In my push to work on Hecate Applebough 1, 2, & 3, my poetry has been getting somewhat short shrift. True, Cate is a poet, so I include some of “her” poems in the text, but as for my own (“real”) poems, I’ve hit a dry patch, which tells me I need to begin a Reading Phase. (Either that, or I need to win a trip back to Venice, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.) Reading poetry is helpful on so many levels—among other things, it exposes you to new ways of looking at the world, it offers creative connections with language, and it reveals beauty and anguish and sudden bursts of weirdness. But more importantly, it lets me escape the dolor of my own head. I mean, honestly, that thing is like a coffin. I need outside influence in the worst way.
But what to read? I have plenty of books on my shelves that I’ve either never cracked, or I read long ago and forgot what it’s them. (Also, as an aside, “long ago” could mean as recently as a year ago—I have a piss poor memory for poetry, which is kind of pathetic for someone who counts herself a poet.) There are new books of poems out every day, some of them by acquaintances that I need to buy at some point—all of them equally good, I’m sure, but I think I’m going to choose some “free” ones—and by free, I mean, ones off my shelf.
(Closes eyes and chooses)…And here are the first three winners of my Random Poetry Picking Sweepstakes:
- Mohja Kahf’s E-mails from Scheherazad (UP Florida, 2003)
- Molly Peacock’s Original Love (Norton, 1995)
- Evie Shockley’s A Half-Red Sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006)
My goal, then, is to read these books in the next few days and be amazed by their words, and maybe after that I’ll read a few more, etc., etc., and maybe after that I’ll be ready to start a Writing Phase again. I might even include some mini-reviews next week.
I do read journals off and on (especially when I’m in a Submitting Phase), but sometimes, I find what passes for poetry in them unintelligible. Like, I just have no idea what the person is trying to communicate. I don’t believe it’s because my brain has certainly turned into marshmallow—I think there’s just a real movement to putting words together for no damn reason other than to see if editors will be fooled into thinking that word-bag poems mean something. Now, not every journal, and not every poem, obviously. But it seems to happen more frequently than not. Recently I read a few poems in a journal (that will remain nameless, but suffice it to say it’s Big and Impressive) that I was considering submitting to, and once I read the kind of poems they’ve published lately, I was very certain that what I write would fall directly into the round pile.
(I’m not talking about The New Yorker though, in case you’re curious what Big and Impressive Journal I mean. For at least the last 20 years, they publish the shit poems of brand-name poets. I’m saying it out loud, right here. The New Yorker prints the absolute worst poems I’ve ever read. And if this claim on my part means that they will never publish any of my poems, far far into the future, when I am myself finally a brand-name poet, then so be it. Their poems are the pits, and honestly they should be ashamed of themselves that they can’t pick better ones.)
(Does that sound like sour, jealous grapes? It’s not. I know getting published in The New Yorker is a big benchmark for a poet, but I think I hold with Groucho Marx here: I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member. So, sayonara New Yorker.)
Anyway, in my distaste for The New Yorker, I’ve meandered from my point (it happens, forgive me)… which is this: it will be good to get back to reading quality writing (instead of what I have been reading, which is fun [manga], but not particularly conducive to inspiring my poetic side).
And if you have any poetry book suggestions that are current and wow, leave them in the comments. I might go on a buying spree soon. Goddess bless Amazon Prime.