Poetry Thursday


In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Louise Gluck

I think I am in love with all of Louise Gluck's poetry. How typical is that? I should go find something new and obscure to like, but I don't know how. I need to take a class about poetry or something. There is too much out there, and I don't know where to go next. I used to feel the same way about books, but not anymore. I don't remember how I solved that problem. Anyone want to help me out?


Felix said...

I don't know how much it will help, but I can brainstorm a few ideas at you.

How about magazines that feature poetry, such as...



Prairie Schooner

Or maybe the annual compilations like The Best American Poetry, as described here by the Academy of American Poets?
(There are probably other anthologies that cover non-American poets, but I don't know them as well.)

If you're more interested in sampling "poetry's greatest hits" than in reading the un-time-tested output of contemporary poets, then anthologies like the various ones put out by Norton can be useful. They won't have very much by any one individual poet, but you could at least figure out whose works you wanted to explore more deeply. That's how I discovered folks like Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, W.D. Snodgrass, John Crowe Ransom, and Stevie Smith.

Classes at a university, college, or community college might help give you an overview of academically-respected poets. The usefulness of such a course for any purpose other than a degree plan would depend on the personality and approach of the person teaching it more than the "credentials" of the institution, I think. (And, of course, modern academically-respected poets are not necessarily the ones I enjoy reading!)

Although the Austin hipster-poet attitude might be very annoying, it's always possible that you might find some interesting work at local poetry slams or readings.

What about skimming the works of various US Poets Laureate? There's a new one appointed every few years, which would give you a respectable but managable number of names to work with. Louise Gluck, as you probably know, is one of them. (In England, I understand it's a lifetime appointment rather than an annual gig.)

Of course, browsing the shelves of your local library (Dewey 811 and 821) or a good bookstore would also give you some ideas, if you have the unhurried and unscheduled time to spare for it.

I hope at least one of these ideas is useful, or at least entertaining.

Felix said...

A further comment: Your posts have convinced me that Louise Gluck is worth seeking out & reading. Thanks!

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