstrous figures like the Louisiana Bayou creature. Also, his opening essay about our fascination with such creatures is thought provoking.

9. George Seferis: Collected Poems. Seferis pretty much made me swoon with his talk of marble and light, almonds and blossoms. (He inspired the almond poem in InsideOut: poems (I remember the scent/and how you crushed them;/brown skins/turned to dust,/scattered like spilled cinnamon).

10. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. Again, this is a book on writing (and reading) poetry. But it HAS to go on my Top 10 List. Kooser permits us to love poetry by debunking the myth of if-it-confuses-you-it's-probably-good-poetry. Good poetry, he argues, is accessible. Then he shows us wonderful examples and invites us to a life of poetry. I'm in. :)

(Want to make your own list of favorite poetry books? If you do, I'll link to you.)

National Poetry Month at tweetspeak

Bird photo by L.L. Barkat.

nAncY's 5 Poetry Book Recommendations
Heather's 10 Volumes
Laura's Poetry on the Move

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Blogger SimplyDarlene said...

Thank you for sharing this list. Now I can go armed to the library! I do have the first book (I won it from Laura's contest many months ago when we all first met). I need some lessons from your daughter too.

Although I don't reckon I have enough favorites for my own post, I do love, love two old books I recently found in a grandfather's box of trash-bound, sorely neglected reads. "Best Loved Poems: A Treasure Chest of Favorite Verse" and it is dated 1952. Also, "The Glories of Nature: Rivers; in Eternal Words and Inspired Photographs" and it is dated 1972. What treasures I have found within those old yellowed pages...

And I might add that Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden Verses" and your "InsideOut" also cuddle close to my heart...


11:43 AM  
Blogger SimplyDarlene said...

One more thing, my mamma would say that the notebooks and self-bound books of poetry I wrote during my childhood and high school daze would be the only ones on her list.

She really ought to get out more... ;-)

Blessings, again and again.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Maureen said...

Great list.

I have lots of Neruda in Spanish, some with English translations. It's difficult to have too much of him.

My list includes the extraordinary work of the late Mahmoud Darwish. I cannot read the Arabic (though it's lovely to look at); fortunately, the English translations by Fady Joudah are so beautiful I find myself in awe.

Some others: Ruth Stone (I have a post about her coming up), Denise Levertov, Marge Piercy, Rachel Wetzsteon (also have a post on her coming up). And those in translation, such as Cela, Octavio Paz, Czeslaw Milosz, Lorca, Cavafy. I can't really limit myself to 10, as I'm always finding poets whose work speaks to me, the latest is Chris Abani.

Thank you for your kind words.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Kooser's book is an all time favorite of mine!

So happy to find him on your list too!

I have another book about poetry that I love... that turns you right inside out. :)

It really does.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

There you go again, teaching me. I bought a few poetry books for myself (for my birthday:)recently and have been enjoying them tremendously. As a neophyte, I decided to buy some collections. A Poem a Day has proved wonderful and also Garrison Keiller's Good Poems (I believe it's called). How wonderful to have such a variety of yumminess all in one volume! I read to the boys at dinner time. I actually think they enjoy it.

Thank you for the gift of poetry. You have made it very real and accessible to me. That is a gift I will continually be unwrapping.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Megan Willome said...

Is that a photo of a crow, by any chance? Just asking because I've written loads of crow poetry. Not that it will ever be included in such a distinctive list as yours, of course.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good list. Now to find time for some poetry reading-- after a trip to the library! :)

1:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I type thank you.

Thank you , Laura.

3:20 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

The Making of a Poem is one of the best anthologies I've read in a long while. So many people recommended it I had to buy it, and I fell in love with it too.

I haven't read any of the other books on your list, tending towards the safety of the old classic poets instead - which is shameful for me and I must explore modern poetry more. I shall have to seek some of these out. Especially the one with the mouse which runs through a house with a lighted match - that image is enchanting!

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the fine list.
it looks tasty.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

10, huh? I will see what I can come up with for tomorrow's post.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Joelle said...

Oh, yes, yes, yes--Love Poems from God is a beloved volume, one of the few books I must take with me everywhere. Also on my permanent bookshelf is Rilke's Book of Hours and Hafiz's I Heard God Laughing (also rendered by Daniel Ladinsky). Mary Oliver is a favorite poetess. David Whyte. Annie Dillard (prose and her Tickets for a Prayer Wheel). And then there's L.L. Barkat....

6:55 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

If Laura thinks she is a neophyte, I don't know what I am!! I have several collections, but I really don't read them often. I must get with it. I tend to like the really "old" poetry.
Goodness, I have so far to go to catch up with you!!

8:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great links in both of your recent posts. I'm looking into a couple of them.

Also, where, pray tell, is this bird standing? And what, pray tell, is the other bird doing? Both have caught my attention.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Jenn Calling Home said...

Some of my favorites:
Where Water Comes Together With Other Water - Raymond Carver (probably the only modern poet I'm familiar with).

The Lady of Shalott - Tennyson
Christabel - Coleridge
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - unknown

12:09 AM  
Blogger Solveig said...

I also want to thank you for this list.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Miriam said...

Dear L.L.,

I haven't been by here much lately, but I just wanted to stop by to say that I continue to be deeply grateful for the difference your words have made in my life. I never dreamed of writing poetry, until I saw the flowing, easy way you piece thoughts together. I have made small attempts at writing; I don't dare to think anyone other than me would see much in my poems, but it has felt very healing for me to get my thoughts out that way.

I received your Inside Out in the mail today, and I am drinking it in! Oh, beauty.

And finally, I was so excited to see this post here. I have thought about asking you about books you'd reccomend for getting started with poetry, and here it is! I did come across The Making of a Poem at the library a few weeks ago, and have found it so very helpful. I'll have to check out some of your other picks too.

Blessings on you, dear woman of God. :)

1:44 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

That's a fantastic picture of the blackbird! The details you captured are phenomenal. The pigeon in your previous post was comical... loved it.

5:43 PM  

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