Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poetry + Spring Forward

Day 33 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.

Lauren, like several other people, was reading more than one book at a time when I first asked this question, and one of them was This Nest, Swift Passerine by Dan Beachy-Quick, which is poetry. I think this is because she is a poet herself, as well as a visual artist.

We poets read lots of poetry, or we should, anyway. How else are we going to know 1) what's been written and 2) how it's done!

But, like the non-poets out there who also love poetry, I also read it for pleasure, comfort, wisdom, and delight. Poetry, which seems to have few readers during a poet's lifetime, can acquire generations of readers, as soon as we die.

But some poets are very popular during their lifetimes. Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Billy Collins.

I am reading Ballistics by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, because my dad accidentally bought a second copy of it while buying a book about cars. He needs to replace his Avalon...brake issues...probably with another Avalon...overall customer satisfaction. (It'll all work out.) He loves Billy Collins. He just forgot he already had this book, in hardcover.

So I got the paperback, just out this February!

Now, if poetry is so memorable as to become immortal, you might ask how my dad had forgotten that he already had Ballistics...and I will just say 1) my dad is sometimes an impulse buyer and that this sometimes involves gigantic flat-screen televisions and 2) people do this with mysteries all the time, and 3) my mom bought the earlier hardcover of Ballistics. She loves Billy Collins, too. Both my parents appreciate a poet who is clear, often funny, and has something to say.

So do I. I have all his other books, too, including a first edition, first printing hardcover of The Trouble with Poetry, which I found on the sale table ($4) of Border's still in the first year of its publication, which shows you 1) the fate of poetry during a poet's lifetime, even a popular one, and 2) that not even all poets like him, sometimes dismissing him as glib and lightweight because of his humor, but I always find his humor going deeper than glibness, in a book as a whole, and the humor lightening a heavy truth just long enough to carry it into mind or heart, where it lodges like a bullet the surgeons can't remove.

Not like the bullet that passes through the Queen of Hearts on the cover of both the hardcover and softcover Ballistics.

I am also reading Stepping Through Moons, by Toni L. Wilkes, and Looking for Montrose Street, by Carol Frith, two poetry chapbooks from Finishing Line Press. I will return to these in a future blog, I'm sure, because now I am reading them too quickly in voracious delight, as the poets are people I've met through print or electronic correspondence and now want to meet through their poems.

I can already say that the little boy I've met in Toni's poems "The Birthday Party-1952" and "Coming Down" just breaks my heart.

And what delight to see that Carol Frith is exploring formal poetry in Montrose Street. And I have learned that "viburnum" means "wayfaring tree."

A poetry chapbook is a slim book, often, these days, saddle-stapled, and, in the case of Finishing Line Press, tied along the spine with ribbon. The history of chapbooks links them with peddlers as they were light enough to carry in a pack or on his person with other objects for sale. They might be compared in length to chapters of a longer book, or to pamphlets carrying current news, treatises, or ephemeral information. The form survives for poetry, and, for example, with journal reprints or museum exhibit catalogs, where a single article often appears between card covers or stapled wrappers.

This is the last week to order my new chapbook, Living on the Earth, from Finishing Line Press, in its crucial advance sales period, so here's the link to the New Releases page, where you can find it if you want it. I don't think it will ever appear at Borders on the sale table, due to that saddle stapling, but it will eventually turn up at Amazon, where the link will take you back to Finishing Line. Like a little ribbon looped around the spine.

And now it's time to spring forward into your day.... Did you change your clocks?


patricia boutilier said...

Glad to have found your "other" blog. I heard Billy Collins on "Prarie Home Companion" reading from "Ballistics", enjoyed him a great deal.

I don't have quite the time to read as I would like---do "audio books" count? They help during a 45-min daily commute to work.

Currently listening to an Arthur C. Clarke book---"The Last Therorem"---haven't read sci-fi in ages. Working slowly through Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna"---a "real" book---and recently finished John Updike's "The Widows of Eastwick"---audio CD. The problem with the CD's is that it is limited to what the library carries----they are too expensive to buy.


Kathleen said...

My dad does a lot of reading on car trips with audio books.

Toni L. Wilkes said...

Many thanks for purchasing and actually reading ~ Stepping Through Moons ~. I've had many people purchase the book, but when I begin to discuss it with them, it becomes quite apparent that they haven't opened it yet. My hope is that they will cozy up with it at some point rather than stow it on a shelf indefinitely. I love that the book is "traveling around in your giant purse." I always have someone's poetry in the car with me. And like Patricia, I'm a voracious books-on-CD-aholic.

Greg and I hosted an all day poetry workshop yesterday exploring chapbooks, so it is grand to see your explanation here. I get the question, "what's a chapbook?" all the time.

Kathleen said...

(I experience that non-reading thing, too, Toni. Mostly from poet friends! Regular friends do read the poems!! And so do strangers.)

I always fear I have gulped the poems too quickly when a new book arrives. And I have! So be assured that I will go back more slowly and little by little!

Kathleen said...

And I read recently (on Facebook) that Paulette Beete has some copies of her Finishing Line Press chapbook, Blues for a Pretty Girl, available. If you love music and poetry, this is the book for you.

And I have heard Paulette sing!!

Susan said...

I have been reading poetry too!

I just finished Orange Crush by Simone Muench (a beautiful, beautiful book), and have begun reading Oneiromance by Kathleen Rooney.

I have a bunch more poetry books & chapbooks waiting for me, which makes me all kinds of happy. Even if I didn't write poetry, I would definitely read it for the sheer pleasure of language & rhythm & intensity. I have never really dug into Billy Collins--I've only perused a few pieces here & there, but perhaps I should reconsider reading one of his books... Which one would you recommend?

Kathleen said...

I like the two poets you mention, Susan, and have another book by Simone.

I like Picnic, Lightning by Billy Collins a lot. And I love the poems to the reader with which he starts every book....