One of my reading goals for the year was to read more poetry. I decided early in January that I’d read a poem or two a night from various books I already own. A collection of Mary Oliver poems. A Louise Gluck collection. The Emily Dickinson book I keep tucked in my nightstand that years ago replaced the one that grew legs in my classroom and walked away. Downstairs I have a number of Robert Frosts and Edna St. Vincent Millays. There are so many I have to choose from!
Last year I read Psalms before going to sleep, so adding poems before bed felt natural and right. I’ve enjoyed returning to the same poet day after day. Mary Oliver is where I’ve started, and I’m reading a collection I found at a Free Little Library on her birthday last year (how fitting is that?). It’s been my own study in form and language and style and theme and has been a joy to sink into — a thought contained, an image displayed, a moment made new and gifted to the reader.
I like the freedom of poetry, which for me is found in limitations. I like how poetry is small and contained. That’s what makes it meaningful. As I work on a new verse novel (the first one in five years!), I’m thinking about all of these things. How verse to me feels like my first writing language, even though it took me four novel manuscripts to find it. How a verse novel is like a photo album (one image placed by the next until a whole story is told through the picture collection) where a prose novel is like rolling film (more space, more movement, with bigger and broader strokes). I’m thinking and experimenting.
As Mary Oliver would say, I’m trying to pay attention, which is our endless, proper work. I want to be astonished and amazed.