Tuesday, January 6, 2015

a good poem

“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

- Dylan Thomas

If you're a regular reader of CT, then by now you've read a fair number of poems. And maybe you read poetry quite frequently. Do you have a favourite poet, or book of poems?

Before the holidays, I found this reading challenge which is quite well done. I'd like to add to the list, read a book of poems by a single author. One you've maybe not heard of before, or one you'd like to revisit. Someone who has written a poem you love, perhaps - but you've never read anything else by them.

Read a book of poems in translation, by someone who lives in a country you'd like to visit. Read a book of poems by someone living, someone long dead.

So, when you work in a library (or bookstore), you become quite adept at helping people find read-alikes. But when it comes to poetry, there aren't databases etc in quite the same way there are for fiction. If you like reading Charles Wright, try Adam Zagajewski, or if you like Diane Wakoski, try try Gwendolyn MacEwen, that sort of thing.

How do poets find the next book of poetry? If you're a reader of poetry, how do you find your next good poetry read?

For me, it's a lot of word of mouth, a lot of eavesdropping on Facebook and Twitter conversations, reviews. Sometimes, it's just the good luck one has browsing the poetry section of the library and less often now, bookstores.

I appreciated the thoughts in a recent article in The Atlantic, titled, Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies, A guide for the perplexed by Mark Yakich.

Number 14, for example:

"There is nothing really lost in reading a poem. If you don’t understand the poem, you lose little time or energy. On the contrary, there is potentially much to gain—a new thought, an old thought seen anew, or simply a moment separated from all the other highly structured moments of your time."

Number 18:

"The very best way to read a poem is perhaps to be young, intelligent, and slightly drunk. There is no doubt, however, that reading poems in old age cultivates a desire to have read more poems in youth."

Well worth reading the article, for number 20 :)

I suppose it's a lot like listening to music. You might love a particular song by an artist, and want to play that one over and over. But it's a whole other experience to listen to the entire album. Maybe every song isn't a hit, but there are so many flavours and resonances you'd miss out on if you hadn't listened to them all.

Do you have a favourite book of poetry? Would love to hear your poetry picks......


  1. Scar Tissue by Charles Wright. A wonder with each rereading.

    1. Love that book. Must take a look at it again. Thx, LNG

  2. I like the idea of a poetry reading challenge - I'm in. I was gifted this past Christmas with a most gorgeous edition of Seamus Heaney poems and your first quote really stuck a chord with my reading of this book. I missed that article in the Atlantic - I guess I must do better than just skim the contents but I look forward to reading it now that you've brought it to my attention! xo

    1. What a great gift! Will look forward to your thoughts on it!

  3. Is that The Poetics of Space on the table? I am rereading it just now and am finding many new things in it. I love how some books always have something 'new' to tell me as I change. Thankyou for your blog. You have given me a passion for poetry which has enriched my art practice and my life in many ways.

    1. Ruth, it is :) Such a good book to read in winter, I think. Thanks so much for such a lovely comment!

  4. Here are some poems that have stuck in my mind...
    this is a photograph of me. Margaret Atwood.
    Ebb. Edna St. Vincent Millay
    There is also one by Rimbaud that I cannot think of off the top of my head.

    I'd like to read more poetry this year...maybe write it?....Yikes, did I say that outloud?


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