This week’s topic: Top Ten Books I’d Give To Readers Who Don't Read Poetry (But Want To)
Okay, here’s the thing: You DO like poetry. You really do. You just haven’t had it prepared correctly. If your only experience with poetry was high school English class or a survey course in 19th-Century British poetry, no wonder. It’s like giving someone a Filet-o-Fish and expecting them to like lobster. Or something. I’m no poetry expert, but I do love poetry. Modern poetry. Very modern poetry. So here’s a list of some of the best collections to try.
When in doubt, get an anthology. Poets, more so than most any other writer, have a style. If you don’t like a handful of their poems, chances are you won’t like a whole book of their poems. A good anthology is a smorgasbord of poems. I don’t care much for Garrison Keillor as a general rule, but he puts together some fine poetry collections. Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times are both well-selected collections. He also has Good Poems, American Places, which I haven’t read yet. The poems in his collections are current and very approachable.
The Hungry Ear, Kevin Young (Ed.)
Another wonderful collection is The Hungry Ear. This book is comprised of poems about food.
So far as I know, Roger Housden is known for little more than his edited collections of poetry. I’ve read several, and I find them hit or miss, but this one is wonderful.
Poetry 180, Billy Collins (Ed.)
And then there’s Billy Collins. The man is a master at writing poems (two-term poet laureate), but he’s also a master at collecting poetry. And the man is funny. Poetry 180 has a sequel called 180 More.
Robert Haas is a former poet laureate with a good knack for choosing poems people can relate to. Poet’s Choice is no longer in print, but if you can buy it used, do. It’s a wonderful collection of his 1990s nationally syndicated column of the same name.
And some stellar single-poet collections.
I’m telling you, Billy Collins is the place to start. While I haven’t read all of his collections, I enjoy this one the most of the ones I’ve read.
The Wisconsin poet laureate and my former college professor. His poems are some of the most graceful I’ve ever read.
Mary Oliver is known for her phenomenal books about nature and creatures. Dog Songs is a collection of dog poems she’s written over her career.
I have a hard time reading this collection anymore. I found it when my father was diagnosed with a neurological disease, and I’ve read it several times since. The book is a collection of poems written about Olds’ dying father.
Nye is the daughter of an American mother and a Palestinian father, and several of her collections are about the Middle East. Fuel, though, is more domestic in flavor.