Friday Fun – Poetry: Yes/No/Sometimes

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Do you read poetry? Why or why not? If you do, what kinds of poetry do you like best and why?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace:  Mostly, I’m intimidated by poetry. It seems to have so many rules, or no rules at all. It’s classic and experimental, sometimes simultaneously. It’s full of complex layers of meaning that sometimes I don’t get (at least not right away … sometimes never).

But poetry is also powerful. It is concentrated emotion and insight that can hit you right between the eyes or straight through the heart. A poem you love can stay with you forever. A few lines can become a personal motto or creed – words to live by, words to love by.

poetry booksHaving recently unpacked my books, I can tell you that I do – in fact – own a few poetry books. My collection (if you can stretch reality to call it that) is small and very eclectic:

  • A third edition, circa 1983, of The Norton  Anthology of Poetry, left over from my time at Boston College
  • The Cuckoo’s Haiku, a book that I received as an advance review copy and kept mostly because I liked the illustrations
  • What the Heart Knows, another poetry book I bought because I liked the art
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, because it’s a classic
  • Ogden Nash’s Good Intentions, a book I picked out of my grandmother’s “library” (a collection comprised mostly of cookbooks)
  • And, probably half of the children’s books we own, including Jamberry

There are a few others floating around, but this gives you the basic sense of my poetry “collection” – a haphazard smattering of forms and subjects.  Though I still feel underprepared to fully appreciate poetry, when I do finally get past my hang ups, I do enjoy reading it. I like the way you can savor a poem – reading it multiple times in the space of an hour, rolling it’s sounds and meanings around in your head. I like the way it can appear to be a completely different piece with each reading, morphing the way colors change in the light. And, I like the way a certain line or phrase lodges in your brain, causing you to see the world through a slightly altered lens.

So, yeah. I guess I do like poetry. In fact, I think I’ll go read some right now.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: Sigh. Poetry is one of those things I *should* like.  I can appreciate it, but I don’t typically seek it out.  In all honestly I typically read to escape, and poetry just doesn’t give me the same immersion that a good fiction book does.  I do have a soft spot for Shel Silverstein, but I’m not really sure that counts.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: I read poetry all the time. I love the distillation of thought in language, the vividness of imagery and the gaping holes of possibility created by compression. I love the sounds of language. I have several friends who are poets. I’m married to one. We read poetry aloud in bed.


LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I enjoy reading poetry and even have some published. When I went for my master’s degree in writing and literature I had to take 2 years of undergrad lit (since all my past education was in business management), and I had a couple of poetry classes. I came to appreciate different forms and hearing different interpretations of poets’ works. I seem to favor poems with a lot of visual descriptions, but also those with personal emotions.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: I go through phases where I read a lot of poetry and then other times when I don’t. There are poems that have stayed with me for many years and I keep a few favorites in view–whether on my desk in my office or in the front of my journal. I’ve written some poetry and I love how you can distill an experience or an emotion into only a (relatively) few words. I personally think Shel Siverstein’s poems count as poetry, as I’ve introduced my son to his poems and he thinks about them and talks about them long after we’ve read them. That’s my idea of art, whether it’s poetry or any other medium–if it makes me think or has an emotional impact on me that lasts. As far as what type of poetry, I’ll read any type of poetry, from haiku’s to Rumi to Ogen Nash to Marianne Williamson.


29 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Poetry: Yes/No/Sometimes

  1. I love to read poetry for several reasons. One, like Deborah, I read for the language, for the use of imagery. I read poetry every night before I go to sleep. Usually I read Asian poetry, Tang Dynasty poets and Japanese Haiku poets. The imagery of the ancient poets is stunning. There’s no other way for me to put it.

    Also as Lisa and Dianne mentioned, I read poetry for the “emotional impact” and for meaning. I always have within reach, the Johnson edition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I absolutely believe her to be the greatest American poet–with Frost and Stevens close behind!

    While I consider Dickenson as number one, I also believe Frost’s “Stopping By Woods…” as the greatest poem ever written. Every time I read it something else occurs to me. It’s perfect. As you see I’m a traditionalist.

    • Hey Paula,
      Thanks for your comments and for all the suggestions. I’ve read some of the poets you’ve mentioned, but not all. More poets to add to my list. And obviously, your thoughts were faster than your fingers!


