Thursday, April 10, 2014

National Poetry Month Bonanza

We are now at the heart of National Poetry Month, otherwise known as tax day, but forget about that. Read some poetry. This is a good month for poetry. Whether it is raining and you're indoors and finished cleaning the house, or its beautiful outside and you're in your backyard on your deck your balcony in a treehouse you need to have some poetry with your sunshine. And we have a little bit for everyone.

Take a look at the photo above, and whatever interests you go to the number to learn (just a little bit) more. Links to poems on almost every entry. Enjoy!

1. William Stafford—Oregon poetry GOD.

We'll start it off with the godfather of Oregon poetry, and continue the celebration of his 100 years. If you are not familiar with Stafford's work—which helps define Oregon as much as it celebrates sound and language, you should start here.

Publishers have been releasing new editions of Stafford's work, and we try to keep him in stock as best we can. Don't expect too many used books here: he's one of those rare poets who come into the shop and just as quickly leaves. We do, however, have a number of new books of his available.

2. Greta Wrolstad: Notes on Sea & Shore -- Tavern Books

Out by Tavern Books
Greata Wrolstad, who died in a car accident in 2005, was an MFA student at the University of Montana, studying under Joanna Klink and Karen Volkman. Published by Tavern Books (a local press), Notes on Sea & Shore is a wonderful tribute to Wrolstad's poems which are "the rhythms of steady watchfulness, spare and lush at once." This is a beautiful book of poems, and a good companion to you readers who enjoy Marianne Moore, Lorine Niedecker, and Elizabeth Bishop.

3. William Stafford, meet Tavern Books!

You need to check out Tavern Books, arguably one of Portland's best small presses. How about a book of William Stafford poetry to get you started? These are new, only $15, and helps support local culture and local presses. This is what you need for the month of April!

4. Matthew Dickman, Portland poet: Mayakovsky's Revolution

If you haven't heard yet the name Matthew Dickman, who features Tavern Books Honest Pint series, is the poetic poster boy for Literary Arts, and teaches at a number of writing institutions, you have been in a cultural hole.

Dickman's poetry is the kind that makes tension out of the mundane: the lines themselves speak of normal happenstances that are deepened by emotion and sharp imagery. Each poem is a kind of journey with the speaker. Those who appreciate John Berryman or Richard Hugo will enjoy Dickman's narration and imagery. Again, it is rare to get him used, so we keep new copies in stock.

5. James Maynard, Wallace Books poet: "Throwaways"

If you want poetry and the sense that you have done well for local poets and local presses, then its James Maynard's chapbook, "Throwaways", that you'll want to pick up. You know James: he's the guy you bought the book from the other day. He found that Nicola Upton which wasn't on the shelf but in a pile to be shelved. He knew it was there. He knows where everything is except when he doesn't. Yep, that James. The one with the beard.

Anyway, in Maynard's continuing effort to write, blog, post, and maim his way into the Portland poetry scene, he's composed a chapbook of sonnets, some of which you can read on his blog, "Kicking the Gravel." There you can buy a chapbook from him, or just stop by the store and pick one up.

Support your (very) local poet!

6. Voluptuary, Paulann Petersen, Oregon poet laureate

Petersen is another neighborhood poet, whose lovely image-based poems are a perfect for the springtime. Her center, at least in Voluptuary, is what's available in everyday nature, which she allows to sing out and glow. These are lovely poems for a backyard read, and with the good weather we're having, they are sure to brighten the day even more!

7. Mary Szybist -- Oregon poet, National Book Award 2013, Oregon Book Award, 2014.

At least at Wallace Books, Mary's poetry took us by storm when late last year it was announced that her book "Incarnadine," was awarded the National Book Award for Poetry. Just recently it was announced that Literary Arts followed suit, awarding her the Oregon Book Award (a complete list can be seen here).

This kind of poetry is more to my taste: a poetry that expects the reader to work toward meaning and sound. These poems will not come easily to readers who worry about "getting something out of poetry," but rather readers who expect to get something. Seek and ye shall find is what happens in this book.

