Favorite Poetry Books

file000821509541It’s been an interesting, exciting few weeks for me. I was rifling through unread emails and came across one from a journal I’d been published in. I nearly deleted it unread thinking I’d go to the website and read. Good thing I opened it —

My poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


Really? Mine?

It’s in that moment where I don’t know how to react. I read it. Closed it. Reread it. Got a little excited. Went to the Pushcart website. Got a little more excited. By evening, I was full-blown tickled. I wanted to be even more excited, but in my searching for info on the nomination process, I came across a blog post (and I won’t direct anyone to it) that pretty much took the wind out of my sails — this poster was clearly jaded about the entire nomination topic. He/she didn’t think nomination was worth squat.

To me, it’s worth much more than squat. Yes, plenty of people get nominated every year, but plenty more don’t. I don’t think I stand a chance at a prize, but dammit, I’m thrilled someone thought enough of what I’d written to include it. At first, I let that person’s dismissive attitude affect me. Now, not so much. That’s one person’s view.

In fact, this post is about one person’s view — mine. I’ve been reading (and rereading) some really great poetry of late. I want to share my favorite poetry books with you.

The Poetry of Derek Walcott: I was gifted this by an acquaintance, and I’m in love. Walcott’s voice is exquisite, his use of metaphors amazing, and his imagery divine. Check out ‘The Cell’ and ‘Pastoral’.

The Devil’s Tour by Mary Karr: I’ve had a girl crush on Mary Karr since her brilliantly ballsy memoir The Liars’ Club, which my late mother-in-law introduced me to. Her poetry exceeds that brilliance — this collection starts out with the jarring, beautiful ‘Coleman’, a poem I never tire of reading.

Late Wife by Claudia Emerson: A friend recommended her professor’s book, and I’ve never been able to thank her enough for it. Emerson, who passed away this year, produced in this volume a journey of a divorce that’s more than mere divorce — it’s raw, beautiful emotion in simple, reverent form. And it’s a Pulitzer winner. While every one is a jewel, ‘Waxwing’ and ‘Pitching Horseshoes’ reverberate for months, years after reading them.

Walking to Martha’s Vineyard by Franz Wright: I’ll admit learning of Franz Wright after hearing of his death. What a loss to the poetry world. This collection is breathtaking, and it showcases a depth of feeling and haunting reverence for life. The first poem, aptly titled ‘Year One’ made me an instant fan.

Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara: Frank O’Hara should be in everyone’s collection. His poems are life-altering and heartfelt. Favorites from this collection include ‘Rhapsody’ and ‘The Day Lady Died’ (which is my favorite O’Hara poem).

Ten to One by Bob Perelman: I’m surprised more people aren’t singing Perelman’s praises. He wrote what I consider to be a most genius poem — ‘Chronic Meanings’ — and has a matter-of-fact approach that I happen to love.

What are your favorite collections? Which ones can’t you imagine life without?

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