Reading List: Poetry

poetry

Most poems can be read in one sitting, but their meaning may stay way with you forever. If you’re a fan of poetry, check out the poetry collections below. Some are eBooks that you can read from home, and others are print books that are available at the library.

 

Questions About Angels by Billy Collins (eBook)

Billy Collins – winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, veteran of a one-hour Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, and a guest on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion – arrives at Random House with the poetic equivalent of a Greatest Hits album, seasoned with some wonderful new numbers. Read our review here.

 

American Primitive by Mary Oliver

50 lyrical poems by the author express renewal of humanity in love and oneness with the natural.

 

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes

The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who “rushed the boots of Washington”; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in “the raffle of night.” They conveyed that experience in a voice that blended the spoken with the sung, that turned poetic lines into the phrases of jazz and blues, and that ripped through the curtain separating high from popular culture.

 

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

Contains in sequence all the poetry written by the author from 1956 until her suicide in 1963, together with fifty selections from her pre-1956 work.

 

New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdich

This anthology gathers poets of diverse ages, styles, languages, and tribal affiliations to present the extraordinary range and power of new Native poetry.

 

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The Varorium Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats by W.B. Yeats

This book contains the complete poems of Irish author and activist W.B. Yeats. Yeats’ poetry speaks of love, nature, politics, and myths.

 

Selected Poetry by Victor Hugo and Steven Monte (eBook, includes poems in French and English)

This generous, varied selection of poems by one of France’s best-loved and most reviled poets is presented with facing originals, detailed notes, and a lively introduction to the author’s life and work. Steven Monte presents more than eighty poems in translation and in the original French, taken from the earliest poetic publications of the 1820’s, through collections published during exile, to works published in the years following Hugo’s death in 1883.

 

The Woman I Kept To Myself: Poems by Julia Alvarez

The Dominican-American writer presents a collection of autobiographical poems, each comprising three 10-line stanzas.

 

The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop

A collection of 149 poems by the author.

 

Selected Poetry, 1937-1990 by João Cabral de Melo Neto (eBook, includes poems in Portuguese and English)

Brings together a representative selection of the work of one of Brazil’s most respected poets, including many poems published in English for the first time.

eBook Review: “Questions About Angels: Poems” by Billy Collins

questions about angels

 

Billy Collins makes me laugh. He writes about situations that are usually serious and imagines them as even more serious, which is funny to me. Take death, for instance. In his poem “The Dead,” he recalls how people like to say that “the dead are always looking down on us.” This could (and maybe should) be a sobering thought, but you have to read what Collins follows up with:

 

The dead are always looking down on us, they say,

while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,

they are looking down from the glass-bottom boats of

heaven

as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

 

What imagery! Collins takes a sobering topic (dead people who are watching us) and then pairs it with the most mundane thing they could be seeing us do (putting on our shoes or making a sandwich). Can you imagine being dead, and looking down at the people you used to know and love and hate and worship, and there they are just putting two pieces of bread together in a dimly lit kitchen? How boring and average, right?

But the “boring” and the “average” are what make Collins’ poetry so great. He can make an ordinary white cloud seem fascinating. He can take a normal phrase or idea- like a father “going out for cigarettes” and not returning home- and give it new life. A lot of times his skill makes me laugh, but I also stop and think about what he’s written. Most poetry encourages you to pause and reflect, and Collins, even with the bits of humor sprinkled throughout his lines, certainly will teach you something new. You’ll look at whatever subject he’s chosen to champion in an entirely different way.

Questions About Angels: Poems is just one of his poetry collections. I like every poetry collection by Collins that I’ve had the pleasure to read. The good thing about Questions About Angels, however, is that the library has it in both a physical book form and as an eBook. I find that this collection still resonates even while reading it on a screen. The font and form is still right, and, since most of Collins’ poems are not terribly long, it can be convenient to read them via eBook.

If you only like reading physical books, you can check out Questions About Angels from our shelves. But if you want to try something different- maybe you want to read familiar things in a new way- click on the eBook link. Either way, I think you’ll enjoy the poems.