Tag Archives: poetry

Devotions: Or, My Third Time Reviewing a Poetry Collection

It’s true. Check the archives and in 13 years I’ve reviewed hundreds of novels and works of non-fiction, (reluctantly) dozens of collections of short stories and… two works of poetry.

But today make that three. The reasons are several: this one person I follow on Twitter keeps posting these poems and I read them and think, I should read more poetry; this one person kept referencing Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese,” and I kept thinking yeah, that’s beautiful, and I should read more poetry; this other friend, D., was sending poems a day to Their Person and I thought, I should read more poetry.

And so I got Mary Oliver’s Devotions from the library and boy did it deliver. Spent a whole night chatting with E. and sending screenshots of poems that were reading my mind. Poems that do a lot with nature (like maybe Oliver saturates the market on goldenrod and moss and different types of birds) but get at mindfulness, and pointlessness, and existential yes-ness (one poem is delightfully titled Yes! No! and nailed the experience of Having! An! Opinion!) of being alive and an optimist in a degrading humanity.

And poems that you, skeptic of poetry, thinker that it is impenetrable or difficult or Too Much, can sink into. Can read in the breath between text messages and appointments and on-your-way-to-the-next-… and will be better for them. Slow in line breaks but fully digestible in a way that will make you feel like I Am a Person Who Reads Poetry – and not just the Instagram kind*. And I am a person who is alive in a universe both infinitely larger and where I am irrelevant, and in a particular place where my breath can change the outcome of the existence of this moth.

So truly I don’t know if this is the poetry collection for you. There are a lot of poems about trees and birds and flowers and wind, but in all of them are line turns that wrench and see and pull. And so if not this collection then make your summer resolution to be a person who reads a poem. And let me know what you discover.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with that


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Without: In which I read some poetry and cry

Following my request for book recommendations on grief, E. lent me Donald Hall’s Without, a poetry collection exploring the dying and death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon.

The collection takes the form of letters written to Jane and coalesces around Hall’s experience preparing for and responding to Jane’s death. The scenes described are – unsurprisingly for poetry – intimate, focused and breathtakingly poignant.

You might be a person who thinks a) I don’t read poetry or b) I don’t want to read about grief/dying. And if the case of b), fine. Don’t read this one. But if you’re interested in the theme, don’t let the form in this instance throw you off. The poems are entirely accessible to even the most resistant of poetry readers.

My only caveat with the collection is that you’ll want to take your time. I started off reading in a rush – as I would with a novel – but discovered that by giving myself a few days between each poem or a few poems they lingered and filled my mental space far more than ingesting the whole thing in one sitting. Not true, additional caveat: avoid reading the collection on public transit unless you’re okay with public displays of waaa.


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Grief is the Thing With Feathers: Spend two hours with poetry (or watch House of Cards)

We read Max Porter’s Grief is a Thing With Feathers for book club. Yet another reminder of why book club is great (if the bowls of candy & chocolate weren’t sufficiently compelling) is the invitation to read things I would never otherwise read. Even things I don’t like. Maybe especially things I don’t like?  Continue reading

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