The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Warsan Shire

PoetryConcierge[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, the reboot here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.]

This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Emily, who writes at The Bookshelf of Emily J.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

Joyce Carol Oates or John Steinbeck

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

I love cultural history. I just finished The Warmth of Other Suns about the great migration of African Americans from the south to other parts of the country. I learned so much and realized how much more we have left to do in terms of racial equality and acceptance.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

I would bring Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

Oh wow. Maybe five books from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series because they always make me laugh.

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?)

My future and where academia will take me. I also get worried about issues with my kids. Sometimes nerves keep me up the day before a big presentation or a first day of teaching.

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I love William Wordsworth and William Blake. I had the opportunity to take a class on British lit as an undergrad, which included poetry, from Leslie Norris, a famed Welsh poet himself.

 


Well, for a while there I was stumped. Who to recommend? Elizabeth Barrett Browning (whose lifetime overlapped with Wordsworth’s, and whose poetry took on social issues of the day)? Emily’s favored Joyce Carol Oates, who is not only a prolific novelist, but also a poet? Langston Hughes (a contemporary of Steinbeck’s, and of course one of the great American poets)?

Possibilities abounded.

And then I watched Lemonade, the Beyonce visual album that came out this past weekend. The whole piece is utterly absorbing, but I found the poetry between songs most arresting of all. The poet is Warsan Shire, a British poet (she was born in Kenya and her parents are Somali) who earned fame with her 2011 short collection Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. In late 2015 she was profiled in the New Yorker; Alexis Okeowo wrote of her first collection, “It’s a first-generation woman always looking backward and forward at the same time, acknowledging that to move through life without being haunted by the past lives of your forebears is impossible.” You can read a bit more about Warsan Shire here. 

Her poem “Home” was quoted in the New York Times, and by Benedict Cumberbatch in his impassioned plea for aid to refugees after the curtain call for Hamlet (I saw the NT live production in the movie theater). You can read the poem here. 

I think, given Emily’s interest in social issues and the movement of people and cultural history (Steinbeck, The Warmth of Other Suns) that Ms. Shire’s work, which deals with immigration, diaspora, family history, belonging, violence, and womanhood, will be appealing, and still a change of pace. While you can find a few of her poems online—they tend to be widely shared—you should be able to find Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth in your library or in bookstores, and look out for her first full-length collection to appear late this year.

P.S. For those nerves, I recommend Hazel Hall’s “Before Quiet.” And if you’re looking for even more poetry of social engagement, you might want to check out the Split This Rock festival.

 


 

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.

 

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The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Mary Oliver

PoetryConcierge[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, the reboot here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.]

This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Audra at Unabridged Chick. 

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

Penelope Lively

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Biographies of authors

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

Rebecca, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Doomsday Book, and Good Omens

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

Kristin Lavransdatter, The Sparrow, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, and some Norton edition that is ten thousand of those onion-paper thin pages of all Western lit or something.

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?)

The loss of my child, politics, women’s rights, community violence

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

Like Dylan Thomas and Sharon Olds, H.D. and Diane Wakoski. Diane Ackerman and Anna Akhmatova. Dislike old school guys or stuff with too many allusions that I can’t figure out.

 

(optional) Are you looking for a poem or poet to help you through a tough time, or to help you answer a question? If so, please explain.

Yes — I’m feeling so conflicted about work and creative endeavors — stressed and unhappy. I need advice, or a pep talk, or something. Centering, maybe.


Just like last week, there’s so much to work with here! Audra is into classics, sci-fi, some truly photo (60)great poetry (shout out to Anna Akhmatova!), a novelist I can’t believe I haven’t encountered before (putting Penelope Lively on my TBR immediately)–so many directions to choose from. I had Wislawa Szymborska, Margaret Atwood, and June Jordan in mind.

But it’s Audra’s answer to that last question that struck me as the most important, and one poet immediately leapt to mind: Mary Oliver*.

Chances are you’ve heard of Mary Oliver, since she’s one of the best-selling poets in the United States (though I confess I only started reading her work a few years ago). She’s the author of many collections and the recipient of many awards.

