Tomorrow marks the start of National Poetry Month! One of the ways I’m taking action this year is through Kelli Russell Agodon’s Big Poetry Giveaway.
This is a great way to get to know poet-bloggers while circulating poetry books. Each blogger selects two books to give away. Visitors (like you) have the month of April to comment on the giveaway post (like this one) and enter. In early May, I’ll select two commenters at random to receive the books. I’ll contact you for your mailing address and send you a bit of poetic happiness on me. (If you want more details, Kelli has it all spelled out — and her blog is worth a visit anyway!)
I don’t have my own book of poetry to share yet, so I’ve chosen two of my favorite poets. They are both lady-poets, because my poetry tastes are admittedly a bit of a girls’ club. It’s something I’m working on (I’m looking at you, Donald Hall. But the truth is you got in via Jane, so…).
Oh how I love Lucille Clifton. I have cluttered the pages of quilting with Post-Its and penciled notes and underlines and stars. (If you win, you will get a fresh copy to devour in the same way.) I love these poems because they deal in identity, in the practice of naming, the role of language as a kind of witness to truth and history, and the power that plays in all of those things.
Some of my favorites in this book involve a retelling/consideration of the creation myth. Adam is vulnerable in Clifton’s poems, and Eve has an inner life that Clifton doesn’t define but instead opens up, into a subtle exposure of the deeper story (a kind of witnessing in and of itself).
As an undergrad, I lucked out and was dissecting quilting in one class and Paradise Lost in another. The two layer together in interesting ways. If you cross the way Milton positions Eve seeing her reflection for the first time with Clifton’s “sleeping beauty”, for instance, you can discover great texture to Eve and her process of “waking up.” I’m a nerd and find this kind of dialogue between texts fascinating. So, if you win quilting and are equally intrigued by myths relating to Eve and the creation story, consider reading parts of it alongside Paradise Lost! Poetry Month bonus points!
Diane was my poetry professor at Michigan State, and I read her work when I want a reminder of how deep imagery can propel poetry.
I have lots of admiration for Diane, in part because she takes poetry seriously, and I’m one of those people who feels like no one is ever taking things seriously enough. Not in a stuffy way… more in a “there’s no such thing as high expectations”/”always ready for a challenge” way. I felt a bit isolated in that regard until I met Diane, the professor who would confront you directly about why your work was buckling with cliches or why you got lazy with your metaphor half-way through the poem (guilty).
Her poetry has that same edge to it. It’s a drive — a precision of language and a self-possession charging through the voice of her poems. I love that. It’s something I haven’t mastered in my own voice yet, so I tend to read her work more from a place of observing craft than I do for straightforward enjoyment. Your mileage may vary of course — I’m not necessarily suggesting that Diane is a “poet’s poet.”
Ready to win?
If you are interested in winning either of these books, just leave a comment below by April 30, 2012! Be sure to include your name and an email address where I can reach you if win. Thanks for playing along, and happy National Poetry Month!