Poetry is kind of an intimidating thing. Often the poems we read are too abstract or convoluted to carry much meaning. And in our day-to-day, outside-of-the-classroom lives, we don’t have a lot of time to sit around and annotate a poem to try and figure it out. So today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite contemporary poets who, in my opinion, are doing poetry right.
Up first is Mary Oliver, author of Dog Songs, a collection of poems about dogs. I reviewed this book a while ago, but her work has really stuck with me. It’s clear, understandable, and she creates such amazing images in her poems. You can see every dog that she describes.
“Percy, Waiting for Ricky”
By Mary Oliver
Your friend is coming, I say
to Percy and name a name
and he runs to the door, his
wide mouth in its laugh-shape,
and waves, since he has one, his tail.
Emerson, I am trying to live,
as you said we must, the examined life.
But there are days I wish
there was less in my head to examine,
not to speak of the busy heart. How
would it be to be Percy, I wonder,
not thinking, not weighing anything, just running forward.
Next is Billy Collins, who is one of our best-known contemporary poets. I like his poetry for the same reason that I like Oliver’s–it’s clear, it’s easy to understand, and it’s full of great images and figurative language. I also like that he writes poems about writing poetry. His latest, Aimless Love, is a collection of some new poems and others that were published previously. Here’s a short sample of his work.
“A Word About Transitions”
By Billy Collins
Moreover is not a good way to begin a poem
though many start somewhere in the middle.
Secondly should not be placed
at the opening of your second stanza.
Futhermore should be regarded
as a word to avoid.
Aforementioned is rarely found
in poems at all and for good reason.
Most steer clear of notwithstanding
and the same goes for
as a consequence, in any event,
and as we have seen in the previous chapters.
Finally’s appearance at the top
of the final stanza is not going to help.
All of which suggests (another no-no)
that poems don’t need to tell us where we are
or what is soon to come.
For example, the white bowl of lemons
on a table by a window
is fine all by itself
and, in conclusion, so are
seven elephants standing in the rain.
I love these poets for keeping their poetry interesting and thought-provoking while also making it more accessible to every reader. If you’re looking for other poetry suggestions, check out Wendell Berry and Luci Shaw. They’re two more who are doing some really great things with their work.
And be sure to check back on Friday for something really special!
Poems taken from:
Collins, Billy. “A Word about Transitions” Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems. New York: Random House, 2013. 252-3. Print.
Oliver, Mary. “Percy, Waiting for Ricky.” Dog Songs. New York: Penguin, 2015. 65. Print