I recommend in particular House of Light (1990). Here’s a bit I wrote about the collection a few years ago:

A native of Northeast Ohio, Ms. Oliver now resides on Cape Cod (her poems celebrate its interior marshes more than its seashore), and since I grew up in Cleveland and now live in Boston (and married a man from Cape Cod), her poems often feel homey and familiar to me. I love the intimacy of her observations, the feeling, almost, of conversation. This feeling of casual grace is remarkable, because elsewhere Ms. Oliver has written that she revises most poems forty or fifty times!

I think this collection is right for Audra because of the contemplative feel and focus and nature often feel centering, while a few poems are galvanizing, like the famous “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

A huge question, but with this book in hand, one feels better prepared to face it.

Audra, I hope this recommendation is helpful! Thank you for writing in.

P.S. Audra, if you want some poetry with a sci-fi twist, you might also want to check out the panel “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand: Poetry and Science Fiction,” moderated by Heather Hughes, at the 2016 Massachusetts Poetry Festival later this month.

 


 

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.

*No relation to yours truly.

The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Claudia Rankine

PoetryConcierge[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, the reboot here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.]

This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Jenny of Reading the End. 

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

It’s so hard to choose just one! I’m going to say Maggie Stiefvater, because she’s the blend of creepiness and feelings and Societal Issues that I’m feeling very fond of right now.

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Cultural studies is always good for me — anything that describes society with a keen eye, whether it’s our present society now or a time long past.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

I’d probably pick five from my TBR list relatively at random, depending on what my mood was like. Probably at least two hefty nonfiction books, to last me; a romance novel for funsies; a YA novel I’ve been anticipating for a while; and a big fat chunky novel that I’ve been putting off reading for a while, like East of Eden.

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

Angels in America, the Bible, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s letters, Shakespeare, and Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock.

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?)

What will happen to the people I love (death sometimes, illness sometimes, lost jobs sometimes), and how frustrating it is that I don’t have the power to change it.

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I love June Jordan and CP Cavafy and Paradise Lost; I’ve never had any luck with poets who gaze at flowers like Wordsworth and Shelley (sorry, dudes).


 

So much to work with here! Jenny is an omnivorous reader after my own heart (and, confession, Wordsworth and Shelley have never been my favorites either).

First I focused on the creepy angle from Jenny’s answer to the first question, because that’s not something I see too often. It put me in mind of Louise Glück’s “All Hallows” or a handful of Emily Dickinson poems (nothing like a dead speaker for creepiness).

But then I circled back around to Jenny’s interest in social issues, which she not only mentions explicitly, but also shows in her literary picks (June Jordan, Shakespeare, Milton, Angels in America, the Bible, East of Eden). Audre Lorde leapt to mind (“Never to Dream of Spiders,” “Coal,” A Woman Speaks”), and I think Jenny might like those poems, and also Tracy K. Smith’s book Life on Mars (especially given what keeps Jenny up at night), but I thought choosing Life on Mars would be cheating since I’ve already recommended it. 

Then I wandered around my house full of books, and found the answer in the hallway: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, which I just read last week (two weeks ago, by the time you read this) and was about to return to the library.

IMG_6469Citizen won many, many awards (and got some unexpected media attention), and rightly so. It’s a hybrid of poetry, images and essay, a wide-ranging witnessing of how race and racism and race work in America (and it’s also fantastic sports writing, which I haven’t seen often mentioned). It combines the poet’s personal experiences (as in this excerpt, which you can hear Claudia Rankine read here), considerations of the media’s treatment of African American citizens, meditations on the injustices we’ve all seen in the news. It’s an important, formally exciting book (and so popular that my library still has a waitlist for it, even though it was published in 2014!).

I hope you have a chance to read Citizen, Jenny, and that it’s a pick that’s right for you!


 

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.

Recommended (Poetry) Reading: Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

IMG_6414As I thought about how to describe Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, I found myself turning into some sort of very specific thesaurus: his work is ebullient, irrepressible, joyous, boisterous. I loved it without reservation.

In this collection you’ll find a wonderful poem about strangers in a city gathering to pick figs from an overladen tree; an epithalamion (one that I would have liked at my own wedding); a searing, funny, furious elegy for the poet’s friend Don Belton; reflective poems about the poet’s parents; many poems celebrating gardens, orchards, and green growing things.

