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.

 

poetry 1

 

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.

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! When was the last time you read some lines from a favorite poet? Now is the time to dive back into poetry!

 

We have several famous poets in our library collection. Check out the list below if you’re looking for a good read:

  1. Pablo Neruda
  2. William Carlos Williams
  3. Anne Sexton
  4. Sylvia Plath
  5. Gwendolyn Brooks
  6. Robert Frost
  7. Christian Wiman
  8. Elizabeth Bishop
  9. T.S. Eliot
  10. Gary Snyder

 

Or maybe you’re a poet yourself! Check out our books on writing if you need any tips:

  1. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
  2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  3. A Poetry Handbook
  4. Everybody Writes
  5. How To Write Everything

 

And finally, a poem for you to celebrate National Poetry Month: “Of Modern Poetry” by Wallace Stevens.

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

 

 

 

Featured Poetry: “Lacunae” by Daniel Nadler

lacunae

Ripening spots of white starlight onto our cold blue sphere,

you made the night reflect everything

in pools of water.

 

Even the wet streets of the planet would see me reaching for

your hand

like a paddle returning to the surface of a lake.

You’ve just read an excerpt from poet Daniel Nadler’s debut collection. Entitled Lacunae: 100 Imagined Ancient Love Poems, this collection explores what exists in the unmentioned or unrecorded moments of life in an ancient world.

But what does “lacunae” mean? As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary: “In a manuscript, an inscription, the text of an author: A hiatus, blank missing portion.”

With these new poems, Nadler intends to fill invented or actual lacunae in classical Indian manuscripts. These ancient writings were documented in 3 different languages- Sanskrit, Old Tamil, and Maharastri Prakrit- but Nadler’s poems use English instead. Each of the poems is fairly short, usually around just 2 stanzas, which aligns with their purpose of being “fill-ins.” Through these musings, Nadler explores imaginative, rich depths of feeling, with hints at a bigger plot unseen.

None of these poems are titled, so the table of contents records each lacuna as its first line. For example, the poem below is recorded as “A glacier glows pink.”

A glacier glows pink

from the sun it encases

in its ice. This is what is told

about time.

For more about poet Daniel Nadler, read his enlightening interview with The Boston Review or his Poetry Foundation‘s biography.

Check out Lacunae in the library: you can view its availability here.