Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poet try

Over the past couple of years or so, I'm not sure I've done enough writing to properly call myself a poet. And goodness knows I have never read enough of other people's poetry. This is something I handwringingly halfheartedly keep trying to change. But let's see if I can stick with it this time.

A couple of things have made me resolve to renew my poetry-reading efforts. First of all, last week I read Maggie Nelson's Bluets, which is a sort of cross between a philosophical investigation and a poem. Nelson has published several books. I regretted for years not picking up Shiner from the Strand when I had a chance (one of the poems I'd read in the store stayed with me so much that I eventually ordered the book); a couple years after that I had the rare privilege of helping to design the cover of another of her works. So, Bluets complete, I thought I'd best go back to the other books of Nelson's I have.

My second resolve nudge came from reading Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist. Which is a novel about a semi-washed-up poet attempting to write the introduction to an anthology of verse...but in the course of procrastinating on his introduction, he comes up with a whole book instead. The book combines all types of musings. It's a gentle satire of academia; it has the same stream-of-consciousness quality of, say, some of Tao Lin's books, but does not frustrate me in the way those do; and, most importantly, it's a celebration of poetry (albeit one that made me half tired of the whole business--but that's a story for another time). Baker's narrator is so genuinely enthusiastic about the poets he describes that I became enthusiastic too. In particular he discusses Elizabeth Bishop, whose collected poems I picked up when I was in San Francisco (and somehow magically managed to fit in my overfull bag) and W.S. Merwin, whose latest, The Shadow of Sirius, I just happened to have stored in a cabinet at work.

I read some Merwin interspersed with The Anthologist and I think I will read Bishop's Collected Poems more thoroughly. It shouldn't be impossible to read a handful of poems a day, right? I mean, I manage to read NPR's poems of the day, blearily booting up the morning internet. Reading poetry is hard, if you let it be. I think I tend to get bogged down by the need to understand and parse every. single. nuance. of a poem. But this time I am going to try to go a bit more full steam ahead. I will let you know how it turns out.

Who are some poets you particularly like? Franz Wright and Anne Carson are also very much on my list; I have read and LOVED several works from each.


  1. people i may or may not be in love with would probably second Anne Carson and urge you also toward Louise Glück, Robert Creeley, Wallace Stevens, early Sharon Olds, H.D., John Berryman (although I feel like I got a really harsh contradictory opinion on him recently; can't remember, though)... have fun! :)

  2. I know Stevens and H.D. from Modern Poetry and I do like them though not as much as I like Eliot (sigh). I had a high school teacher who was always trying to set me up with Sharon Olds. I don't think I have heard of Creeley at all! Intriguing.

  3. PS: Listened to Mumford walking across the bridge in the fog this morning. So good!

  4. Ooooh, I vote for Mary Oliver. New and Selected Poems Vol. 1 is excellent.

  5. yay for Mumford listening!!! and i have more, i have more! Linda Gregg, Jack Gilbert, Lorine Niedecker, early Ted Hughes, C.D. Wright, early John Ashbery, Dylan Thomas, A. R. Ammons, Charles Olson. basically, i am doing what you are doing, re: poetry. and i have finally decided to spend money on books (not a given in my life until now...)

  6. Ooh, I do like Jack Gilbert. I will have to check some of these out when I finish with Elizabeth Bishop (so good!).