It took me a bit to adjust to Mr. Gay’s lines, which are often quite short, with limited punctuation, but I came to find that these kinds of lines offered me the chance to be deeply attentive, unstrung from my usual way of seeing a line and automatically looking for the outlines of a sentence. Here are the first few lines of “Ode to the Puritan in Me”:

There is a puritan in me
the brim of whose
hat is so sharp
it could cut
your tongue out

I think my favorite poem in the collection might be the wholly unexpected “Last Will and Testament,” but since I couldn’t find it online, here’s a link to the collection’s title (and penultimate) poem, “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.”

I love the way the poem invites the reader in by opening with a direct address (“Friends”—a strategy you’ll see more than once in the collection), and then sweeps into an account of a dream. Now, like most people, I find other people’s dreams rather a trial to hear or read about, but not this one. In the dream is a command to speak, and so begins the catalog of gratitude, with an orchard sunk into colorfully acquired compost:

twirling dung with my pitchfork
again and again
with hundreds and hundreds of other people
we dreamt an orchard this way,
furrowing our brows,
and hauling our wheelbarrows,
and sweating through our shirts,
and two years later there was a party
at which trees were sunk into the well-fed earth,
one of which, a liberty apple, after being watered in
was tamped by a baby barefoot
with a bow hanging in her hair
biting her lip in her joyous work
and friends this is the realest place I know,

 

This poem is absolute magnificent; I was crying by the end of it. I highly recommend this remarkable book. 

If this quick review piques your interest, you might like:

Ross Gay’s tour of his garden in essay form

This correspondence in poems between Mr. Gay and poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil about their gardens. 

Happy National Poetry Month! Have Some Hopkins.

photo (28)It’s National Poetry Month! Are you celebrating with sonnets or pantoums? Sestinas or epigrams? Odes or rondels? Do tell.

It came to my attention, because I was thinking about dinosaurs and dragons (tip of the hat to parenthood there), that I’ve never featured Gerard Manley Hopkins, who wrote one of my favorite alliterations of all time: “dragonish damask.”

Weep no more, Dear Readers. This shocking oversight is remedied below with “Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves.”

Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable, ‘ vaulty, voluminous, … stupendous
Evening strains to be tíme’s vást, ‘ womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
Her fond yellow hornlight wound to the west, ‘ her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
Waste; her earliest stars, earl-stars, ‘ stárs principal, overbend us,
Fíre-féaturing heaven. For earth ‘ her being has unbound, her dapple is at an end, as-
tray or aswarm, all throughther, in throngs; ‘ self ín self steedèd and páshed—qúite
Disremembering, dísmémbering ‘ áll now. Heart, you round me right
With: Óur évening is over us; óur night ‘ whélms, whélms, ánd will end us.
Only the beak-leaved boughs dragonish ‘ damask the tool-smooth bleak light; black,
Ever so black on it. Óur tale, O óur oracle! ‘ Lét life, wáned, ah lét life wind
Off hér once skéined stained véined variety ‘ upon, áll on twó spools; párt, pen, páck
Now her áll in twó flocks, twó folds—black, white; ‘ right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind
But thése two; wáre of a wórld where bút these ‘ twó tell, each off the óther; of a rack
Where, selfwrung, selfstrung, sheathe- and shelterless, ‘ thóughts agaínst thoughts ín groans grínd.

 

You can hear poet Mary Jo Bang talk about this poem and read it here. I also recommend reading it aloud yourself. It has an oddly salubrious effect.

The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Dorothy Parker

[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

Dorothy Parker | Image courtesy Wikimedia commons

Dorothy Parker | Image courtesy Wikimedia commons

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.

The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Robert Frost

[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 Tania, who runs (along with Kirt) Write Readsa blog and Canadian reading book club podcast.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

I can only pick one? Okay, Margaret Laurence …but there are so many others!! 

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Travel, Political/Social Commentary and anything by Bill Bryson.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Decameron by Boccacccio
The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Leacock
The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Asterios Polyp by Mazzuchelli

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?)
 

