Here’s a secret: I hardly ever read poetry. And when I say hardly, I probably really mean “never.” But I do think to myself, “I should read more poetry!” like, a LOT. Which makes it convenient that I run this book club and can now force myself to make good on this inner shaming!
Picking out just three choices for this month was tough, as the depth of queer and female poets out there that we should all be devouring is truly remarkable. Meaning, don’t hate me if I didn’t include your favorite poet, and don’t be surprised if there’s another poetry month soon. And please, leave your further suggestions in the comments.
The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich (1978)
Choosing just one selection out of Adrienne Rich’s impressive arsenal was especially difficult. With a little help from Malinda Lo, I settled on this one, which includes poems from the pamphlet “21 Love Poems” that she released in 1977, shortly after she began her longtime relationship with Michelle Cliff. These poems include the first blatant references to her queer sexuality, and hence I feel it’s most appropriate, although these themes continued throughout the rest of her later work. Adrienne Rich is a legend, not just as a lesbian but as a feminist and overall human being. (Note: This selection, along with most of Rich’s work, is sadly NOT available on e-reader, at least as far as I could find. If that sways you from voting for it I totally understand, but I felt I still had to include it!)
A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver (2012)
As accomplished as Adrienne Rich, a winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Mary Oliver’s style is markedly different–less fierce and political, more internal and quiet, more Emily Dickinson, focusing largely on the natural world. It was also difficult to choose just one selection from Oliver’s repertoire, but I decided here to go with her most recent work, published late last year, as it is available on e-reader. I know that’s how many of the book clubbers can access their reads so I want to be as inclusive as possible. Plus, the cover is absolutely stunning.
The Madness Vase, Andrea Gibson (2011)
Andrea Gibson’s poetry is probably best consumed as she most frequently delivers it–live, out loud, as spoken word, which she often performs with other lesbian folk favorites. In fact, most of the merch on her website is in the form of audio CDs. But thankfully, for those of us who are also print inclined, she has a couple of poetry collections in book form as well, the most recent of which is The Madness Vase (also available for e-readers). While she kicks ass in terms of social activism in all that she does, she’ll also kick you in the gut about love.
So what’ll it be?
One upside to poetry collections is that all of these are 100 pages or less, allowing us more time to absorb each word slowly and, at least in my mind, hopefully actually read all of these choices.