Bookchat: Poetically speaking

I discovered Kim Addonizio in the anthology Nasty Women Poets, which includes probably her most famous poem, To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall. Addonizio puts the reader right there, sifting through all the things that could be happening in this stranger’s life, ending with:

if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire
ripped out the stitches in your heart
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming

In her book What Is This Thing Called Love, Addonizio never exactly answers the question, but takes on the big topics: love, heartbreak, mortality, alcohol, and true crime.

Amanda Lovelace’s poems, taken individually, seem deceptively simple, usually with a tag line at the end in place of a title. But in each book, the poems fit together like puzzle pieces, forming a mosaic that tells the story of standing up to the patriarchy (The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One) or the death of a mother with troubled relationships left unresolved (To Drink Coffee with a Ghost). Perhaps the best summing-up is the dedication in Shine Your Icy Crown:

for every girl

who’s ever been called a bitch

for speaking her mind

so like every girl

Jericho Brown writes about the complexities of life as a Black gay man in the age of AIDS, and his poems often have religious symbolism. His book of him The Tradition showcases his “duplex” form, a 14-line poem where each odd-numbered line is a variation on the line before it, and the last line is a variation on the first. Not sure how much I’m allowed to quote, so here’s a slice from his poem Duplex:

My first love drove a burgundy car.
He was fast and awful, tall as my father.

Steadfast and awful, my tall father
Hit hard as a hailstorm. He’d leave marks.

Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark
Like the sound of a mother weeping again.

Like the sound of my mother weeping again,
No sound beating ends where it began.

None of the beaten end up how we began.

While my first impression of Amanda Gorman was her reading aloud at the Biden inauguration, her book Call Us What We Carry leans toward poems using visual devices: shaped poems, erasure poems (taking a historical document and erasing words until a new meaning emerges), and even a riff on the game of Hangman. Her best-known poem by her is of course the inaugural one, The Hill We Climb:

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
that even as we grieved, we grew,
that even as we hurt, we hoped,
that even as we tired, we tried,
that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Do you have favorite poems or poets? And what are you reading now, whether poetry, prose, shopping lists, or plans for world takeover?

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