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?
Jamie 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.
Having 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: 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
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.
Lisa 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: 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.