Read (Even) Harder With Contemporary Missouri Poets – Daniel Boone Regional Library

Read (Even) Harder With Contemporary Missouri Poets

Boy trying to stack 25 books for the 25th anniversary of the Columbia Public Library.
From the “Community History Archive

I’m not sure I ever met someone who felt neutral toward poetry — most will feel strongly some type of way, likely a mixture of anxiety and disdain spurred by painful memories of English class. Or maybe absolute adoration causing them to burst into a melancholic recitation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” from memory. Personally I’m no bard, but lately I’ve wanted to flex those muscles harder. Maybe it’s the residual resolution spirit of the new year. But where to start? What better place than the work of poets in my community?

There are a couple library happenings that got me interested in poetry written by Missourians in particular: Book Riot’s release of their 2019 Read Harder Challenge (see requirement 24 to read a recently published poetry collection) and Missouri’s first Poet Laureate Walter Bargen’s tour of the DBRL branches this quarter. Some of Missouri’s great poets have wide name recognition like Langston Hughes, Sara Teasdale, T.S. Eliot (who famously eschewed his Midwestern roots) and Maya Angelou, but I implore you all to look for poets even closer to home. Below you’ll find a number of local poets in our collection, ranging from Governor-appointed poets laureate to those in the Mizzou community and even DBRL staff. If you’re perusing in person, look for a purple sticker on the book spine which designates work by local authors. But first, a few tips for making poetry resonate with you:

  • Read/listen to the poem aloud. Recitations by the poet can be especially insightful, for example with their rhythm, the pacing of their breath within the lines and the words they stress.Woman reciting poetry
    • Mizzou Poetry Chair Cornelius Eady reads his poem “Dance At The Amherst County Public Library.”
    • The late, great Monica A. Hand reads her poem “From The Language of Ash” as well as Gerald Stern’s “Alone.”
    • William Trowbridge, the third state poet laureate, reads his “Unofficial Missouri Poem.”
  • If you’re going at it alone, allow yourself the time to unpack. Take it slow, savor the syllables, and read through the poem at least three times.
  • Stray from the literary canon and choose poets whose topics and/or backgrounds you can identify with.
  • Share the experience with others and attend poetry readings in your community. OneMic, a local nonprofit art collective, hosts vibrant performances with a mix of volunteer and featured poets about once a month.
  • Speaking of that last point, be sure not to miss tomorrow’s poetry reading by Walter Bargen where he will discuss his latest collection “My Other Mother’s Red Mercedes.” Since Ashland and Callaway folks already had the opportunity to experience the event, let Columbians know your thoughts in the comments section below! For those unable to attend this final reading, you can always borrow materials from all four Missouri Poets Laureate: Walter Bargen (2008-2010), David Clewell (2010-2012), William Trowbridge (2012-2016) and Aliki Barnstone (2016-present).

the children are reading book coverIf I’ve piqued your interest and/or you’re participating in the Read Harder Challenge this year, here are some other collections by Missouri poets published in the last five years:

history of tree roots book cover

divida book coverIn the last 20 years:

The eye of tony hicks book cover

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