Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Poetry Month: Writing or Reading?

National Poetry Month feels like it is getting plenty of press, lots of places, which makes for interesting reading. Personally, I have been trying to read more, especially poetry, especially since I am behind in the books I was supposed to read in March, though I haven't managed to do as much writing as I wanted to. Will try to make up for that today. It makes me wonder, though: is National Poetry Month better spent writing poetry or reading it? Should you spend it doing things you don't do as much as you should or things that you really enjoy and want to do more of?

Last night I read a big chunk of Neruda's Residence on Earth, which is a re-read for me, but a useful one. Also attempting to make it through Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I've owned and attempted to get through for so many years it's embarrassing. I must confess I'm not enjoying the reading of it very much, though there are definitely moments that are vivid and striking. My mission for tonight is to finish both.

I'm not a reader of Oprah's O Magazine, but I have read comments here and there about the poetry issue that just came out. No matter whether I agree or not with the writers she chooses to focus on, I know I am not the audience. I imagine the audience of O Magazine is generally women who might not have read a poem since high school or a general lit class in college. I get that accessibility is important, as well as writing in a voice that the audience can relate to. I only just read Oprah's list "20 Books of Poetry Everyone Should Own," and I am surprised to think that it's actually pretty good. It does have familiar names that everyone read in high school, like Dickinson and cummings. But Rumi and Neruda are classic and beautiful and I never had them in any class, and it's great that real, respected contemporary poets like Heaney and Kinnell are on the list. And absolutely, more people should read O'Hara and Szymborska, because they're both spectacular. There are a few I'm not familiar with--I've never read anything by Deborah Digges and very little by Mary Oliver. Even for me, I think the list is a good mix of the familiar and the unexplored, and even if only a few of Oprah's readers buy one of the books on the list and read it, it means good things for poetry.

In non-poetry related topics, I only just found out that the book Water for Elephants, which is just about to come out as a movie, was originally drafted during National Novel Writing Month. I think that's fabulous, that people can actually see that NaNoWriMo, which is held up by some people as an occasion that thousands of people spew out huge chunks of terrible prose, can actually be used as a great opportunity for drafting a successful novel. Of course, lots of work goes into it even after November, but NaNoWriMo is what you make of it.

And lastly, I found out yesterday that finally, after far too long a wait, another Banana Yoshimoto novel is coming out next month: The Lake. My love for her style is beyond description or even reason. Just knowing that there will be another novel out makes me want to clutch it to my breast and squiggle around with it on the floor, then take 2 days off work to read and reread it until I have assimilated it all. My problems are these: 1) The book does not come out until May 3, and I just might perish with waiting for it, and 2) I would loooove to have it in my hands on May 3, but I don't think I can bring myself to pay expedited shipping or the full cover price of $23.95 to order it in a brick and mortar bookstore. I suspect I will pay the $9.99 for the Kindle edition and then maybe, if I think I will die without having it in hardcover, pick that up used later. While most of the books I read are not on Kindle, the Kindle is great for instant gratification.

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