If you want to clear a room, most people would agree that yelling “Fire!" works nicely. However, if you don’t mind a more leisurely exodus, the word “poetry” will do.
Although poetry doesn’t inspire dread like say, Ebola or April 15—it certainly seems to make a lot of people nervous. “That stuff is over my head,” I've heard some folks say, if poetry comes up in conversation. “I had enough of poetry in school,” is another well worn comment. Such attitudes make a poet’s job tougher when it comes to marketing our collections. We have to sell poetry in general before we even begin trying to sell our own books.
Since my second collection, Telling Tales of Dusk (Press 53), came out in September, 2009, I’ve been trying my best to dispel the myth that poetry is just for academics and that it’s too abstract or difficult for the average person to understand. I often start off a poetry reading with a little poem called, “Tomato Sandwich.” This poem is about as simple as you can get other than nursery rhymes, but works hard to convince even a skeptical gourmand that “…eating a garden tomato sandwich in your own kitchen is finer than a café lunch in Paris.”
I often use “Tomato Sandwich” as a tool in poetry workshops for young people, encouraging them to write about their most or least favorite foods. “Don’t just tell readers how you love or hate it,” I say to them. “Make them taste it, see it, smell it, feel it!” A good poem doesn’t just “tell” a story—it pulls the reader into its mini-universe like a 3-D movie.
And there are a lot of good poems out there and wonderful poets—with books that are often left out when it comes to summer reading lists. So here are a few (among dozens) that I’d recommend to you as you head out to the beach, or whenever you can steal some time for a memorable read. I hope you’ll give these books and any other book of poetry you might find appealing as you wander around your favorite bookstore, a chance to entertain you. (And if you can wait until Fall for a good one, try Isabel Zuber's Red Lily, coming out in September, 2010).
1. Telling Tales of Dusk, by Terri Kirby Erickson (You thought I wouldn’t put MY book at the top of MY list? :o)
2. Thread Count, by Terri Kirby Erickson (Um, why not list them both?)
3. Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser
4. What is This Thing Called Love? by Kim Addonizio
5. Love and Other Collisions, by Joseph Mills
6. The Fractured World, by Scott Owens
7. Dream Work, by Mary Oliver
8. After the Fairy Tale, by Maureen A. Sherbondy
9. The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, by Joy Harjo
10. Sure Signs, by Ted Kooser
11. Paper House, by Jessie Carty
12. Selected Poems, by Rita Dove