[The Poetry Concierge is an occasional feature here on Rosemary and Reading Glasses wherein I select a poem, poet, or book of poems for individual readers based on a short questionnaire. Come play along! Read the introductory post here, my first recommendation here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com. ]
This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Kay, who blogs about books over at WhatMeRead.
1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?
I don’t know that I have just one go-to author, but maybe Jane Austen. I reread all her books every few years.
2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)
History and biography/memoir (but not usually celebrity biography/memoir) are my favorite nonfiction subjects. I read mostly biographies about figures from history, and literary people or artists.
3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?
I would need a big book for the island, so that might be Bleak House. I would need something funny, so that might be something by Georgette Heyer, maybe Cotillion. I would need something I hadn’t read before, maybe another book by Halldor Laxness. I have The Fish Can Sing on my Wish List, so let’s pick that one. I would need something that makes me cry about someone else, so maybe Sense and Sensibility. I would need something about resourceful people to keep me encouraged, so maybe Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I just read Robinson Crusoe, so I would NOT take that!
4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?
Hmmm, you’re really trying to make me think, aren’t you? If I was on a five-year mission to Mars, at least I would know I was coming back, so maybe that would be a different choice than the island all right. I’m thinking big books that feel like friends and I can read over and over again: David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Cloud Atlas or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, maybe read The Luminaries again, and something with beautiful language I can puzzle over, maybe something I haven’t read by Nabokov.
5. What kinds of questions are most likely to keep you up at night? (death, the nature of love, politics, environmental issues, meaning of life, end of the world, justice and injustice, etc?)
I actually write reviews in my head at night after I finish a book. Sigh. Also, sometimes work.
6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?
I have liked Frost, ee cummings, Shakespeare’s sonnets, some Yeats that isn’t too obscure, some Edna St. Vincent Millay. I have not liked Ezra Pound, because I don’t understand him at all. I have not liked some of the romantic poets, because they have too many allusions to things I don’t know enough about to understand them. Also, I think Keats and Wordsworth are boring. I generally don’t like really long poems, because I find I can’t concentrate on them long enough.
Well, I admit that I’m nervous with this pick, because not only is Kay a very sophisticated
reader, but she’s also read everything (it seems), and she doesn’t pull her punches. On the
other hand, someone who’s liked Shakespeare, ee cummings, and Edna St. Vincent Millay (oh Edna, you’re my favorite) gives me lots of leeway in choosing a poet to recommend. I thought about Howard Nemerov, Seamus Heaney, and Louise Glück, and I think their poetry (judiciously selected) would have been just fine for our purposes.
But Kay makes me laugh with her often acerbic reviews, and for someone whose go-to author is Jane Austen, I think urbane, mordant wit is called for. Enter: Dorothy Parker.
A screenwriter, poet, and satirist, Dorothy Parker is celebrated for her impeccable way with the bon mot, her short and snappy poems with the bite at the end, and her perennial quotability (seriously, she’s on this Kate Spade tote.).
Here are two of her poems, with characteristically deceptive titles: “Interview” and “Love Song.” Let’s also call “Interview” our poem of the week, shall we?
Kay, I hope these poems make you laugh. Thanks for writing in!
Would you like the Poetry Concierge to make a recommendation for you? Check out the introductory post, and send your answers to the questionnaire, along with the name and/or blog you’d like posted with the reply, to rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.