Author: Billy Collins
Published: 2003 Random House (orig. 2002)
My Rating: 3.5 stars
I've done it! I've made it through my first volume of modern poetry (not counting the children's poetry I read to my kiddos all the time) since this Literary Blog Hop. Other than Willa Cather's April Twilights, which I read last year to kick off my personal goal to read Cather's published works, this really is the first serious attempt I've made to read grown-up poetry in just about forever.
I was hooked when I read the first poem: Night Letter to the Reader. I read only a poem or two a day, not wanting to overload myself, but I still found that some of his poems just seemed to be alike. I may have enjoyed it more if I had rotated with another poet, but I was a little afraid that if I did that, I wouldn't commit to finishing any one volume.
I was interested to find that, (like I mentioned on my Blog Hop post,) it was still the shorter poems that I enjoyed more. There is just something about how condensed the thought becomes when it is fitted into few words that feels magical to me. I loved this one:
In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.
Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.I still find myself waffling between loving poetry and not connecting with it. However, I'm now at the point where it seems to be more a matter of finding the right poet, or the right poems from the right poets, than a like or dislike of poetry on the whole. There seems to be such a wide variety in poetic style, that sometimes I wonder how it all fits together. How do I go about finding my niche?
Sometimes I feel like if the poem is understandable then it can't truly be poetry--meaning, of course, that all the poems I like are of lesser quality somehow--although that's an obvious misconception. I simply encounter much more poetry I don't like than that I do like, and I haven't yet figured out if that is due to a poetry-immaturity on my part or a stylistic preference, or a combination of the two. What do you think? Do I just keep looking and plugging away at different poets and see what happens? I'm currently working through Leavings by Wendell Berry, and haven't decided where to go next. I'm considering If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova because the poems look short and sweet. How do you keep up on newly published poetry? Thoughts and advice are welcome!