Meaning of life
Justice/Injustice

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I’ve liked a lot of T.S. Eliot. I’ve liked more story-telling poems and less of the random images and symbols that I don’t understand poetry 🙂


 

Ok, so this is a tricky one, because I haven’t read any of the books that Tania lists! (Well, excerpts from The Decameron, and I’ve read one Bill Bryson book, but still.) However, with a little poking around, I got the sense that Tania likes well-developed characters, vignette-like structures, and a strong sense of place. It’s these last two qualities, in particular, that lead me to recommend that American poet everyone thinks he knows, Robert Frost.

Modern in sensibility, if not in form, Frost’s poetry is rooted in nature, and the woods of New England, in particular. Many of his poems read like vignettes, records of small moments in country life, whether everyday (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”) or horrific (“‘Out, out–‘”). Darkness lurks around the edges of the very poems that are so often celebrated for their beauty and felicitous phrasing; isolation, death, and despair walk in the woods, too.

Take Robert Frost’s “The Wood-Pile”, which I think might be just right for Tania. The speaker is far from home, walking through a frozen swamp, and before we can wonder why, we’re distracted by the flighty bird that’s leading the speaker on, and then by the wood-pile, orderly but abandoned, out in the woods. There’s so much going on with that wood-pile that I’ll let you discover it for yourself.  I hope you’ll like this poem, Tania, and Robert Frost’s work, too!


 

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.

The Poetry Concierge Recommends Margaret Atwood

[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 Naomi, who blogs about books over at Consumed by Ink.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

Already, this is a hard question.  I don’t do a lot of re-reading, but there are some authors who I’ve read many of their books:  Margaret Atwood, Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks, L. M. Montgomery, Lois Lowry, Michael Crummey.

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Probably memoirs, survival stories, and historical figures.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

Ok, a week isn’t too long.  I would probably want to bring 5 books I haven’t read yet, which means I don’t know what they’d be.  A couple on my TBR pile that would be good to bring to a desert island would be Rockbound by Frank Day and The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce. Nothing scary or spooky please.  Maybe something funny, like Christopher Moore and another Will Ferguson book.  One more-maybe a good love story.

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?
5 years is much longer than a week, so I would have to either bring books that I know I would like to re-read, or bring some big chunksters.  I have never read Middlemarch, so maybe that one.  A big, fat Dickens to take my time with.  Jane Eyre would be nice to have – I would definitely re-read that one.  The Time Traveler’s wife, so I would have lots of time to get it all straight.  Lastly, either Roots or Lonesome Dove.  I have never read Lonesome Dove, and my mother says I should, but if I took Roots I would know that I already love it.  If I was allowed to count a series as 1 book (which I probably am not), I would bring the Anne books.

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’m most likely to be kept up at night thinking about the nature of love, or environmental issues and how they will someday affect the way we live.  Also, I sometimes try to make sense of societal rules, and how I might like to change some of them.

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I don’t like poetry that takes a long time to figure out what the person is getting at.  So, I like to be able to know what the poet is saying, whether she’s describing something or telling a story.  When I think of poetry I like, I always think of A.A. Milne’s poems for children (no laughing).  I still love them, and have several memorized. Also, I just thought I would add a little challenge for you.  Along with whatever you choose for me, do you think you might also be able to come up with a Canadian suggestion as well?  If possible.  I actually had been looking at the library for one to read for this month, but didn’t have any luck. 


For Naomi, I’m recommending a Canadian poet who’s more famous for her novels: Margaret Atwood. Yes, THE Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, among many other highly-regarded novels. Ms. Atwood is also a distinguished poet whose collections include The Circle Game, The Animals in That Country, Morning in the Burned House, and, most recently, The Door.

(I almost feel like I’m cheating since Naomi wrote in first answer that Margaret Atwood is one of her go-to novelists, but then again, the questionnaire is meant to be revelatory, right?)

I also think Ms. Atwood’s work is right for Naomi because of their mutual interest in environmental issues and social justice. And Naomi’s pick of Christopher Moore as an author whose novel she’d take to a desert island tells me that she has a great sense of humor, and Margaret Atwood’s work is full of humorous touches. Furthermore, some of the authors and books Naomi singled out for attention deal with women who are isolated in some way, like Jane Eyre, or Anne Shirley (as in Anne of Green Gables); the speaker of the particular poem I’ve picked out for Naomi (though I’m recommending Margaret Atwood’s work as a whole) feels isolated by her profession.

