Monday, November 12, 2007

Poet is a Verb: Read

I came to writing as a reader. I know this about myself. While other little kids were doing sports and playing outside, I was reading. I loved (and love) being able to immerse myself in language, another person's perspective, and an invented narrative. Writing, for me, is an extension of reading, a mirroring of what I love.

That being said, there is some business reading I normally don't enjoy. For instance, I subscribe to Poetry magazine, because it is *the* magazine to be published in. When I went to the Minneapolis Public Library a few months ago, I looked at the archive of Poetry magazine and found that for each year, they truly published the poets that endured in literature. So, I subscribe to it, knowing I am reading the Important Poets.

When I actually get down to reading it, though, I feel like it's a chore. It's not the magazine's fault - I am always pleasantly surprised when I read the issue. I actually enjoy the poetry, most of the time. But it just feels like work -- the poems can be too intellectualized or too well crafted or just too tidy. It's not a poetry I can normally aspire to writing, nor the poetry that I find myself recalling later.

This morning, I had nothing to read while I walked on the treadmill, so I grabbed this month's issue. (I know there's a metaphor in there, for what if feels like to read the magazine.) But this issue was really well done. I found myself highlighting almost every poem that appeared, because I liked it so much. Some favorites from this issue:

All of Heather McHugh's poetry, but these two are good.

The translations of Elfriede Jelinek's poetry are fabulous, although the translator's note is a little high-falutin'.

Peter Campion's "Just Now" and Robin Robertson's "Cat, Failing," are both pretty astonishing as well.

I guess the moral of the story (if I need to have one right now) is that I need to return to reading, even the good-for-me, broccoli-type reading, because it all feeds the writing.


pwadj said...

J - sometimes it's the magazine's fault....I too have a love-hate with it. I read it mostly now so I can have something to argue with. I rarely like what the essayists/reviewers have to say. Except last month with Adam Zagajewski! That I loved!

Jo said...

My childhood was the same, Jessica -- I am off to read your links.

jillypoet said...

I agree. I haven't picked up an issue in a long time because the poems just didn't move me.

You're right about feeding the reader part of the poet. In fact, maybe I should stop reading other people's blogs and just read some of my good old favorite poetry!