London's Southbank Centre is planning a huge "Poetry Parnassus" to coincide with next year's Olympics.
Members of the public are invited to nominate up to 3 poets from any of the 205 Olympic competing nations. The organizers will select one from each country who will be provided with airfare, accommodation and visa so they can attend the event to be held in London in late June/early July 2012.
A few weeks ago I asked our Facebook followers to share the name of their favorite poem. As you'll see below, the responses were both enthusiastic and eclectic!
Do you see any of your favorites here? Whether that's a yes or no, do take a moment to click on the comments option at the bottom and tell us about your favorite or favorites!
Phyllis SB got in first, within a few seconds of me posting, with her recommendation of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service, which was seconded by Dana VB.
You may already know of Taylor Mali, if so, there's no need for an introduction, just scroll down to be reminded of two of his best known poems, starting with "The Impotence of Proofreading".
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
- from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower by William Carlos Williams
They're often short enough to accompany your morning coffee, and light enough to carry around in your pocket. They can be funny, powerful, sad, wistful, sexy, angry, or silly. With to-the-quick immediacy and just a handful of words, a poem can strike a place in the reader that most tomes could only aspire to. The first step to reading poetry is finding a poem you love, and I think collections are the best place to start, mostly because you increase your odds with so many poets between the covers.
The following are my favorite collections because they're curated with personality and passion, not obligation to the canon. So wrestle poetry away from the grasp of your stuffy high-school English teacher, forget all the rules, and add a poem to your daily news.
In her poem "The Miser," Ruth Padel describes a young Charles Darwin's predilection for collecting and classifying objects as a way to make "like Orpheus, a system against loss." One could say the same for the biography/memoir-in-verse, a dynamic form that allows poets to revisit the lives of their subjects through imagery, rhythm, and metaphor instead of the more rigid bounds of chronology that biographers must follow. Considering that biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs usually make a strong showing on bestseller lists, the poetic analogues to these forms deserve a wider audience and also provide an ideal introduction to newcomers wishing to dip a tentative toe into the rushing waters of poetry.
Books and documentaries about the Lewis and Clark Expedition have proven popular in recent years, but Campbell McGrath opens a new window onto this famous duo in Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, by focusing on one of its lesser-known figures: George Shannon, an 18-year-old expedition member who became lost from the group for sixteen days. Shannon himself kept no record of what happened during his accidental sojourn on the prairie (present-day Nebraska and South Dakota), so McGrath has free reign to re-create the young explorer's shifting emotions when confronted by the immensity of the wilderness. Implementing the perfect blend of high and low diction, McGrath captures Shannon's voice without strain or pretension in a series of free verse poems, one for each day spent wandering.