Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bookish Mewsings from the Poetry Corner: A Poem a Day

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where participants recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. I am also linking The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance of Readerbuzz where participants discuss what they are reading and other bookish topics.   

Option one of the Poetry Reading Challenge hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit is to subscribe to a Poem-a-Day service through the Academy of American Poets, read a poem a day over the course of a week, select a favorite and share some of my thoughts and feelings about it.

While I am not officially taking on option one, I thought it would be fun to check out the service and see what I thought. Keeping up with a poem a day evidently is harder than it sounds. At least for me. I wanted to be in a position where I could give each one my full attention, which was not always at the moment I was checking through my e-mails. The poems generally are not that long and can easily be fit into most anyone’s schedule. I may not have read a poem every day, but I did read them intermittently throughout the month, often several back to back. Some did not speak to me much at all sadly, while there were many I enjoyed, with a few that really resonated with me.

One of my favorite poems I read this month is called "I do not remember my own name" by Valerie Wetlaufer (author of Call Me by My Other Name). The first excerpt I am sharing took me back to when I was pregnant with my daughter and the changes my body would undergo.

In the wind, my name sounds like a vowel.
            Everyone keeps asking what the baby will call me.
I find myself worrying about my nipples,
            how their textures will change.

I love the imagery in this second excerpt from Wetlaufer's poem--how often as of late do I stumble over words or forget things? It could be stress, lack of sleep, or part of the aging process. And then . . . When I was younger, how I had big dreams, and now I am older, more aware of my limitations and flaws.

I’m losing language in my sleep.
            I open my mouth, and words are plucked
from my tongue. Before I was broken,
            I planned to inherit the garden.

I have no idea if any of my own interpretations of the poem is what the author had in mind, but that is part of the beauty of poetry. It means something different to each reader. 

Another of the poems that I especially liked was "Remember the Boys" by Rachel McKibbens (author of blud), which was inspired by Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Brett Kavanaugh. I think most women can relate to stories of boys being boys, where their behavior has been excused because they are, well, boys.

chucking rocks at the wasps’ nest,
their gathered hum then sudden sting
at the nape of my neck. Oh, how I paid—
still pay—for the recklessness
of boys. [...]

McKibbens then wonders what it would have been like if she had been born a boy, how much different her life might have been.

And then there is "Bird" by Niki Herd (author of The Language of Shedding Skin: Poems), which I found myself reading again and again. It opens with people stopping what they were doing while at a shopping center to see the many birds, the grackles, that seemed to be everywhere. From there, Herd takes us back to her childhood: her adoptive father standing, arms raised, two stories up, about to jump. He was a Vietnam War veteran, a hero, who also suffered from a mental illness and addiction. I always feel a bit of an affinity with other children of Vietnam War veterans, however different our lives and experiences may be. My own dad was a Vietnam War veteran, and his drug of choice was alcohol.

Let me tell you how a child learns the alphabet by counting,
how she learns only 2 letters separate the words hero and heroin,
how he stood high on the ledge of a porch the child never much
liked because there was a crack in its wooden center as if the world
was waiting to open its jaws to swallow her body whole.

I wish I could share the poem in its entirety so you can experience it more fully. I appreciated the feelings Herd's poem draws out of the reader, the story she has to tell, as well as the more technical aspects of the poem, including how she opens with the birds and ends her poem with them too, coming full circle.

[...] Eventually, lights
went dark in the shops and each watcher retraced their steps back         
     home
to find their families, to rejoice over food, to laugh and settle the night;
and the birds, steadfast they stood, not quite ready for flight—


A service like the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day service a great way for poetry readers to get to know the names of contemporary poets and sample their work. I hope to check out all three of the above poets' work more closely, especially after visiting their websites and learning more about their work. These are three amazing women.

Each weekend, the poems that appear in my mailbox are by older long ago poets. I will close my sharing today's featured poem, "Souvenir" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, written in 1923:
Just a rainy day or two
In a windy tower,
That was all I had of you—
Saving half an hour.
Marred by greeting passing groups
In a cinder walk,
Near some naked blackberry hoops
Dim with purple chalk.
I remember three or four
Things you said in spite,
And an ugly coat you wore,
Plaided black and white.
Just a rainy day or two
And a bitter word.
Why do I remember you
As a singing bird?
Have you read any poetry lately that you would recommend? Do any of these poems sound like ones you would further like to explore? 


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25 comments:

  1. Oh what a lovely choice of poems - none of which I know! Thank you for sharing these, Wendy:)). I have a wonderful anthology of contemporary poetry from around the world, with many fine American poets in it - Being Human, published by Bloodaxe Books and edited by Neil Astley. Have a great week!

