Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's National Poetry Month: Celebrate!

When it comes to Desert Island Books, I have chosen two — and one of them is a poetry book.

I have loved Marge Piercy for decades. I fell in love with her book The Moon is Always Female and carried it around with me like a talisman, reading it for comfort in hard times, relying on it for entertainment in good times.

Before that, it was the collected books of Edna St. Vincent Millay. That collection accompanied me to Europe when I was 17, along with the book Forever by Judy Blume. (I let my aunt borrow Forever for forever, but she couldn't pry Edna out of my hands long enough to read more than a poem or two.)

I love poetry because I love language. Poets pay attention to language, using it sparsely, carefully, deliberately.  I love lineation and what it can do to a single line. I love the way rules are made to be broken in the hands of capable poets.

I don't always know what the poet wants to say. I can't say what I'm "supposed" to take away from any poem. I can be intimidated by a good poem, incensed by a bad poem. I know what I like and I know what I don't like. I know pablum is not poetry, but pablum — a poem doesn't have to make you cry or gnash your teeth, but it's not just supposed to bounce along the page without interest (which is my definition of pablum).

During the month of April, I publish a poem a day on Hedgehog Lover. (Sometimes I publish articles from this blog there, too — shhhh, don't tell.)

Go check out what I consider good poems. Tell me what you think, offer suggestions and get in the poetry groove. 

Reading poetry is a great experience. Don't wait until April to do it — and once April is over, keep it up. You'll be glad you did.

In the meantime, enjoy this gem by Marge Piercy:

Morning athletes
for Gloria Nardin Watts

Most mornings we go running side by side
two women in mid-lives jogging, awkward
in our baggy improvisations, two
bundles of rejects from the thrift shop.
Men in their zippy outfits run in packs
on the road where we park, meet
like lovers on the wood's edge and walk
sedately around the corner out of sight
to our own hardened clay road, High Toss.
Slowly we shuffle, serious, panting
but talking as we trot, our old honorable
wounds in knee and back and ankle paining
us, short, fleshy, dark haired, Italian
and Jew, with our full breasts carefully
confined. We are rich earthy cooks
both of us and the flesh we are working
off was put on with grave pleasure. We
appreciate each other's cooking, each
other's art, photographer and poet, jogging
in the chill and wet and green, in the blaze
of young sun, talking over our work,
our plans, our men, our ideas, watching
each other like a pot that might boil dry
for that sign of too harsh fatigue.
It is not the running I love, thump
thump with my leaden feet that only
infrequently are winged and prancing,
but the light that glints off the cattails
as the wind furrows them, the rum cherries
reddening leaf and fruit, the way the pines
blacken the sunlight on their bristles,
the hawk flapping three times, then floating
low over beige grasses,
and your company
as we trot, two friendly dogs leaving
tracks in the sand. The geese call
on the river wandering lost in sedges
and we talk and pant, pant and talk
in the morning early and busy together.

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