Dear poetry,

It’s not you. Really. You’re great, if sometimes hard to read.

Sun setting on my poetry romance (er, over Lake Erie)

OK, poetry and I were never very serious. But I want to try, try again.

Last year, a great friend (and great poet) turned me on to Marie Howe (the Stevie Nicks of poetry, am I right?) through several of Howe’s poems from her book What the Living Do and this amazing interview from On Being. I listened to that interview with Howe (the former Poet Laureate of New York) over and over, thinking, if I can “get” the poet, I can “get” the poems. She’s a woman, a mother; she was raised Catholic. Check, check, and check. I’m still working through her Magdalene, from which the poem “Magdalene–The Seven Devils” may be my fave. Do I get every single reference? Probably not? Do I still feel like a fiction writer in poet’s clothing? Sorta.

I don’t expect you to be easy, poetry. Really, I’m trying to meet you halfway here.

I recently came across the work of Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas, who grew up in Northeastern Ohio, like this girl. Check. And he had something interesting to say about writing about place:

For a lot of writers, there’s a realization: I can write about where I’m from, about what I know.

He says more in this interview here about “de-mystifying” poetry and about liking food and beer. Check and check.

I mean, we’re on the same wavelength now, poetry and me.

I’m looking forward to hearing Lucas read at the Lit Youngstown Fall Literary Festival. Here’s Lucas reading his poems “Midwestern Cities” and “River on Fire” from his 2012 book Weather. I’m also hoping I can get up the gumption to see if he’ll answer a few questions for the ol’ blog here!

If I imagine you in your underwear, poetry, maybe I won’t feel so unworthy.

Humor can be an entry to literature, even poetry. Right?

I saw the poet Billy Collins read several years ago. My twin boys were infants and I remember feeling so free–and literary–leaving my brand new, screaming offspring with my sleep-deprived husband to hear poetry at a downtown theater by myself. Collins is a huge deal, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, the “most popular poet in America.” Is he read by “serious” poets; I don’t know. He’s read by me. The Rain in Portugal. Come on, that’s brilliant.

Is Collins funny and wise? He was that day, as much as I needed those things, sitting alone in that theater, contemplating the senior citizens around me who’d raised their kids and made it to older age with their sanity intact, it seemed.

The poet smiled and rubbed his bald head and read poems about his cat. I like cats. Check.

Maybe I’m the one who’s easy, poetry. Let’s try again!

First poem you loved? Last poem you read? And…go!


Like this post? Give a girl a “share.” Thanks! ~ Rebecca

*image my own











24 thoughts on “Dear Poetry…

    1. I need to read more poetry. I was so daunted by it as a girl, that I didn’t try. Now, my eight-year-old boys write their own poems, so nonchalantly. There’s no poem-fear. Time to go back to all I missed! Thanks for stopping by the blog!

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  1. That’s the thing about poetry, you don’t have to “get” every reference. It’s a feeling, a mood created with words and their structures and sounds along with their meanings. I can thank school for early exposure to a lot of classic literature and poetry. Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson.. I have had a couple of Jim Morrison poetry books since I was 14. They were the first poetry books I picked up and tried to read on my own for fun. They had these scanned in pages of his journal. The poems in chicken scratch and scribbles. I was fascinated to see his creative process (I’m a poet myself!) Talk about obscure references haha. Then I got into Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe in my wearing all black stage LOL! Nowadays I mostly follow modern poets. I enjoy getting my snippets on instagram. One account I like to follow is Tyler Knott Gregson. Also the Bible has it’s poetic moments! Love the suggestions here and in the comments and can’t wait to read some new stuff! 🙂

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    1. Looking Gregson up right now! I don’t know, the nuns in Catholic school (bless ’em) must have instilled some fear in me about poetry. Funny, I’ve never felt trepidation about diving into a complicated, many-layered story. And in my MFA program, there were definitely two camps–we fiction writers and the poets. I was friends with many of the poets, but there wasn’t a whole lot of dipping our toes into the others’ pool, at least on my end. So, I need to re-school myself! Thanks for checking out my post–and for your great suggestions!

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  2. You know, I really relate to your sentiment in that first sentence. As someone who’s into all kinds of music and art, I always felt like I should get into poetry at some point. I periodically try to dive in, I occasionally find something that I really can grab hold of, but I inevitably can’t quite really get into it.

    We have so many cultural assumptions as soon as we hear the word “poetry”, and that’s never helpful.

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  3. Albert and the Lion is also one of my favourites! Another is To His Coy Mistress. It’s filthy and unpleasant and I love it. I find analysing poetry (when I was at school) made me much more interested in it because we could begin to unpack everything the poem is saying or could be saying, rather than reading it at its surface level as I would do at home.

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