Thursday, April 9, 2009

Work in Progress: What's on the Poetry Shelf?

In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d look at my own shelf of poetry books and share a random sampling of what’s there:

--There are three books of poetry on my “favorite books” shelf,
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Mark Strand, The Continuous Life
T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems

--Also on the “favorite books” shelf is a memoir about poets:
Poets in Their Youth, by Eileen Simpson, who was married to John Berryman

--I own one book signed by a Nobel laureate: Collected Poems, 1948-1984 by Derek Wolcott. He taught at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference one year, and our “personal” interaction was limited to my standing in line to get this book signed (with my name, his name, and the date).

--I have two books leftover from college days (along with the Eliot and Whitman, above): Selected Poems by W.H. Auden and Selected Poems of William Butler Yeats. It’s fun—though highly embarrassing—to leaf through the books and find my “insightful” notes—i.e. “ambivalent message about attitude to Y.” found at the end of Auden’s “In Memory of W.B. Yeats.”

--When I got married to Steve, I read to him a poem I found in Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise (“Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer”). He read to me a poem from Donald Justice’s New and Selected Poems, “On an Anniversary.” My copy of the Justice book is signed, which also was a result of being at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

--I also had many books of poetry signed during my visits to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, including Shells by Craig Arnold and Tug by G.E. Patterson, both of whom were fellows the year I was a fellow.

--Lest you think it’s all men on these shelves, here are some books by female poets:
Happy Family by Jane Shore
PM/AM by Linda Pastan
Power Politics by Margaret Atwood
Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forche
What the Living Do by Marie Howe

--This book of poems made me cry nonstop: Without by Donald Hall

--I have an early, hardcover book by a former teacher: An Afternoon of Pocket Billiards by Henry Taylor. (Unfortunately, I bought this book used, from the Strand Bookstore for some ridiculously low price…even more unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my teacher this. He still signed it anyway.)

--And here are some books written by poets whose work I love AND who are friends of mine:
Chameleon Hours by Elise Partridge
House Without a Dreamer by Andrea Hollander Budy
Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore by Erika Meitner
Toward Any Darkness by Rick Mulkey
Constituents of Matter by Anna Leahy
The Wishbone Galaxy by Kim Roberts
Buoyancy by Richard Peabody
Lightning and Ashes by John Guzlowski
Amber Necklace from Gdansk by Linda Nemec Foster

--Multiples of Marks: I have more than one book by Mark Strand and by Mark Jarman.

--Odd way to conclude: Almost all the spines on the shelf are a somber color or white. Some exceptions:
Constituents of Matter by Anna Leahy (vivid lime green)
Buoyancy by Richard Peabody (bright yellow)
Power Politics by Margaret Atwood (orange)
Blizzard of One by Mark Strand (fire engine red & royal blue)
Yeats (red)
Chameleon Hours by Elise Partridge (shimmering turquoise)
Before the Age of Reason by Richard Mulkey (burnt orange)


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.