(A hint: look very closely at the cover art. It's actually quite helpful. Another hint: remember that while the subject might be about the Virgin Mary, the poet's name is Mary, too.)

To get a taste, here's a poem on poetry foundation; also another from Portland's own Burnside Review.

8. Music Lover's anthology

For those readers who would want a range of poems, we have a number of great anthologies. This one, focused on music, focuses on a subject that is vital to poetry: that is, sound. All poets aim at creating a music to the oral experience, whether it be the jazz of Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks (her poem "We Real Cool" is just wonderful), or the more classical sounds of Shakespeare's sonnets. This anthology introduces readers not only to sound in poetry, but also how poets think of music, who we respond to music. It is worth a look.

9. Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times (edited by Bill Moyers)
See #13, or #8

10. Nikky Finney, National Book Award winner, "Head Off and Split"

Mary Szybist is in a long line of incredible poets who have won the National Book Award. One of my recent finds (and we have two used copies at the shop) is Nikky FInney's book "Head Off and Split," a profound book about memory, cultural and personal, and how it floats between the two. Let's let a poem of hers do the work for us.
Nikky Finney

11. e.e. cummings "selected poems"

I love e. e. cummings one of the so-called "lost generation's" best poets. His selected poems are always a winner, and to initiates of poetry, you'll like how he bounces and syncopates. A staple for any reader of poetry, along with William Carlos Williams and Alan Ginsburg.

12. Robert Frost's poems

There are the lovers of the beats, and then there are the true Modernists, and Robert Frost is always on the altar. My favorite poem is called "Directive," and for anybody who wants to know what the iambic pentameter sounds like, just read aloud the first line of that poem:

"Back out of all this now too much for us"
it goes from there. One of the things I love about this line is how it heightens the language. Essentially, Frost has written, "getting out of what is too much," but in order to fit into the heart-beat of the iamb, he has to switch around some words, which heightens language. That's what poetry is.

13. Bill Moyers, "Fooling With Words" & 14. 100 Best Loved Poems

#'s 13 and 14 can go together, as well as #'s 9 and 8. These are collections: you'll like them. We have a lot of them. A You'll enjoy them, especially if you want a range of poets and styles. This is also good to anyone who wishes to have an "introduction" to poetry.

15. Collected Work, Czeslaw Milosz

Milosz, a nobel prize winner for poetry, spent the rest of his life in the States after World War II, but his poetry is always a part of pre or post-war Poland. Those that know his poetry will be happy to find a collected works, but be quick to come by and pick it up! Check out some of his poetry, here.

Ill. by Edward Gorey

16. Rainer Maria Rilke

Do I have to say "Letters to a Young Poet"? Fine. Letters to a Young Poet. Also the Orpheus sonnets. But basically, if you have a young poet in your life, it is time to get her some Rilke. It's a foundation text for any sucker cursed with the need to write poetry.

17. Billy Collins, "Questions About Angels"

America's best loved poet? Perhaps. He's easily one of the most accessible poets. His poems are funny and grounded: you can get something out of them without feeling like you're being fooled. As a primer, Collins is the way to go.

18. Anne Sexton

If you like Mary Oliver, you'll love Anne Sexton. Here's a poem to start you off with. I've always found her poems to be sexy and demure. She's personable (what the poetry schools call "confessional"), and it is fun to journey along with her.

19. James' favorite: T.S. Eliot's, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats"

You know this book as a musical, called Cats. Forget about the musical. Forget Andrew Lloyd Weber. Have you forgotten him? Good. Now pick up this book. This is a lovely book, needed for every cat lover at every age. It has swashbuckling cats, theatre cats, dandy cats, cats painting the town. There's a cat for everyone, says T.S. Eliot (arguably one of the most inaccessible poets except when it comes to this book). And with illustrations by Edward Gorey? Who are you kidding! BUY IT NOW.

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