During April, I challenged myself to read a poem every day, with care, with the intention of selecting four favorites at the end of the month and then reading the four books from whence they came. This was part of my general poetry month activities, but also a greater need I felt to immerse myself in poetry, to find inspiration in what I saw, for myself as a teacher, writer and lover of poetry.
If that last sentence resonates with you at all, I would highly recommend taking on a similar challenge, because I thoroughly enjoyed mine. At the end of the month, I ended up with nine poems I had starred as my favorites, all from the Knopf Doubleday poem-a-day emails, which really offered a treasure trove of wonderful poems. I winnowed those nine down to six, which offered a range of modern classic authors (Wallace Stevens) to contemporary poets like Deborah Digges. Even just reading through them again was a peaceful respite on a gray Sunday afternoon, at a stressful point in the school year, though the poems themselves are not particularly restful.
Settling on the final four was harder; I read more about each poet and thought about my own gaps in reading, read some sample poems and reviews and chose two relatively quickly. Then a colleague who had also gotten the Knopf emails came into my classroom one afternoon to share how much one of my favorites had also touched her, so I added the third title. Finally, I added the fourth because of the joyful tone of the poem I had liked, because who doesn’t need a little more joy?
Without further ado, here are the four books I’ll be reading for this challenge:
The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart: Poems, Deborah Digges
Selected Poems, Wallace Stevens
The Wellspring: Poems, Sharon Olds
Special Orders: Poems, Edward Hirsch
Upon further reflection and based on some of my choices, I don’t know that I’ll be able to do each book in a day, back-to-back, as Emily Gould did in her original challenge. I’ll review each book and post them, and then in a “stage two” entry, post about the experience of reading all four as the completion of my challenge. But like Laurie, I often read books of poetry in a more elongated way, so deadlines won’t apply as much here.