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  2. I haven't heard of any of these poems but they're lovely. They make me want to explore more but poetry seems so daunting at times!

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  3. It's so fascinating the different interpretations we can give to poetry. I especially like your thoughts on the second one- I can relate to the part about how your dreams sometimes change as we get older, or things go differently than we expect. Remember the Boys is thought provoking and so timely, obviously, and I love that second one from Birds as well.

    Thanks for sharing these!

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  4. Glad you are enjoying poems, I have never been fond of them, never understood them. I guess I don't like having to try and figure it out...lol.

    Have a great day and happy reading!
    Stormi
    Week in Review

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  5. I just joined Serena's Poetry Reading Challenge and am doing the poem-a-day option because I'm not much for book reviews, which the other options involve, from what I remember. All that said, I like what you did here and probably will be doing the same next week, if I can find a poem or two that speaks to me. Since joining, neither has spoken to me, but hopefully it will get better as the week goes.

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  6. I love the way poetry slows down my reading. I find myself reading a line, and then reading it again, thinking about it, and then reading it again. Emotions are right there on the surface of poems, and that resonates with me, too. Wouldn't it be lovely to do something during Poetry Month, April, with poems? I feel like I got so much out of your thoughts about the poems you have been reading this month. It seems like it was a very good experience for you, too.

    I think teachers make poetry so mysterious that it ruins poetry for children early on. It made me laugh when I read this week that the poet whose poems were used for our Texas state reading exams couldn't correctly answer the questions posed on the test about her own poems! Children should hear that. Poetry, good poetry at least, doesn't have just one correct answer.

    Have a lovely week. You've inspired me to seek out more poetry in my life.

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  7. Hi Wendy, what a great post! I feel the same way, it's been harder than I thought to read a poem a day in between a busy workweek. I find it a little hard to keep track so what I did was tweet my favorite poem for the week so I could refer to it later. My post will be up the last Tuesday of each month.
    I like the ones you shared here especially the Edna St. Vincent Millay because I prefer the older poetry.
    Bird is beautiful as well and sounds like it resonated with you. Thanks for sharing these!

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  8. I’ve never been a fan of poetry (though like practically every teen girl I penned a few poems full of angst)

    Wishing you a great reading week

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  9. You're the second person today to mention the poem a day service. I love the idea of these once-a-day programs, especially to indulge in something you probably won't try otherwise due to lack of time or other priorities. I'm sure I'll be trying this service soon. I have a couple of once-a-day activities I'm already partaking in so as soon as I feel that those are settled enough, I'll give this one a try. Glad to see that you are liking it and able to do it most days.

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  10. It's been years since I picked up a book of poetry.

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  11. Love that poem by St. Vincent Millay! :)

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  12. I typically sign up for the poem a day during National Poetry month but I am going to sign up again. The poems you've shared have made me want to read more! So glad you are enjoying discovering more poems.

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  13. I don't usually read poetry but those are great poems. I hope you enjoy your reading. Have a great week!

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  14. I can't tell you the last time I read any poetry. Probably in high school? The poem a day service sounds like a great way to get more poetry out in the world.

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  15. I haven't read poetry in years, but I loved what you shared.

    Enjoy your books and your week.

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  16. I'm not really a poetry reader but I love the imagery of the ones you shared. It definitely brings the images alive. We are working on a small poetry unit right now with the Tornado and it's been interesting to read it again. Have a great week!

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  17. The poem-a-day thing sounds awesome. I always mean to read more poetry, but I don’t do it. It looks like you found some good ones. I hope you have a great week!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  18. I tried on year to read a poem a day. I didn't accomplish the goal. My weekly update

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  19. I don't read poems usually but your post got me thinking. I used to like poetry decades ago. Maybe time to go back a bit.

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  20. Most of my books are in storage until we move into the house, but there are several poetry anthologies that I enjoy dipping into periodically. I also subscribe to The Writer's Almanac daily and it always begins with a poem. Have a good week, Wendy!

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  21. Sadly.. I've never been into poetry. I just don't seem to get them! I'll try at times, and every time I stop because I just don't get them.
    I'm glad you enjoyed most of them.
    Have a great week and happy reading.

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  22. I love poetry! These are beautiful stanza's. My favorite is the last stanza that begins with a rainy day. My brother write's poetry and has been published in several magazines, and has a publishing company looking at him right now :) . Thanks for sharing!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

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  23. Whilst not a big fan of poetry I really enjoyed Souvenir. Verse that I related to which I suppose its what its all about, thank you for sharing.

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  24. I've never been much of a poetry fan, but the ones you've highlighted are beautiful.
    Donna at Girl Who Reads

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  25. Herd's poem is fantastic. I love it. Thanks so much for joining and sharing these poems and your experience.

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