Last week Alexandra Petri’s brief essay in the Washington Post entitled “Is poetry dead?” provoked many spirited rebuttals in the literary world. I noted the eloquent and pithy defences of poetry with interest as one of my 2013 resolutions is to read poetry. I discovered many contemporary poets in John Deming’s open letter in Cold Front Magazine. Emily Temple of Flavorwire provides: “ten excellent reasons why poetry isn’t the least bit dead, in the form of excellent books of poetry that have recently emerged.” Seeking a bit of Can-con, I found Don Gorman’s recent list of the best volumes of Canadian poetry in 2012.
Petri’s strong denouncement of poetry made me reflect that in my professional life, reader’s advisory questions on poetry have been rare. I have fielded questions from students seeking a poem on a nature theme or criticism on W. B. Yeats, but not once has a patron asked me to recommend a “good poem.” When patrons seek poetry, it is often in preparation for an occasion such as a mourner trying to name their un-nameable grief in a speech for a memorial service or a bridesmaid seeking a quotation on love.
I searched for online poetry readers advisory sources and found that I am not the only librarian to have wondered about poetry and advising readers. Rick Roche, over at his blog Rick the Librarian, posted “Questions about Poetry Readers Advisory” in which he attempts to find read-a-like sources for poetry. The closest thing he digs up is the Facts on File Companion to 20th Century American Literature. Rick created two readalike guides for poets: one for Robert Frost and a second for Walt Whitman.
I want to promote poetry and poets in my library. I am thinking of starting with a booklist on contemporary poetry and perhaps a display – Valentine’s Day seems like a timely theme.
As for Alexandra Petri, after facing a deluge of missives by poets on poetry’s viability in the present, she was moved to proclaim that “’Poetry is not dead,’ says poetry.”
Bonus track: the beautiful and fantastic Poetry Foundation.
Do you read poetry? Are you often asked for poetry recommendations? Are there any resources you have found or created?