I was a senior in High School when I discovered poetry. The year before we had been asked to explicate a poem in English class and I was befuddled by the requirement forced upon us to find some obscure meaning hidden in the figurative language of the poem. It was American literature and my keen insights had already been dulled by interpreting Moby Dick and The Death of a Salesman.
But as a senior I discovered John Keats. The famous odes were, well, famous, but it was the extended dramatic verses that drew me in. To this day I cannot read about the beadsman’s numb fingers without feeling a chill or encounter a pot of basil at the garden store without cringing.
As I matured, my studies flowed from Blake to Milton to Pope to Yeats, and culminated in graduate school with Stevens and Roethke. Along the way I was able to experience many other poets, if even just an single entry in an anthology. Yet, with my formal education at an end, I continued to read Sexton, Williams, Ferlinghetti, Wordsworth, Heaney, Ginsberg, and Moore.
Generally I pick and chose my poetry, often coming from anthologies or literary journals, so they seldom have a place in my monthly reading list; but that doesn’t mean I don’t take a shot of poetry here and there and you should too.
I recently read a little book titled A Little History of Poetry by John Carey. The Norton Anthology it isn’t but for a quick afternoon read it presents a healthy view of important poetry. Yes, there is a predominance of dead white men, but poetry in other lands is represented. Also, we all knew about Byron’s sexual proclivities back in the sixties but this little book presents a whole new accounting of sexual fluidity that just might surprise you.
But the business of this post is to introduce the projected reading selections chosen for the month of October. So without further delay:
- Empire of the Sun — J. G. Ballard
- The Enormous Room — E. E. Cummings
- Poor Folk – Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Big Sky — A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
- God Is Not Great — Christopher Hitchens
- Roderick Hudson — Henry James
- The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgersson — Selma Lagerlöf
- A Hero of Our Time — Mikhail Lermontov
- Significant Others — Armistad Maupin
- The Adventures of Harry Richmond — George Meredith
- The Museum At the End of the World — John Metcalf
- The Flight From the Enchanter — Iris Murdoch
- Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle — Vladimir Nabokov
- Broke Heart Blues — Joyce Carol Oates
- The Red-Haired Woman — Orhan Pamuk
- The Humbling — Philip Roth
- Saint X — Alexis Schaitkin
- Shuggie Bain — Douglas Stuart
- Doctor Thorne — Anthony Trollope
- The Web and the Rock — Thomas Wolfe