Thursday, April 21, 2011

Print your own Poetry Anthology!

For the past couple of years, I've offered a "short story anthology" post, where I link to some great short stories out there on the internet. This year, I thought I'd do the same thing with poetry for National Poetry Month. But you don't have to go to any links to read it, you only have to print it out, make a few simple folds and one little cut in the middle to have your very own anthology of poems for your pocket.

So, first, the anthology, then I'll explain the poems I chose and why. Click the image on the right for the file. This is a .jpg you print on a full sheet of 8.5x11 piece of paper, fold along the dotted gray lines, and make one cut along the solid gray line to construct the anthology. Here's a link (via for instructions on the folding and the cutting to turn it into a booklet. Join me after the jump for the breakdown of the poems...

Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump by David Bottoms
I first discovered this poem and poet when I was a teenager. It was the first time I'd ever seen a poem that looked at the world I knew, the world I lived in. David Bottoms is great with imagery, storytelling, and language that jabs with a counterpunctual rhythm. Check out his collection of poems Under the Vulture Tree, or Armored Hearts.

With Apologies to WCW by Terra Elan McVoy
This poem is from a novel in verse titled After the Kiss. What's great about this poem is how McVoy uses the canvas of poetry not only to show us what her characters are thinking and their emotional state, but also to give us a window on how these characters connect themselves to the world around them. This poem is in the voice of Becca, written just after she's seen a picture a friend took of her boyfriend kissing another girl. She takes this poem she has to deal with, William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow (reproduced at no extra charge further down the page!), which she's read for English class, and uses it to express something about this picture that is touch and wrenching. She makes Williams' poem her own. And that's this whole wonderful novel in a microcosm--Becca and Camille use poetry to find themselves, find their voice, determine who they are in worlds that parallel each other, touch each other, in ways they sometimes never even realize.

Shafro by Terrance Hayes
I've written about Terrance Hayes and his poetry before. His last collection, Lighthead, won the Pulitzer last year. But that's not why you should read Hayes, and that's not why he's one of my favorite poets. Check out this poem--sly, clever language, pop references, but never for their own sake. Here he uses these things to grab us and dig deep into his experience, and line it up with our own.

Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith
I always like a poem more if I hear them spoken, or if a musician sets them to music. That's how I discovered this poem--the late, great Vic Chesnutt set this poem to music, and I cannot hear the word "drowning" without hearing the lyrical sounds of this poem. That, to me, is the strength of a poem: when you hear it one way, but the poem persists in your mind and rises up on its own rhythms and language to assert its own voice and come at you yet again in another way.

And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time by William Blake
This is another great poem I first discovered through music. It's typically associated with British imperialism, but Billy Bragg, who could never be accused of being an imperialist, set it to music for his Workers Playtime album. It is ultimately a poem about hope in the face of a bleak and ever-present landscape, about personal endeavor to right the wrongs so ingrained about you, and I figured that's a good note to end on.

Enjoy, and happy National Poetry Month.

[Update] The .jpg is not my favorite, because you have to adjust a few things before you print. Anybody have a suggestion for how I can post a .pdf file to blogger?

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