I have my mother to thank for my love of poetry. I don't know that she read much of it, but she made sure I did when I was little. A Child's Garden of Verses was just the start. The Childcraft book of poetry and others followed. My great teacher Ronnie Smith introduced me to the English Romantics and changed my life.
Fernsy mentioned on my last post that many people are shut out of some of the "best" poetry of today. I have to agree with that in part. I work hard to understand a poem, to explore HOW it means as well as what. It's frustrating when I get nothing. And I'm pretty knowledgable about poetry. No wonder people think it's obtuse.
Bookstores aren't much help, except the used bookstores in college towns. The little hole-in-the-wall places that are a maze, with chairs and stools around, and side rooms. They have everything imaginable. I get dizzy around the poetry shelves. "Do you have a box I can put these in?"
Some of these poets I mention have been around a while, some are dead, but some are fairly new faces. So, in no particular order....
David Bottoms--"Under the Vulture Tree" will take your breath away. READ THIS. One of my top ten. www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/175602
Tony Hoagland--kind of wacky but he expertly reveals modern life. I first read his poem "America" in the bathtub and damn near drowned I was so astonished. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/tony-hoagland (see "America" and "Beauty" from here). Also http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/21768 .
Pattiann Rogers--writer Barry Lopez said, "If this is not poetry in service to humanity, I do not know what is." If that's not a requirement of poetry, I don't know what is.
Jane Hirshfield--drawing a blank on the poem, but I love one of hers about making soup and a new life. Give this one a listen: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20439
Dorianne Laux--just love her. Her website is nice, lots of stuff, videos, audios, etc., but here's one of my favorite poems, from the book of the same name: http://doriannelaux.com/poetry.html
C.K. Williams--he of the lonnnnng lines.
Candace Pearson--her first book is Hour of Unfolding (though other places give the name as Paper Wasp Nest). Poems about childhood, a father's cirrhosis, a mother's Alzheimer's, a brother's addiction, are sharp and honest. http://rattle.com/blog/2010/10/alphabet-of-boa-by-candace-pearson/ and http://inpossereview.com/ipr_pearson.htm
Bob Hicok--the dude is great. Saw a guy in a bar who was a dead ringer. Compare this picture with the one at the link below!
http://howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/2010/01/bob-hicok.html Am I right? Twins?
Wyatt Townley--You can get to three poems from this link, and if you click on The Breathing Field, look inside at the first poem.
Diane Wakoski--One of my students picked her poem "Inside Out" to recite at the poetryoutloud contest. "Red Bandanas" is fine, but scroll down to "The Hitchhikers" and be wowed. http://www.echonyc.com/~poets/wakowski.html
Bruce Weigl--Okay, I'm biased; he's my former teacher. "Song of Napalm" haunts me to this day. A link to more: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/bruce-weigl
Mary Oliver--I recommend New and Selected Poems, Volume One. Her deep appreciation for all life results in poems that are pure prayer. http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/mary_oliver
and it looks like that main site has much to offer! "When Death Comes" and "Gannets" are favorites.
Ambrose Bierce--wrote with a blistering wit. "The Decalogue" is an update on the Ten Commandments. Here's a stab at statesmen:
Lucille Clifton--A prolific writer. "oh antic God / return to me / my mother in her thirties...." How I wish.
Sharon Olds--I love Sharon Olds. "The Exact Moment of His Death" is probably my favorite from her book The Father. Also great--"His Father's Cadaver" and "The Pope's Penis." Here's some kid's school project about "Liddy's Orange": http://prezi.com/jsmzuvwf0cfp/liddys-orange/
Wendell Berry--This link offers thirty-five poems, including the beautiful "The Peace of Wild Things." I tear up just thinking of the time when he will not be in this world. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/wendell-berry
Dave Smith--Got to include this interview: http://krieger.jhu.edu/magazine/spsum06/pages/f3poetry.html I met Dave this summer. He generously offered his skills and knowledge and sensibilities to me and my poems, and was kind, honest, and super smart. Okay, I admit a crush. Here are thirty-four poems. Pick one. Crush on him. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/dave-smith
Joy Harjo--"Eagle Poem" is gorgeous. This link says music but it's Joy reading her poems. She Had Some Horses is indeed a classic. http://www.joyharjo.com/Music.html
Ronald Wallace--I tried to find a poem that kicked me in the stomach, "The Day My Father Said Shit," about a boy in the backseat of the car with his grandmother when his parents take her for a drive in the country, actually a ruse so they can dump her at the old folks home. Such an awful beauty. (I have a copy--if you're desperate to read it, let me know.) Here's a link to more: http://mendota.english.wisc.edu/~WALLACE/poems.html
Toi Derricotte--Check out the three poems here: http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poet/toi-derricotte
Wislawa Szymborska--Talk about accessible! John Guzlowski just wrote about her after she died last week. Check out his blog for some fine examples.
Stephen Dunn--This is the poem that introduced me to Dunn. He continues to amaze. http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/stephen_dunn/poems/14902
Enough already! I'm nowhere near finished. Maybe I'll develop this into a regular weekend post, but one at a time from now on! I hope you enjoy the selections and that they are not only accessible, but embraceable!