As promised, a list of a few suggestions for poetry collections that satisfy the Seattle Public Library & Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Summer Book Bingo squares:
You Finish Reading in a Day
Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop — only 10 poems, and some of her best. (Also works for Published Year You Were Born if you were born in 1976.) “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”
Woodnote, Christine Deavel —an utterly lovely book. It brings you right in and doesn’t let you go, in ways you possibly don’t expect. Also works for Local Author; she is co-owner of Open Books in Wallingford. “caraway caraway”.
From Your Childhood
Shel Silverstein — “listen to the mustn’ts, child”.
Translated From Another Language
Illuminations, Arthur Rimbaud translated by John Ashbery — unlike some translations, these are excellent poems in English, and seem to do all the things people who can read French talk about Rimbaud’s poems doing. “No sooner had the notion of the Flood regained its composure”.
Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau, trans. Barbara Wright — a fabulous classic: the same short quotidian city scene rendered 99 different times in 99 different ways. “Quacking and letting off, the S came rasping to a halt alongside the silent pavement.”
Sonnets to Orpheus, Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by David Young — my favorite Rilke translation. “because we are the branch and we are the steel / and the sweetness of ripening trouble.”
The Real West Marginal Way, Richard Hugo — autobiographical essays. A really, really enjoyable literary autobiography. Also works for Local Author. “‘Just go to Bearmouth and turn left.’ What a beautiful line. The certainty of the place, the certainty that we are not lost, the certainty that the world and our lives have checkpoints with names and definite directions we can follow, the certainty.”
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. The classic.
Young Adult Book
Love That Dog, Sharon Creech — maybe a stretch for YA, it’s aimed at 8-12 year olds, but it’s so great. “What was up with / the snowy woods poem / you read today?”
House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros — I first read it in 8th grade and thought it was amazing. “It’s me—Mama, Mama said. I open up and she’s there with bags and big boxes, the new clothes and, yes, she’s got the socks and a new slip with a little rose on it and a pink-and-white striped dress. What about the shoes? I forgot. Too late now. I’m tired. Whew!”
Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, Cornelius Eady — 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. “I have a theory about motion. / I have a theory about the air. / I have a theory about main arteries and bass lines. / I have a theory about Friday night, / Just a theory, mind you”.
Meaning a Cloud, J.W. Marshall — 2007 FIELD Poetry Prize. “Like a forest filled / all with things I didn’t know / I woke into her stroke.” (also works for Local Author, he’s the other co-owner of Open Books.)
Madonna Anno Domini, Joshua Clover — 1996 Walt Whitman Award — well-crafted avant-garde. “Here is an octagonal box, local color, smell of cacao nibs & cardboard, in view of which we ate & slept, did it against the wall, went to work until the number sign was our thinking, exhaustion.”
Theophobia, Bruce Beasley — if you love intellectual+spiritual poems with lots of cool and weird etymology. He teaches at Western. “Glossolalic and disincarnate, interfere / in me, interleave me / and leave me thorugh my breathing: like some third // person conjugation I’ve rewhispered / in a language I keep trying to learn, a tongue / made only of verbs, and all its verbs irregular.”
Other local poets: Peter Pereira, Joannie Stangeland, Heather McHugh, Richard Hugo, Linda Bierds, Jennifer Boyden, Robert Sund (some of his individual collections would qualify for Set in the NW too), Elizabeth Austen. Also J. W. Marshall and Christine Deavel, mentioned above.
Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey — A must-read. (Also works for Prizewinner). “I have lain down into 1970, into the bed / my parents will share for only a few more years.”
Brutal Imagination, Cornelius Eady — including poems narrated by the black man Susan Smith invented to cover up the killing of her sons in 1993. “You recall me now / To the police artist. / It wasn’t really my face / That stared back that day, / But it was that look.”
The New Testament, Jericho Brown. He’s amazing to hear in person. “I will begin with the body, / In the year of our Lord, / Porous and wet, love-wracked / And willing”.
Troubled Tongues, Crystal Williams. She teaches at Reed, and is also an excellent reader in person. “Once, in the brownest city in the country / in the biggest high school in the brownest city / in the country was a girl among girls who / everyday bathed, dressed, ate grits, eggs / & took two city buses to school.”
Allen Ginsberg, Shel Silverstein (if you can believe it), Gwendolyn Brooks, and good old Uncle Walt.
Author Under 30
For a more modern young writer, Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee, Megan Boyle. Twenty-something self-absorbed angst, but good writing. It’ll keep you in touch with the kids these days. (This is the one I read for my Under 30 square). “worms are on the ground. worms come out when it’s raining because they think ‘sweet, the whole world is like ‘underground’ now, can’t wait to go out and live in my ultimate version of reality now,’ but then people step on them or the sun comes out and they dry up. is that sad?”
And some Bonus Square Suggestions (Not Poetry)
Turned Into a Movie: Mr. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, or Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell. I recommend these books to ANYONE who likes books and anyone who writes anything. (Don’t watch the film, though, even though it’s Newman/Woodward—they Hollywoodized the ending, which ruins the whole thing as far as I’m concerned.)
Set in NW Honey in the Horn, H. L. Davis (early Oregon epic, filled with old coots and adventures and mountains — a very Northwesty novel) and The Egg & I, Betty MacDonald, a hilarious memoir of living on a rural poultry farm in Washington the 1930s (and hating it) by the author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle kids’ books. Also qualifies for Turned Into a Movie.
If you have more suggestions, add them in the comments below!