For this final poet recommendation of National Poetry Month 2015, I find myself at something of a loss. Thinking of numerous poets isn’t too difficult, of course, but who have a I read enough to truly recommend? Who has left enough of an impression with me to “keep in my heart”, as it were?
I suppose this is a consequence of the fact that most of my poem exposure is through anthology, and such fleeting contacts don’t often lend themselves to forming lasting relationships. It’s similar to the old, pre-internet days of radio music: a stream of evanescent content would float past, and if something interested you, you’d have to catch the name of the band or performer, and then go out into the world to track down an album to look for more. Such as it is with me and poetry: names begin to sound familiar as I recognize particular stylistic resonances, and then I occasionally venture into a “deeper-cut” of the poet’s work to see if it’s the sort of thing I’d like to explore more thoroughly.
Which gets me to my current conundrum: I feel like I haven’t read enough of most poets to make an informed recommendation. I’ve been mulling it over all week, and have decided this afternoon to simply present a little bit of a grab-bag assortment of poets who have caught my interest over the years.
The work of Edna St. Vincent Millay has made an oblique appearance in the comic before, and she’s certainly on my list of “poets to investigate further”. In fact, I have almost no excuse to have not read a collection of her work– it seems A Few Figs From Thistles is in the public domain here in the U.S., and I have an e-book version of it on my phone right now, waiting to be read. Admittedly, that’s not my preferred way to read poetry, but I’ve been carrying it around with me for some time now, so perhaps I’ll delve into it when I next find myself in a waiting room, or sitting on a park bench.
I can’t say I really know much about Mary Oliver, aside from the fact that her name is often attached to poems that I’ve liked when I’ve encountered them. They seem to be of a mostly natural focus, which one would probably expect to be appealing to me. I did notice there’s a collection of her work at the local branch of our library, though, so I think that might be the universe telling me to go ahead and read some more.
Wallace Stevens is an interesting recommendation for me, because I’m still a little confused about his work. He’s one of those poets who lived a sort of unusual dual life: insurance salesman by day, poet by rest of the time (and probably during the day at the office too). Lots of successful poets have day jobs, of course, it’s just that most of tend to do things like be literature professors or writing instructors. Stevens’ poetry is of a very modern style, and reading a collection of it gave me the impression that I was listening to some sort of bizarre symphony that was often chaotic and dizzying, but not unpleasant. At times it seemed to evoke a something I couldn’t quite describe, but I’d like to explore further. Clearly he’s someone I need to revisit– perhaps the intervening 10 years or so since I read his work will have given me a different set of life experiences with which to form an interpretation.
And finally, I think I’ll round out this little poet recommendation assortment with Jane Kenyon. Again, I’m not terribly familiar with her work, but her name very often pops up with various “good” poems I encounter, so she merits a lot more investigation from me. I’m remembering her work to be in a sort of natural/pastoral vein, but also of a more personal nature too. She and her husband Donald Hall often seemed to write about each other, and the (presumably) autobiographical aspects of her work paint a detailed picture of a lived life, rather than just the accounts of a floating poetic observer.
I feel guilty, though, for not really knowing of any contemporary “indy” poets to recommend to you. There’s a lot of folks out there, working in virtual obscurity as assistants, clerks and laborers who have not been “discovered” yet. Everyone I’ve mentioned over the last few weeks are certainly “rock stars” of verse, but who are the up-and-comers? I suppose I should start trying to attend more local readings while I’m living in Seattle, and see whose work appeals to me in the local scene. Perhaps I’ll make that a project for the year… maybe by April 2016, I’ll have a few “my-age-or-younger” poets to recommend!