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.