Self Portrait With Poetry Book

I was reading Victoria Chang's blog this morning and she mentioned the Newsweek article and if poetry reading is declining. She thought that yes it is.

If I am considering this in my own life, the answer is sadly, "Yes, I am reading less poetry than I was 5 years ago." Honestly, I think the early 2000's were a great year for poetry. I bought so many books and I was so excited about what I was reading.

Here are poets whose books I purchased who I fell in love with-- Beth Ann Fennelly, Jane Mead, Christine Garren, Olena Kalytiak Davis (her first book, not her 2nd), Katrina Vandenberg (Atlas), Martha Silano, Susan Rich. All these incredible poets.

Then Tupelo had a great run on poetry-- Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ilya Kaminsky, Patricia Fargnoli.

And then what happened? Did poetry change or did I change?

I kind of worry it was me.

You may have seen my posts asking (begging) for someone to share a new wonderful poet with me. But I haven't found him or her. Yet. I still have hope. But I want the book I drag around with me. I need that book.

I know some of the problem is I'm not a fan of a lot of the new work that is coming out. I know a lot of people love Ben Lerner, but I really did not get into his book. Someone told me I needed to hear him read before I'd love it. But I can't ask him into my home for a solo performance, so where does that leave me?

Then I told you about that terribly bad poet I discovered (with the name I wouldn't say) that had two books. Where did she come from and why was she published?

But there have been books this year (and poems) that I love. Where do I find them?

Crab Creek Review & Field publish my favorite poems (of course, I'm one of the editors at CCR, so I'm not surprised the poetry leans towards my taste.

Tracy K. Smith published DUENDE in the last couple years and I did love that book.

I didn't really love the C.D. Wright Rising, Falling, Hovering book even though I heard her read it and even though I bought it hoping to fall in love with it. But it went on to win awards and it was well crafted. So is it the books, or have I just become a finicky reader? I think I've become more finicky.

I did love Mary Jo Bang's ELEGY, but it was very hard to read because it was about the loss of her son. And Robert Hass's TIME AND MATERIALS was a satisfying read and is physically one of the most beautiful books I've seen with its red cover and birds.

Maybe I am reading a lot of good poetry, but unlike my younger self who would fall in love at the drop of a book, maybe my tastes have become a little more refined, or picky, or the poetry honeymoon period is over and I have to look at these lovers with their bad habits and ketchup stains on their shirts and see them as human and not as the gods I thought they once were.



  1. I don't think poetry is declining. People have been writing (i.e. writing down) poems for several thousand years, and have been saying or singing poems for unknown millennia before that. Thinking about it in this perspective, I don't think that five or ten years is adequate to gauge any meaningful trends (in any direction) in poetry. Measured by the lifespan of the oldest poetry, five or ten years is barely a blink.

    A few books of poems I've found during the past couple of years that I really liked (and just mentioning books by individual poets here, leaving out anthologies):

    As Is by Sheryl Noethe (Lost Horse Press)

    The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada (W. W. Norton)

    Factory of Tears by Valzhyna Mort (Copper Canyon Press)

    Indian Trains by Erika Wurth (West End Press)

    DRIVE: The First Quintet by Lorna Dee Cervantes (Wings Press)

    The Chieko Poems by Takamura Kotaro (Green Integer Press)

    Wisteria by Kwame Dawes (Red Hen Press)

    Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast by Dale Jacobson (Red Dragonfly Press)

    This isn't by any means a complete list, just some off the top of my head.

    There's clearly a vastly larger amount of poetry being published right now (in the United States at least) than there was, say, thirty years ago. I'm reading at least as much poetry now as I was then, though there's so much more poetry out there now that even as much as I read is only the tiniest fraction of a percent of what's out there.

  2. Lyle, this list makes me happy, hopeful.

    Thank you!

  3. Pat has as new book coming out from Tupelo in a few months, and they just released The Heginning of the Fields by Angela Shaw, which I highly recommend & can see you enjoying. Two more faves: Crocus by Karin Gotshall, and rife by Stefanie Marlis.

    I feel pretty confident that all of these books have poems you will love. Truly.

  4. whoops:

    The Beginning of the Fields, by Angela Shaw.


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