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Poetry: Essential Reading

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April: Poetry
Month; Literary Mama
Essentials Are Here.

Download the list to find it fast at your local bookstore or library.

Maria Scala, Columns Editor, writes, "In the Old Country of My Heart is a must-have audio collection by Newfoundland poet laureate Agnes Walsh. These poems, which explore identity and history in unsentimental yet vivid language, are performed with precision and grace by the author herself. Interspersed with the poems are several haunting ballads sung by Walsh's daughter, Simone Savard-Walsh -- the perfect complement to an already generous collection."

Nicole Stellon O'Donnell , Columns Editor, shares, "Kathleen Flenniken's collection Famous, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book prize, offers some stunning poems about parenting. 'How to Read This Story to Your Children' offers this advice, "When you're narrating, be the voice / of kindness, your very best self, / but a little removed / as if watching from a top banister." In 'Elisabeth Reads Poetry,' Fleniken describes her two-year-old, "she's a genius / of prolonged babyhood, / of its light / its wild uncoded rhythms, / playing late into the open afternoon."

Literary Reflections Editor, Kathy Moran, says, "My husband is a baseball coach, and I am an English teacher. He loves the bunt; I love the bard. Yet, Dan Quisenberry, a former Kansas City Royals star relief pitcher, married both worlds in his poetry collection: On Days Like This. The Quiz, as he was known locally, was a delightful character and a good man who sadly died in 1998. I'm glad his talents are preserved in film and on paper." From "Old (G)love:" "mushy leather/burnt brown/only glove I really liked/though I flirted with others you were the one for me/I love your dark center/your womb as rich as Iowa soil/you still look nice/and holding you feels so right."

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co-Editor, writes, "My initial fascination with Japan began with the court poetry of the Heian period. I love the idea of communicating via poetry as the nobles did, and I think that even now poetry is a viable and elegant alternative to texting. For some examples, look to The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan translated by Jane Hirshfield. This volume is a classic."

Assistant Editor in Poetry, Ginny Kaczmarek, says, "The most amazing book that I've read recently is Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith. In vivid, muscular language, Smith chronicles the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina through a variety of characters, including thirty-four nursing home residents, a dog called Luther B, and even Hurricane Katrina herself. President Bush and Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, also make appearances, then disappear, much as they did during the storm and its aftermath. As a New Orleanian, I found the book painful to read yet impossible to put down. Smith inhabits the spirit of New Orleans and its people, our vulnerability and our resiliance, our suffering and our healing, with a clear eye and a compassionate heart."

Literary Reflections Editorial Assistant, Christina Marie Speed, writes, "I have heard poetry should take your stream of consciousness from the present, to an altered space--whether it be in your heart, your mind, or your soul. Samuel Green managed to do all three of these for me in The Grace of Necessity. This collection touches on the spectrum that life can hold: from chopping wood or birds in flight to holding an ill child at night or losing a loved one. His poetry is all at once eloquent and stark, crystal clear and mysterious, generous and complicated. Even in this moment, I remain moved by Green's work."

Christina Marie Speed writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, including Caper Journal, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune Online, and The View From Here. She lives with her husband and two sons in a sunny fourth-floor walkup in Brooklyn, New York.

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