  2. Yes, as a poet myself, I read it all the time. Currently I’ve subscribed to “Rattle” and read their quarterly magazines, just bought a collection of William Carlos Williams poems and this summer read an interesting collection from a new poet, B.L. Bruce titled, “Weight of Snow.” Great book.

    • Hi Caroline,
      I agree, lyrics are poetry set to music. The song that came immediately to mind when I read your comment was a song I first heard in the movie Cold Mountain. It’s called The Scarlet Tide, which “separates the widow from the bride,” and it’s about the experience of the women left behind by their menfolk during the Civil War. It’s a beautiful song and a beautiful poem.

      Thanks for commenting and reading!


  3. I have said it already and I am going to say this over and over again: Edgar Allan Poe. But I can appreciate Edna St. Vincent Millay and Carl Sandburg. I have discovered them in high school hiding in a library so evil peers could not find and make fun of me and I am a fan ever since.

    • Hey impossiblebebong,
      I love Edgar Allan Poe! Haven’t read much Edna St. Vincent Millay or Carl Sandburg, but I’ll add them to my list.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. I have loved poetry since the day I discovered it! I admire the economic use of words to explain the most complicated topics. Kathleen Jamie’s poetry was the last that I read.

  5. I read poetry, probably not enough, as I am always edting. But I am an Edgar Alan Poe enthusiast from a long time ago. In this 21st century I have come across poets with a more modern way of thinking, and I confess that I like it, too. I think I am going to go and get a couple of poems to read right now, Poe being one.

  6. I love poetry, especially poetry by the Bronte Sisters. I just read a beautiful poem by Emily Bronte called, “Fall, Leaves, Fall.” A beautiful piece about the autumn season. I have also had poems published and can say that my taste for poetry is on the old-fashioned side.

    • Hi hhirtle,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Congratulations on having some of your poems published and thanks for the poem suggestion.


  7. I NEED poetry. I wonder why. Good, thoughtful poems, whether for adults or kids, get me thinking in ways no other lit does. The poem so often distills an entirely life-altering experience into a swift, concise, wise observation. That’s it: Any topic, mood, feeling, well, experience can present itself to the poet’s vision. On
    my desk these days … poems for a quick lift … a meditation … whatever: Thomas Lux’s “New and Selected Poems,” Robert Pinsky’s “Essential Pleasures,” and Shel Silverstein’s “Everything On It.” Bliss!

    • Hi Anthony,
      Thanks for saying so succinctly what I think we were all trying to say above!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  8. I am a big poetry fan although I only read it for pleasure sporadically. Most of the poetry I interact with is ‘forced’ upon me in my role as an English teacher but I find that reading, enjoying and rediscovering poems with teenagers is excellent for invigorating interest. I can have taught the same poem many times and yet still be surprised by the interactions young people have with it for the first time. Off the top of my head, Christina Rossetti, Thomas Hardy and Tennyson stand out. I also love Carol Ann Duffy’s collection: The World’s Wife.
    Having been blogging about my travels since the beginning of 2015, I have found that occasionally only a poem will do… You can find a couple here if you are interested:
    Bus rides have proven a rich source of inspiration!

    • Hi chrisandhels,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and for the poem suggesions–including your own! I’ll take a look!


  9. I love reading poetry and have recently discovered the ancient poetry of Rumi’s. So incredibly expressive and beautiful. His words are wise and still relevant today. I also enjoy writing poetry and like to use rhyme. Humour is always great and I have written a poem about the monster inside the washing machine that eats all the socks, as it seems that no matter how I try to keep pairs together, only one sock comes back out of the wash! If I’m not making people laugh with my poetry, I will be writing about health or about mental illness in some way, usually prevention of these days, or in other words focusing on creating and maintaining wellness. I have also written poems which were based on my experiences or on experiences of those I knew, re. alcoholism and the like. I find poetry a wonderful way to express my emotions, share stories with others and paint pictures for people to perceive as they wish.

    There is no right or wrong with poetry. It is an artform. Love it!

  10. Hi mellymoosuperstar,
    Great name!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about poetry. It’s great to read other peoples’ experiences. And thanks for the reminder about Rumi. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of his poems.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


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