Thoughts on Poetry

I think everybody should read more poetry. And I don’t mean study poetry. Studying, analyzing, memorizing, compare-and-contrasting poetry is not enjoyable for me. But I love to read it when I find a piece that speaks to me. Poetry is like art for me, I like it or I don’t.  It speaks to me, or I don’t get it. Definitely an engineer’s way of looking at beauty, eh, what can I say?

My favorite way to get my daily dose of poetry (a poem a day keeps the english majors at bay), is from, you guessed it Poetry Daily. I believe that everyone should add this website to their favorites list and check it regularly – daily, perhaps? But don’t ‘subscribe’ and have them sent to your email because then it will be a chore for you to read them. Poetry should never be a chore. I’m especially happy when I read one that I know someone else will enjoy so I send it along to them. (In other words, for anyone who might actually be reading this blog, I already send you the good ones so I guess you don’t need to bother to read Poetry Daily on your own.)

Ran across a surprising poet at the library the other day. The Spring Reading Challenge included a poetry task so while perusing the shelves at the new Kendall Branch I saw Endpoint and Other Poems by John Updike. I’ve read most of his (earlier) novels, but didn’t know he published poetry, this was actually his last collection, put together shortly before he died. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is one poetry book out now that I really want to spread the word about. Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon. Instead of starting with a blank piece of paper, Kleon starts with a newpaper pages and uses a sharpie to black out the words he doesn’t want. He does it very well, but he encourages everyone to try their hand at it. I think it would be an awesome thing to do with school kids doing a poetry unit. Kleon bills himself as an artist who writes, and a writer who draws. He has a great blog at It was my go-to gift for graduation presents this spring (have one more to mail off.) I got the bookstore to bring some in, but I don’t think they sold very well. Which is a shame. I mean, I love Oh, the Place You’ll Go, but really, it’s time to move on.

Time for one final rant on the topic of poetry. It seems to me that it’s about the words and the flow and the sparseness of language to bring an idea to life, and the form and the rhythm and the preciseness of meaning. So I have this aversion to poetry in translation. Not that it can’t be great, but it seems like the translator should get at least 75% of the credit. How can something that a poet thought was perfect in, say, Arabic, be even remotely perfect when translated into English? It bugs me. I realize that due to my monolinguistic capabilities I am missing out on a wide world of poetry, but still, it really bugs me.

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