I wrote this post for my Tiny Footcrunch publisher (Unsolicited Press!) to post during National Poetry Month:
My mother was so excited when I told her Unsolicited Press was publishing my book of poetry - excited and proud and just over the moon in that special motherly way. She immediately started listing everyone we needed to tell.
“Your father! Mama and Papa! Cousin Laura down in Tennessee!”
“And hey, Mom, you could even read it with your book club!” I chimed in.
Awkward silence. “Mmm, maybe . . . hey, let’s FaceTime your brother!”
Even with the most exuberant and joyful of parents behind it poetry couldn’t quite sneak into The Book Club. Perhaps it’s due to post-traumatic stress from high school english class, a fear of not understanding the work or just an unease about change. Whatever the case, poetry is not a staple of most book clubs.
To be fair, there are some dedicated poetry book clubs (including some online - do a quick search and you’ll find some fantastic choices!) but they are the exception, not the rule. So then, why and howshould you add poetry into your book club?
The why is easy. It will break up the routine of novels, allowing your members to experience something different and unique. Poetry is usually a shorter read (time for reflection notwithstanding) and, in this fast-paced world where everyone has a million things to do, your members might just feel relieved to ditch those 400 pages of prose. Remember those “choose your own adventure” books? Each book club member can bring a different book of poems or single poem to the meeting, either their choice or guided around a certain theme. Putting poetry on the plate makes for a more complete dish.
How is a little trickier. The discussions you have (sprinkled in around the gossip and wine, I know) can be guided or more organic. I will use my upcoming book, Tiny Footcrunch, as a template for some possible exchanges:
You get the idea. The questions range from the standard tell your favorite poem and why to something more fun like what television show a certain poem might enjoy. All of these aim to break up the mundane and everyday - the monotony - a book club might develop.
So the next time it’s your turn to pick a book for book club, remember that a collection of poetry is out there waiting for you.
Oh, and please recommend it to my mother’s book club.
My pals over at Wunderkind PR sent me a copy of today's book and asked that I give an honest review. Spoiler alert: I said yes. :-)
How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is a collection of poetry which primarily focuses on her relationship with her mother (also a writer) and the grief she experienced after her death. Please don't think it's all doom and gloom and buckets of tears (although there is that too) because she also delves into the pockets of happiness that can be found amidst the overwhelming sadness of losing someone so dear. Cristin speaks to that part of the heart that is attuned to the people in our lives who get us so completely that even the idea that they might not be there pulls the air from one's lungs. From her poem "O Laughter" comes this gem: Sometimes the pain bursts out of me like a flock of starlings. Perfection! If I had to express this book in graph form it would be a steep incline immediately followed by a steep decline and finished off with a steady incline that disappears off the side of the page. Simply put, this is an absolutely lovely little book with beautiful prose and if it doesn't stir your heart I wonder if you even have one. 10/10
PS I'd also like to note that 1. I loved the finish on this book. It's like that velvety feeling that some books have and it was an absolute treat to hold it. 2. I enjoyed Cristin's book so much that I'm actively looking to read her other works (including a nonfiction book).
I'm cognizant of the fact that I don't read enough books by women of color and that I read very few works of poetry. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric. (Also, it's National Poetry Month so it was a no-brainer.) This book is especially relevant right now with the state of our world being what it is: a shambles. Citizen is essentially Claudia's exploration of what it is to be a black woman living in America as told through poetic verse. It is beautiful, tender, terrible, tragic, and real. She doesn't shy away from such topics as police brutality or the prevalence of feeling like an outsider. This book is a personal revelation and a public admonishment all rolled into one neat package Coupled with her verses are historical quotes and pencil drawn (I think?) artwork. What better way to begin your foray into poetry than by reading a book that challenges the status quo and speaks from the heart? If you'd like to maybe see the world through a different set of eyes Citizen is your golden ticket with many stops along the way. 9/10
I made a note of this quote on page 89 to give you an idea of just how powerful her words are:
Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and where we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue.
What's Up Next: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
What I'm Currently Reading: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford
We're a week into April (and it just got cold and snowy again where I live: April is the cruelest month), which means I'm a week into National/Global Poetry Writing Month, and it's time for an update.
I've successfully drafted a poem each day: hooray! I made a note to myself early on that I would suppress my perfectionism and edit after this whole month is done. Yesterday was the first day when I really felt the poem was crap, but I already have thoughts on how to at least make it okay. Other than that, it hasn't been much of a challenge to write every day. On the one hand, that's great; on the other, it shows me how lazy I tend to be otherwise!
I also vowed to post about poetry I'm reading. Since I was unfamiliar with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith's work, I found some online, read a poem evoking David Bowie (I'm a big fan), and promptly ordered two books, Wade in the Water (just released) and Life on Mars, which won the Pulitzer.
Here is a link to the poem I read, from Life on Mars.