Reading Journal: Good Poems

I’m happy to be one of today’s stops for Serena’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour in celebration of National Poetry Month.

When I want to read a good poem, there’s a few volumes of poetry that I go back to over and over again. One that I really enjoy is Good Poems, an anthology of poems edited by Garrison Keillor. The book features poetry read on Keillor’s radio show, “The Writer’s Almanac”.  Readers will find greats like Mary Oliver, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Hayden Carruth, and William Shakespeare side-by-side with lesser-known poets like Ginger Andrews and Erica-Lynn Huberty. In his introduction Keillor wrote,

“What. . . makes all good poems matter, is that they offer a truer account than what we’re used to getting. They surprise us with clear pictures of the familiar. The soft arc of an afternoon in a few lines.”

I agree. There’s nothing better than a work of art that explains some aspect of life without obscure references to dig through or miles of description that leaves me trying to figure out what the work is about. The poems included in this anthology are easy-to-read and understand by poetry lovers and those who don’t read from the genre often.

Keillor divides the collection into nineteen sections by theme such as yellow, elders, lovers, music, language and lives. I found myself loving certain sections more than others but found most of the poems satisfying. I found poets that I haven’t of before like Charles Bukowski. After reading Bukowski’s “The Way it is Now” which starts out,


I’ll tell you
I’ve lived with some gorgeous women
and I was so bewitched by those
beautiful creatures that
my eyebrows twitchd.
but I’d rather drive to New York
backwards
than to live with any of them
again.


I laughed so hard, tearing the poem out of my book and mailing it to an ex-boyfriend who was having women troubles at the time.

Did I mention that I’m on my second copy of this anthology? I tore out and mailed off so many poems in this collection that when I wanted to reread many of my favorite poems, I couldn’t. This is that kind of book. The book that you’re going to find many poems to love, pages to mark up or add a post-it to. There’s so many great poems that I would love to give you a taste of like Anne Sexton’s “Welcome Morning” whose last line makes me shiver because I know I’m reading the truth or “The Orange” by Wendy Cope about the sharing of an orange between friends. Instead I’m share “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz,


My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I cam down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.


  • Good Poems

  • Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor

  • 504 pages

  • Publisher: Penguin

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20 thoughts on “Reading Journal: Good Poems

  1. Sounds like an excellent collection. Thanks so much for sharing it and for participating in the National Poetry Month tour. I’ve added your link to Mr. Linky, but if you could send it off to Susan at winabook for posting on her site, I would appreciate it.

    Thanks again! I’m going to have to see if the bookstore has this collection.

  2. Did you know Garrison Keillor has a subscription email called the Writer’s Almanac, where you get a poem emailed to you every day? It’s great. I’m not a big fan of Keillor, except in his support of poetry.

  3. My sister introduced me to Bukowski recently, and I think he’s great! His collected poems are always checked out of the library, so I’ve had to make do with the few of them on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

  4. I LOVE Bukowski! He may be too earthy for some, but he really tells it like it is (at least for himself).

    “The Portrait” is in Edward Hirsch’s book, “Poet’s Choice” and it states that when Kunitz’s father committed suicide 6 weeks before Kunitz’s birth, so he never knew him :-( . “Poet’s Choice” is a collection I go back to a lot, also.

    I have Keillor’s collection, “Good Poems for Hard Times” (which I’ve mentioned on my blog some time ago) but not this collection, “Good Poems”. I should get it to join the other one. You are right, the poems Keillor pick are very accessible (and same as you I’m not a fan of his writing but he certainly does pick good poems). Good choice of topic for Serena’s blog tour!

  5. I really enjoyed this post and these poems. I keep thinking how delightful it would be to get a perfect poem in the mail, sacrificed from your friend’s own book.

  6. Agree with you that this is a great collection. I, however, once liked Keiller and Prairie Home Companion. Lately, though, I’ve gotten tired of it — not for the politics, with which I wholeheartedly agree — although I think like with most politics, I’d rather steer clear — but just with the old jokes. I guess I’m fighting becoming old. :)

  7. I loved the poems you’ve picked from this collection! I will have to try to grab a copy of this book, it sounds like just the thing I’ve been looking for!

  8. I love this collection too and refer to it all the time. Have you read Poetry 180? That’s another great collection.

    Love, The Orange by Wendy Cope. I can’t believe that’s the only poem of hers I’ve read though. Definitely need to seek more.

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