What’re You Reading?
Poets and poetry lovers,
Hopefully you received some new books over the holiday. If not, maybe you had enough time to crack open one you’ve been meaning to get to. Maybe it wasn’t even a book, but a poem that leapt from a journal or an online archive into your head and did that thing that reading does for us.
As mentioned in the new year blog, this is my time to read the most since I have the toughest time writing. I’ve read some poems and books over the past month that I’m really excited about, so much so that I’d like to sing their praises publicly in hopes of spreading the wealth. Although I primarily write poetry, I read novels, creative nonfiction, and short stories, too. Anyway, if you’re interested, take a look at what I’ve been reading, then please feel free to share any suggestions you may have in the comments. If I steer you wrong with my suggestions, I apologize in advance, I never said I wasn’t an idiosyncratic cat.
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. Let me begin by saying that, while I studied some linguistics in school, I ‘ve never considered myself a linguist or even one especially interested in language at that level. I mention this because Kingsnorth’s novel is written in what he calls a “shadow tongue,” reflective of what English would’ve been like during the times of the novel, which are the times of the Norman invasion of 1066. There is very little punctuation and no capitalization in addition, so the novel appears daunting at first. But something happens during the course of reading it, you “wake” yourself into understanding the language and you start turning pages quickly. Absorbing this language transported me back in time. I felt entranced by the narrator, Buccmaster of Holland, as he led me through his devastated lands, conflicted between leading his small war band and fighting the voices he hears in his head that challenge his confidence. Even when I wasn’t reading the novel, I was thinking about it. Thinking about the times. Thinking about how brutal William the Conqueror’s campaign was in England. Thinking about how, if he hadn’t launched it, English wouldn’t be the language we now know. It reminded me in ways of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which for me is a good thing. If you’re into language, history, history of language, or post-apocalyptic feeling novels, I suggest you check this out. I came away wanting to craft characters as strongly as Kingsnorth.
“Algebra of the Sky” by David Hernandez. This is my favorite poem over the past few months. I’ve thought about it daily since I first discovered it on Verse Daily. Hernandez is a poet worth checking out if you are into humor, astute observations, and surprise. He has a collection due out this year that I look forward to.
I recently taught American Lit One and I have to say/reiterate (because if you know me, I’ve talked about this before) that Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson are really the holy trinity of American Poetics. I find Emerson’s transcendentalist ideas inspiring and refreshing, and perhaps needed in such cynical, empathy-lacking times. Above all, Emerson’s simplified approach is to always be searching to better one’s self, be that by learning more, expressing one’s self more, or getting more closely acquainted with nature. What is wrong with self-improvement? Whitman’s work inspires me as a writer to make sure that I care about my writing. His enthusiasm is unquestionable; he celebrates everything in his work. Even in my poetry that doesn’t explore the happiest times, I feel there’s something celebratory in a survivor’s narrative, like the fact that they’re around to tell it. Dickinson, on the other hand, turns my perceptions inward. Never mind the high school teacher who tried to ruin her work by singing her poems to the Gilligan’s Island theme, Dickinson deserves to be read closely and often. If you are a poet trying to learn a thing or two about compression, double entendre, or energetic use of language, she can be your mentor.
But enough about me. What have you been reading? What are your thoughts on what you’ve read?
I look forward to hearing from you,