Daily Archives: June 17, 2014

Living Poets

“Now that Maya Angelou has died, my husband says that most people can’t name a living poet.” This from my colleague who has her finger on the pulse of popular culture.

“That can’t be true,” I replied. “I can name lots of living poets.”

“You’re not most people,” she said. And I don’t think she meant as a compliment.

I decided to test her theory, and I’m afraid she might be right. I didn’t put people on the spot. I simply quoted my friend’s husband in various groups. Some nodded. Some quickly walked away, afraid that I was going to start reciting poems. Even when people looked sad and commented on the state of American culture, I noticed that very few of them popped up with the name of a poet.

 I may be something of an anomaly. I read a poem each morning the way some people read devotionals. Each year, I sponsor poetry month and send out a poem to subscribers. So, yes, I like poetry. 

But I’m not some intellectual egghead. I listen to Snow Patrol. I watch Mad Men. I shop at Target. And I sometimes even click on gossip links on my Facebook page. I’m a normal person, and poetry is for normal people.

So, if  you haven’t been reading poetry, here are some poems to get you started:

Billy Collins: “Introduction to Poetry” For those of you who have bad memories of high school when you would come to class ready to discuss a poem only to realize that you apparently hadn’t understood it all and felt like a failure, this poem will remind you what poetry is really all about.

Mary Oliver: “The Journey” If this poem doesn’t inspire you, then you may not be capable of inspiration.

Dorianne Laux: “Mick Jagger (World Tour 2008)” In case you thought that poets never paid attention to popular culture.

This is just a small sample. My point is to simply make you aware of the variety of poets and poems that are out there. Poets are writing for regular people just like you and me. Let me assure you: it’s not that you don’t like poetry; you just haven’t found the right poets and poems yet. Once you do, you’ll never turn back.

If you want to investigate more poets and poems, here are some good resources:

The Writer’s Almanac shares a poem a day.

There are three volumes of Poem a Day. (I have all three volumes, all marked up with poems I want to return to again and again.)

Poetry 180 is a project developed by Billy Collins when he was poet laureate.


Happy reading, my friends!