Favorites of 2011: Poetry

Instead of a “best of 2011” list, I‘m posting my favorites of 2011 because many of the books I’ve read this year were published before 2011. My favorite books are the best books I’ve read this year- books that I have or plan on buying and re-reading. I’ve found it pretty hard to narrow my favorites down to just ten books so I’m sharing my favorite books of various genres. Every day this week there’ll be a favorite list posted and by the end of the week, I’ll share my favorite book of 2011.

I love poetry but I don’t read enough of it. This year was no exception with only thirteen volumes read. Out of that small number, there are six books of poetry that I think shouldn’t be missed. All six are great for long-time readers of poetry and those new to the genre.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver. Before this year, I always read poetry by Mary Oliver in bits and pieces. With Red Bird on my reading list for Project-Fill-in-the-Gaps, this year was the perfect time to read a whole collection. Red Bird is a collection that deals with nature but also human aspects like grief, love, and hope.

Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 by Lucille Clifton. What can I say about the writing of the late poet Lucille Clifton that will make you drop everything to read her? When I opened up Blessing the Boats to the first poem, “The Times”, I was knocked out by the words: It is hard to remain human on a day / when birds perch weeping / in the trees and the squirrel eyes / do not look away but the dog ones do in pity. . . Clifton writes about various things from society to her dreams, her childhood to Superman. My favorite poem is probably “Report From the Angel of Eden” about an angel observing Adam and Eve. The ending left me with goosebumps.

Here by Wislawa Szymborska. It only took reading the first poem in this volume of poetry to understand why the author was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Whether she’s writing about her teenage self, the power of nature, or the seduction of an idea, these are poems that readers want to read over and over again. Translators Claire Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak did a fantastic job of bringing these poems to life.

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys and Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka. I decided to describe both books together because whatever I say about one book, can easily apply to the other. As a mom, it’s important to me to introduce poetry to my kids. Raczka makes poetry accessible and even fun for kids. Guyku was made for boys but it’s a volume that even girls will love while Lemonade turns poems into puzzles and back again. You won’t go wrong buying either book.

 

Won-Ton: A Cat Tale told in Haiku by Lee Wardlow. Won Ton is the story of a shelter cat looking for a family. The story follows the cat from the shelter to the arms of a little boy.  I can’t think of a better book to share with any young poetry lover.

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11 thoughts on “Favorites of 2011: Poetry

  1. Thank you for this post! One of my goals for next year is to read more poetry, and I’d love some recommendations. Of those I’ve only read Red Bird, which I adored.

  2. I don’t read nearly enough poetry either, but I think you’re the winner for most poetry consumed from my group of bloggy buddies. Thanks so much for the recommendations. I want to get to some of these in 2012, and I want to read Billy Collins’ newest collection. :)

  3. You make me so hopeful that I will one day start to love poetry again. I know how to read it, and I enjoy it at times, but I never think to read it and create it the way I did when I was in my 20’s anymore. Now I can go back and look at this list of books and pick a few over the year to dip my toes into. Great list today. I might start with Won Ton ;)

  4. Thanks for reminding me about Wislawa Szymborska. I’ve seen at least one of her books of poetry at our library and thought that is one book I need to pick up. As for reading 13 books of poetry, that’s awesome and more than most readers read, I would think — at least, just among the book bloggers I know. I think yours is one of the few I’ve seen include poetry on their favorites of 2011. I also love Mary Oliver and especially that collection.

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