Here’s “The Loneliness of the Military Historian,” by Margaret Atwood.

Naomi, I hope you’ll like this poem’s careful deployment of startling imagery, the strong narrative voice, and its message. 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.

The Poetry Concierge Recommends

. . . a poem for Katie of 5cities6women!

Katie, in addition to being a blogger and all-around awesome human, is also my friend and neighbor, and she kindly reminded me last weekend that I meant to start up the Poetry Concierge (I sure need a logo, don’t I?).

I’m delighted that Katie wrote in with answers to the Poetry Concierge questionnaire so we can kick off the series in style.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

Not to be difficult, but I don’t have a go-to author for fiction. Lately, I just grab whatever new, well-reviewed or personally recommended stuff I can find. When I was reading lots of short stories, I read everything I could by Stacey Richter and TC Boyle and Lorrie Moore, but now I’m on novels and it’s all random.

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Memoir, history, anthropology, travel stories

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

Catch-22 (read it); Sea of Hooks (reading it); Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Tryptich (reading it very slowly); Americanah (want to read it); My Date with Satan (read it)

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

5 books for 5 years? Yikes! Ok, for fiction, Catch-22 again, Jazz, and Cloud Atlas; for nonfiction, Wade Davis’s The Wayfinders (just seems appropriate), and a TBD book on dealing with claustrophobia

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?)

Nothing keeps me up at night because I’m possibly narcoleptic. I guess if I had to pick something though, I’d say meaning of life and death, and whether I’m doing the right things to make the most of my time here on this planet.

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I’ve always liked the WWI poets and the Beats, especially Diane diPrima. I like ee cummings, and TS Eliot but often feel like I don’t fully understand him. I’ve liked the little bit of Catherine Pierce I’ve read recently, but I don’t generally speaking have an allegiance to any particular poet or style – though I’m always really impressed with a good villanelle.


 

Ok, so here’s hoping I get this right. Based on Katie’s answers, I’m recommending:

“Myth,” by Natasha Trethewey

Why? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • It’s a modified villanelle
  • As a modified villanelle that works like a palindrome, its structure is repetitive and circular, qualities associated with Catch-22 (as I understand it; I admit to never having read the novel). The attention to form often characterizes the poetry of World War One, as well.
  • It meditates on the meaning and perception of death, and the permeability of sleep
  • Natasha Trethewey is the current Poet Laureate of the United States — she’s the real deal.

Katie, I hope you like “Myth”!


 

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.

Introducing: The Poetry Concierge

Dear Readers,

Was the last time you read poetry sometime during a high school English class? Do you want to love poetry, but don’t know where to start? Are you slightly embarrassed that you can’t remember the last time you bought a book of poems?

Friends, I’m here to help. I’m your new poetry concierge! (Should I trademark that?)

Yes, this April — and for the rest of the life of this blog, I hope — I’ll be available to lead you to the sweet springs of verse, where you may sip or swill to your heart’s content.

Here’s how to help your new Poetry Concierge help you:

Send me an email [rosemaryandreadingglasses (at) gmail (dot) com] with your name as you’d like it to appear, a link to your blog if you’d like, and answers (as specific as possible) to the following questions:

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?

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?)

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

7. Would you like your name and/or blog to be published on Rosemary and Reading Glasses along with your recommendation?

I’ll read your answers and come up with a poet, a poem, or even a book for you to try out (maybe even more than one!).

Within a week or two (if you haven’t heard from me by then, comment on ye olde blog) I’ll publish your answers to the questionnaire, and my recommendation, on Rosemary and Reading Glasses (with your name removed, if you so choose). If you want to report back on what you think of my choice, all the better!

[UPDATE: The volume of responses is more than I expected — hooray! — so it’s possible your recommendation may be delayed beyond two weeks. If you have a poetry emergency, though (proposal, wedding, retirement, etc), please be sure to tell me!]

Poetry Concierge posts won’t appear on any set schedule, but I’d love to make a few recommendations soon, in honor of National Poetry Month, so bring on those questionnaires!

Yours in verse,
Carolyn the Poetry Concierge