I read a lot, and I have a better education than I probably deserved, but I am woefully deficient when it comes to poetry. Previously, my experiences of poetry were best described by paraphrasing Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet. I had only "a thin sort of inclination" toward poetry and it only took "one good sonnet to starve it entirely away".
I have read some Robert Service that I liked. Who wouldn't like the "Poet of the Yukon?". Also, I am in the midst of a three year period of World War I reading and as a result have passing familiarity with Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who were some of the more famous poets of that sadly poetical era. One little illustrated volume of Thomas Hardy because I cannot resist little illustrated volumes of anything. A high-school smattering of Robert Frost. That was it.
Then, purely by accident, I had a poetic epiphany. I heard a poem by Raymond Carver on the radio of all places. Birds sang. Rainbows beamed. Scales fell from (metaphorical) eyes. I pulled my car over, got out, walked to the little poetry book shop nearby and bought a copy of Carver's collected works, "All of Us".
Actually, I kept driving and worked an entire month. The closest little poetry book shop is at LEAST a three hour drive. Some epiphanies take time to seep in. I ordered it from http://amazon.com/ which in my imagination is a little shop in Seattle or Vancouver or Bohemia that has this astounding array of books..... Anyhow, when I received my copy of "All of Us" I read it straight through. Twice. Trust me on this, Carver's poetry is unlike anything you have ever read. His poems are like little screenplays or micronovellas or those miniature oil paintings that you buy at booths on slantingly sunny days under the trees near Central Park and never let out of your sight the rest of your life.
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.
One more to whet your appetite:
Talking about myself all day
something I thought over and
done with. What I'd felt
for Maryann--Anna, she calls
herself now--all those years.
I went to draw a glass of water.
Stood at the window for a time.
When I came back
we passed easily to the next thing.
Went on with my life. But
that memory entering like a spike.
You NEED this book. Everyone needs at least one collection of great poetry. I would not have said this two months ago, before I read Raymond Carver. Hell, you can even take it to your fantasy football league draft and read it between rounds. That should REALLY disturb your leaguemates.
If these tastes of Carver are not enough to intrigue you, then just look up his "In the Lobby of the Hotel Del Mayo". Do not read it. Put on your wrinkled linen suit (you DO own one, don't you?) and find yourself a joint that has a shady outdoor bar with ceiling fans. Find yourself a not so clean, dimly lighted spot. Do not read it. Order a neat double of Anejo Tequila or Centenario Rum. Do not read it. When the drink arrives at your hand, take a solid sip. Or two. Then read it. Thank me later.
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