Some Poetry for People Who Think They Don’t Like Poetry

As a longtime reader of poetry, somewhat lapsed of late, my poetic taste is informed for the most part by the work of American poets from the middle to the end of the last century.  “There’s no accounting for taste” is a phrase commonly encountered in the world of aesthetics, and the titles chosen here may indeed not be to your personal liking, but I have selected them because they consist mostly of short poems, generally have low barriers to entry, and frequently focus on some universal qualities of human experience – in other words, the hope is that the poems featured here will win over some of you who think that you do not like poetry.

While not limited strictly to the timeframe and geography mentioned above, this is not intended to be seen as anything other than a very small sampling. Most of these poets have received numerous major poetry awards and many of them have held the position of U.S. Poet Laureate.

The descriptions below come from the summaries in the library catalog, unless otherwise indicated.

New and Selected PoemsMary Oliver
New and Selected Poems
Mary Oliver’s poems offer vivid images and penetrating insights into the natural world melded with the joys and sorrows, flesh and spirit, of our fragile, time-bound human experience. The poems selected here are a great introduction for anyone new to Oliver’s luminous and resonant poetry.  -Scott

Sailing Alone Around the Room

Billy Collins
Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems
Whether old or new, these poems will catch their readers by exhilarating surprise. They may begin with irony and end in lyric transcendence. They may open with humor and close with grief. They may, and often do, begin with the everyday and end with infinity.

 

The Voice at 3 a.m.Charles Simic
The Voice at 3:00 a.m.: Selected Late & New Poems.
Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant poetic imagery; his social, political, and moral alertness; his uncanny ability to make the ordinary extraordinary; and not least, a sardonic humor all his own. Gathering much of his material from the seemingly mundane minutia of contemporary American culture, Simic matches meditations on spiritual concerns and the weight of history with a nimble wit, shifting effortlessly to moments of clear vision and intense poetic revelation.

Kindest RegardsTed Kooser
Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems
Firmly rooted in the landscapes of the Midwest, Kooser’s poetry succeeds in finding the emotional resonances within the ordinary. Kooser’s language of quiet intensity trains itself on the intricacies of human relationships, as well as the animals and objects that make up our days.

 

View with a Grain of SandWisława Szymborska
View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
From one of Europe’s most prominent and celebrated poets, a collection remarkable for its graceful lyricism. With acute irony tempered by a generous curiosity, Szymborska documents life’s improbability as well as its transient beauty to capture the wonder of existence.

 

Garden TimeW.S. Merwin
Garden Time
W.S. Merwin composed Garden Time during the difficult process of losing his eyesight. When he could no longer see well enough to write, he dictated his new poems to his wife, Paula. In this gorgeous, mindful, and life-affirming book, our greatest poet channels energy from animated sounds and memories to remind us that “the only hope is to be the daylight.”

 

ReliquariesEric Pankey
Reliquaries
This book is Pankey’s most expansive, accessible and wide-ranging to date, and takes up subjects such as the death of family and friends, faith and doubt, beauty and the sublime, philosophy and art. Like a reliquary, each poem not only holds shards of memory, relics of the past, but each poem is a meditation upon the complexity of memory–its uncertainty and mutability, its precision and candor, its grave density and its ether-weight.

 

Bunch GrassRobert Sund
Bunch Grass
NW poet Robert Sund’s Bunch Grass, his first collection of poems, is set in the wheat and barley fields of eastern Washington where he worked for a season at a grain elevator.  He has an especially keen eye and a lively ability to condense details into a powerful whole. Readers will want to go on to explore his collected Poems from Ish River Country for his impressions of the lowland Puget Sound and Washington coast.  -Scott

 

The Best of ItKay Ryan
The Best of It: New and Selected Poems
Salon has compared her poems to “Fabergé eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder.” The two hundred poems in Ryan’s The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of her work, as well as a swath of never-before-published poems of which are sure to appeal equally to longtime fans and general readers.

For a collection of essays that completely captures the sense of joy poetry can provide, take a look at Kay Ryan’s recent Synthesizing Gravity.

April is National Poetry Month (though anything worth celebrating for a month is worth celebrating all year), so settle in with some of these collections.  Or to browse our print poetry collections in the library catalog, click here.

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