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.