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3BoT Vol. 10: My Three Favorite Poets

Thursday, August 2, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 10: My Three Favorite Poets | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more info about Three Books on Thursday.

I am breaking tradition this month because I wanted to do a poetry theme, but I discovered that I couldn't recommend just one book of poetry for each of my favorite poets. Without having read every book of poetry by, for example, Robert Frost, I couldn't tell you definitively which one is the best or my favorite. Just that I like his poetry.

I will, however, tell you which books introduced me to each poet, so you have a place to start, if you like. And I won't spend a bunch of time here extolling the greatness of poetry; I'll just say that, if you haven't read much poetry before, give these folks a try.

Without further ado, my three favorite poets:

In the Clearing
#1: Robert Frost
I read Frost's In the Clearing collection in middle school, and I think what I liked so much was that I could understand the poems. His words paint pictures of scenes from nature and everyday life, and they're not super-dense, but they do have layers of meaning that you can dig into. So I don't have to struggle to figure out what the heck is going on, but I'm left with things to think about. A good example is "In a Glass of Cider," which on the surface is about being a bit of sentiment riding on a rising bubble in cider, but which has a lot more meaning about the highs and lows of life. Of course, Frost's most famous poem is probably "The Road Not Taken," and most people know the closing lines without having studied the entire poem and realizing just how tricky it is. He's pretty clever.

Sonnets from the Portuguese
#2: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
If you've ever heard, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways," you've had an introduction to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That is from Sonnet 43 of her Sonnets from the Portuguese, arguably her most well-known collection. My personal favorite has always been Sonnet 14, which essentially says that if you love someone for how they look or some mannerism they have, you may be disappointed if they change down the road. For me, this ties into how marriage made my love for Mike unconditional. I find her poetry absolutely lyrical, as well as thought-provoking and romantic. Not all her poems are love poems for her husband; others include a poem about her dog ("To Flush") and one about the gift of sleep ("The Sleep") that will make you want to close your eyes and float away on a cloud of iambic quadrameter.

#3: Shel Silverstein
I grew up with Shel Silverstein's poetry, and I'm grateful for that. His poems are cute, funny, and fanciful (as are the accompanying illustrations), but he also perfectly captures many moments of everyday life. I love that many end with a twist or punch line of some sort. Although his poetry is aimed at kids and doesn't have the deep layers of meaning of Frost and Barrett Browning, he still ranks up there for me because some of the images his poems evoke have stayed with me for, literally, decades. When we were moving in 104 degree weather, I kept thinking about how I'd probably still be hot if I stripped all the way down to my bones ("It's Hot!"). Where the Sidewalk Ends was his first collection, but A Light in the Attic and Falling Up are great too. And of course, Silverstein is also the author of The Giving Tree, as well as other great books.

Those are my three favorite poets. Who are yours?

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  1. We have really similar taste in poets! Robert Frost is definitely my favorite, too. I'm partial to "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and a very short poem called "Devotion":

    The heart can think of no devotion
    Greater than being shore to ocean
    Holding the curve of one position
    Counting an endless repetition

    I love e.e. cummings, too, as well as Maya Angelou and Frank O'Hara.

    1. One of my good friends really likes "Nothing Gold Can Stay." I also like Maya Angelou; I haven't read a ton of her poetry, but I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in middle school and loved it. I am not familiar with Frank O'Hara, so I will have to look him up! Thanks!

  2. I loooooved Where the Sidewalk Ends as a kid! Shel Silverstein is wonderful.

    I'm also a major fan of Robert Frost, but I developed a particular appreciation for E.E. Cummings in college. He's quite wonderful.

    1. I haven't read a lot of e.e. cummings, but what I have read I've liked. My impression was that a lot of people liked him just because his poems were quirky and had unusual formatting/punctuation rather than because of the content or meaning of the poems, so I haven't really sought out his work. But I guess I should give it a try!

  3. Great choices!

    I love Chesterton's poetry (especially *The Ballad of the White Horse,* which is quite possibly the only epic poem I ever have read or ever will read.)

    Christina Rosetti has always meant a lot to me.

    And A.A. Milne is my favorite children's poet, hands down.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I hadn't heard of Christina Rosetti, and I didn't know Chesterton and Milne wrote poetry. More to check out!

  4. Have just remembered that an American friend gave us the Sidewalk book a few years ago; ive never looked at it, but ill have to due to your recommendation.
    Apologies for punctuation issues; typing with one hand while breastfeeding :)

    1. Definitely -- Silverstein is great, and fun to read to kids because of the general silliness of many of them as well as the rhyming.

    2. Also, congrats on your new baby :) I just checked out your blog -- what a cutie!


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