National Poetry Month

In a not-so-exaggerated way, poetry used to be my life. There never would have been a year that it took me half the month to realize it was National Poetry Month.

Interests change, but most of the books that I call my favorites are still poetry books. A book of poems can be so distilled, concentrated, that it is able to work in a way that a novel or nonfiction work almost can't.

From 2001-2004, I co-ran the non-profit publishing company SSO Press with Cole Cunningham and a small group of dedicated poets, writers, and artists. One of our main goals was to break people's conceptions around poetry and spread the idea that poetry can, in some way, be for everybody. Acknowledging that there is a lot of bad poetry in the world, but that there's a lot of bad everything, and poetry is not one thing - it's not static, but ever-evolving. It could be anything.

I still believe that, too. So, if you feel a little baffled by poetry's appeal, I would recommend first to stay away from "Collected Poems" or "Selected Poems" or "Complete Works." This is just way too much poetry, all at once. I feel the best poetry experience is in a very focused and intentional book. Everyone's style preference is different, but some of my favorite poetry books are: The Dead Lecturer by Leroi Jones, Blind Huber by Nick Flynn, Antebellum Dream Book by Elizabeth Alexander, Useful Knowledge by Gertrude Stein, What the Living Do by Marie Howe, Ultramarine by Raymond Carver, Slanky by Mike Doughty, Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg, How to Paint Sunlight by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gentle in Carnations by Ariel Birks,

Here at the distro, we don't have a ton of poetry, but the poetry we do have is really good. Casey Fuller's book A Fort Made of Doors combines real depth with humor in a way that only the best poets can pull off - i my, this one of the best poetry books of the last few years; Craig Oare's The Garfield Nature Trail Versus the Motorcycles on Brawne St (and other poems from the last days of the empire) is funny, political, spiritual, and a great meditation on the natural world; Peaches & Bats is a long-running literary journal of the more experimental/nontraditional side of poetry, Marisa Malone's Lost Among These Wonderings is a peak at the microscopic moments of daily life; and Alexis Wolf's work is a nice world between poetry and prose, for those of you that aren't quite ready to dive head first. There's also a Poetry Pack on our Etsy site that puts some of these things together in one, for cheap.

Happy National Poetry Month,

Joshua James

No comments: