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Poetry for People Who (Think They) Hate Poetry

David Cherry
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Book Buzz is a blog produced in collaboration with neighborhood librarians from Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and the Bellaire Library.

National Poetry MonthThe poet T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month. The more philosophical among us will tell you he meant that nature’s springtime rebirth reminds us of our own mortality. Others say it is because the tax deadline sits like a fat spider smack dab in the middle of it, but school kids from Bangor to Baja will tell you April is the cruelest month because it is National Poetry Month, the time each year when teachers and other well-meaning folk force poetry the rest of us - not for the sheer pleasure a poem can offer, not because a well-made poem is a perpetual motion machine of meaning that rewards reading after reading, not because poetry’s tent is big enough to cover both the 12,000+ lines of Homer’s Odyssey as well as the 17 crystalline syllables of a Bashō haiku, and not because the endlessly reinvented sonnet is the perfect form for our ever-shrinking attention spans. No, we are bombarded with poetry each April because it is good for us.

As a poet and lifelong reader of poetry, I resent the fact that what I consider to be the highest form of human expression is reduced each April to the literary equivalent of that soggy wad of spinach plopped between the meatloaf and the mashed potatoes on the blue plate special. So, today, as a sort of corrective, I offer you some good poetry that is not necessarily good for you.

Anthologies are the club scene of the poetry world. You can meet a lot of new poets without having to commit to any of them. Here are two good ones: Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything Else edited by Barbara Hamby and David Kirby. The Hungry Ear, edited by Kevin Young, a collection of poems about food and eating.

Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins and Jamaal May’s Big Book of Exit Strategies are brilliant poetry about stuff normal people think about.

Kim Addonizio’s What Is This Thing Called Love and Olena Kalytiak Davis’ Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities are both great collections for the verse-averse. Both take on those most trite of poetic subjects: love and sex, and manage to say something new about them.

This April, make it a point to exorcise those childhood memories of slogging through The Song of Hiawatha and find a poem that speaks to you. It’s out there. You just have to find it.

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