Overcoming my “prejudice against poetry”

I had a wonderful meeting with the other two winners of the BPL all-night short story contest over the weekend. Karen Kachra, Jennifer Mook-Sang, and I met up at CJ’s Café in Bronte to get to know each other and read our prize-winning stories. (Which were lovely, by the way! I’m looking forward to reading more of their work in the future.)

Child covering eyes

You can't make me read it!

We chatted about what we liked to read for pleasure, and Karen mentioned feeling like she had a bit of a “prejudice against poetry”. (Love that phrase, Karen!)

The three of us agreed that poetry made us feel a bit dense. We expect it to be full of symbolism and deep thoughts and references that we just won’t get. Poetry seems like a lot of work.

Being required to take a graduate seminar on the long poem (think T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) during one dark, Montreal winter may have ruined me for poetry. By that time, I had already finished my undergraduate degree in English Literature and published a few poems—I had had my fill.

Ten-plus years later, and I still generally skip the poetry in the literary journals I read. I’m drawn to the stories, the dialogue, the action.

But every once in a while, I’ll catch a word or a phrase in one of the poems I’m passing over—“violet night”, “vainglorious”, “this gritty pearl”—and sigh over the sensual power of language. I remember being amazed, way back when, by how poets more than anyone else get to play with words and use them in surprising ways to elicit emotional reactions.

It’s time I started reading poetry again. I’m looking for recommendations to help me get over my poetry prejudice. Jennifer and Karen recommended Billy Collins. Any others I should check out?

Maria

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2 Comments

Filed under poetry

2 responses to “Overcoming my “prejudice against poetry”

  1. bjas

    Maria, here’s a beautiful favourite of mine, “My Heart Goes Swimming (New Zealand Love Poems),” edited by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O’Brian. This collection is a celebration of love, but also life, language and place. Enjoy!

  2. bjas

    Brevity is the soul of wit! Maria, here’s another one for you to check out, Pith and Vinegar: An Anthology of Short Humorous Poetry, edited by William Cole. Full of wise and witty poems, few of them over 8 lines long.

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