No picture today, and no single featured poet, because this is National Poetry Month, and I want to talk to you about poetry.
Those of you who visit these pages are already readers, and I know you go to bookstores and libraries pretty regularly. But please, this month, seek out the shelves that contain poetry – single-author collections, anthologies, and books about poetry. Usually, you will have to ask where those shelves are, because if you search for them yourself, you may not find them. Often, they are tucked away in corners. If you ask for a particular poet or collection, it may have to be special-ordered. But please, do it anyway. Let the bookstore owners know that you are looking for a generous selection of poetry.
And perhaps this month, if you haven’t done so in a long time, or even have never done so, go to a poetry reading and afterwards, if you have appreciated it, buy the poet’s book and maybe even buy an extra copy for a friend. If you read a poetry collection that you like, you might even, I hope, decide to review it for a journal you subscribe to or for your local newspaper.
You’ll see a link today to a book which will certainly interest you, if only for its title, How Therapists Dance, by Dane Cervine.
Now I want to tell you – or remind you – about a few others. The first is Gwendolyn Brooks. Yes, the Gwendolyn Brooks, whose “We Real Cool” is the only poem of hers that your children or grandchildren probably read in school. It’s a great poem, but there are so many others that deserve another look. Witty, technically accomplished, musical, ironic, socially aware, her poetry on her the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to an African-American woman and the position of Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (now called Poet Laureate of the U.S.). She died in 2000, at the age of 83. Do seek out her work – Maud Martha, Annie Allen and certainly The Bean Eaters.
Someone else whose work has been bringing pleasure for many years and that you might not have truly encountered is Gerald Stern. He hasn’t been U.S. Poet Laureate, but he has won almost every other honor available to poets and is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. I’ve just finished reading two of his newest books, In Beauty Bright, his seventeenth poetry collection (W.W. Norton, 2012) and a mixed-genre book – part memoir, part discursive essay, part poetry – called Stealing History (Trinity University Press, 2012). If you haven’t read his poems, prepare to be swept away; they almost burn up the pages. As for the mixed-genre book, it’s like a long, intimate conversation with someone who has lived through it all and who, at 85, has thought everything through. At 303 pages, it’s un-put-downable..
Yet another book to look for is by a poet many of you already know, Linda Pastan. Her latest, Traveling Light, (W.W. Norton, 2011), is one of the loveliest collections I’ve read in a long time (and as you must have already surmised, I’m always reading poetry). I can’t say any more. Just get it and read it. Her voice is so light, but you may find yourself wanting to hear it again and again. I hope so.
Happy reading and happy Poetry Month and please do remember, we’re always looking for new submissions. Click down to our guidelines and send your very best poems to our mailing address.