Top 10 Tuesday: Poetry
In my Contemporary Lit for Writers class, we just finished up our unit on poetry. Historically, I am not a fan of poetry. I dabbled in writing it in high school, but so did every post-pubescent would-be writer who wasn’t homeschooled. Let me tell you, I wrote some godawful poetry, most of which involved me being head-over-heels in love with my (gay) best friend and the fact “nobody understands meeeeeeeeeeee.”
I more or less suffered through the poems we were required to read for class, and while it was nice to add another book to my list of books I’ve read this year on Goodreads, mostly it took every ounce of my self-discpline to get through a lot of this stuff.
It’s not that I don’t like poetry, although it seems as if state curriculum has done its absolute best to ruin the best poems for students, mostly by forcing them to try and digest poetry faster than a White Castle burger passes through the system, or by trying to make them see things in between the lines that simply are not there.*
College has been slightly easier on my appreciation of poetry, but mostly because, in a class of forty-five students, it’s much easier to zone out and ignore the over-analyzation of some other human being’s (supposedly) carefully craft lines.
Today’s top ten list is my favorites poems and/or poets (in no particular order).
1. Ezra Pound
Imagist poetry has always been kinda my thing. I’m not going to sit here and analyze the shit – I’ll sit around for a while and try to figure out what’s going on in the poem, but deriving meaning is not going to happen right there – it’ll happen while I’m digesting the poetry. One of my favorites by Pound is very brief, but still:
“In a Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
2. “This Poem Had Better be about The World We Actually Live In” David Clewell
This was actually one of the poems that we read from our textbook (above) for class. Although Clewell makes use of metaphor and imagery like nobody’s business, it’s still, well, relevant. I wrote my poetry annotation paper on this poem, and it wasn’t nearly as painful as it could have been.
Despite the heavy amount of angst and depression this woman was more or less drowning in, the violence and emotion behind her verses have always struck me in a very particular way.
I do actually take her poetry seriously, although even I can’t help but give in to the occasional jibe about her death, however tragic it was. Here’s an exchange between me and my other writerly, craft, nerdy gal-friend, Shana (@nerdella on Twitter):
Me: It seems that in order to get any writing done, I have to clean ALL the things and make sure everything is neat and put away. Otherwise I just get depressed.
Shana: Don’t clean the oven.
4. “The Capybara” Sandra Beasley
This is another one of the poems from the aforementioned poetry textbook. It was the only one that made me laugh, although upon subsequent readings I realized that there was a nice duality to the text. As far as pure entertainment value goes, it won all the things, but then, if you chose to look at it almost as a parable, there was a relevant message. I very much encourage everyone to pick up this poem, for either of the two interpretations.
5. Edgar Allan Poe
While not much of a fan of the painfully long “The Raven”, Poe has always been one of my favorite writers, both in terms of his short stories and his poetry. One of the things I greatly admire about him was his unwillingness to shy away from the macabre or the risque; rather, he tackles these things head-on, despite modern society’s take on such subject matter – or the act of writing about such subject matter. “Annabelle Lee” screams necrophilia, although they’ll never tell you so in junior high.
I think that if I’ve ever modeled my poetry on any poet’s particular style, it would have to be Cummings’s. It reads so simply, but so beautifully, and I’ve never felt weighed down by tedium the way I do with most other poetry. “i carry your heart with me” is especially good.
Cummings proves what I’ve always felt about poetry: you don’t have to be drowning in it for it to actually mean something. While his poems are certainly moving and meaningful, I don’t feel like I’m slogging through words, dragging for the last line.
7. “The Day the Saucers Came” Neil Gaiman
It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Neil Gaiman. I’m still hoping that he is secretly my long-lost uncle and that one day we’ll run into each other and discover this fact and go get ice cream and talk about all sorts of nerdy, geeky things.
His poem “The Day the Saucers Came”, which you can read here, is just plain fun, and unexpectedly poignant. You can feel the joy in Gaiman’s writing, no matter the subject or the form: the man loves to write, and you can tell by the way he does it. If I model my poetry on e. e. cummings, then I model my urban fantasy on Gaiman.
8. The Odyssey, Homer
Even though I was forced to translate this from its original Latin in high school, The Odyssey is still near and dear to my heart. Probably Odysseus is the biggest jerk on the face of the planet, and if you really think about it he does a lot of things that he for which he probably deserves to be punched in the jaw, but even after all this, it’s just fun.
9. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
Another oldie but a goodie. It takes a while to slog through – I would actually suggest watching a movie version (and, better yet, the version on Netflix that has the paper puppets or whatever). The archaic vocabulary and writing style make it difficult to see, but this poem really is flipping hilarious. Although the first part (Hell) is really the best part, it’s all worth reading, although maybe not all in one sitting.
10. Dollface and Her Cancer
I honestly have no idea what this girl’s actual name is. I’ve followed her on Fictionpress for years, and while I rarely, if ever, leave a comment on any of her work, I’ve always been particularly impressed by her work. Go check her out, and leave a comment or two on her work. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. Of the more recent of her work, “September and Sinking” is a good read.
* Also, seriously, DO NOT get me started over the time I accidentally signed up for a modern and post-modern lit class. I didn’t realize at the time that “modern” in the literary sense means literature published between the 1940s and the 1980-some-odds, and not literature published in the last decade or so. On the four-question essay test that was our final, I BS’d one question, scribbled all over the second, wrote, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this” on the third, and on the fourth wrote three pages about why I thought everything we’d read that semester was crap.**
** I got an A.
Posted on October 4, 2011, in Book Reviews, Top 10 and tagged best american poetry 2010, dante, david clewell, e. e. cummings, ezra pound, fictionpress, homer, Neil Gaiman, poe, poetry, sandra beasley, sylvia plath. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.