There’s never a bad time for poetry, but winter seems to be a season especially well-suited for contemplative reading. DBRL’s reading program, The Comforts of Winter, allows us to set our own goals. “Read a book of poetry” would be a good one.
Amanda Gorman has a new collection out: “Call Us What We Carry.” Some of the works in here are as uplifting as the one she read at President Biden’s inauguration, while others are more sobering. All of them plumb the depths. She does an amazing job with form — a poem about whaling shaped like a whale, for instance. A selection I re-read a couple of times was “Pan.” “Pandemic, meaning all people. / Pandemonium, meaning/ all demon. Pandora, / meaning all-gifted…”
Times have been hard for a lot of us lately. Fortunately, editor William Sieghart has put together “The Poetry Remedy,” offering poems for different circumstances and feelings — anxiety, regret, loneliness, etc. I found many old favorites here by the likes of Lucille Clifton and Wendell Berry, along with some that were new to me. Of course, the book contains “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, a work that is often shared for the reason that it’s so resonant and true.
In 1998, forbidden from sunlight for a year in the aftermath of cancer treatments, Ted Kooser began taking pre-dawn walks. After each one, he’d compose a poem on a postcard for his friend and fellow poet, Jim Harrison. In “Winter Morning Walks,” he shares 100 of these postcard poems. Kooser has always been someone who finds the eternal in the everyday, and he does so here, feeling kinship with a hay bale and a “stocky, bullet-headed owl.”
“Winter Recipes From the Collective” by Louise Gluck is not really about food, except in the title poem. It’s more an exercise in world building, in which each poem tells a little story or sets a scene. And why winter recipes, specifically? Because “…in spring / anyone can make a fine meal…”
The last collection on my list is one well worth listening to on audio — Leonard Cohen’s final book, “The Flame.” It’s no surprise the singer-songwriter who created so many genius lyrics was also an accomplished poet. With the audiobook, we get to listen to a variety of readers, from Margaret Atwood to Seth Rogan. As always, Cohen finds fresh ways to speak about matters of the heart and the riddles of existence.
Speaking of poetry worth a listen, the Columbia Writers’ Guild and Daniel Boone Regional Library will be hosting a virtual open mic reading via Zoom, Tuesday, February 22, 7-8 p.m. for adults and teens. Register to share your own original verse or just to tune in and enjoy the work of others.
We will get through this winter. Poetry is going to help us.