The Challenge: Free week (AKA: I get to write about anything I want!)
If there’s one thing you should know about my reading habits, it is this: I am obsessed with poetry.
I have less time for personal reading during the school year, so I never want to delve into a 1000 page novel (Infinite Jest is still patiently waiting on my bookshelf), which is why I think poetry is perfect. It accomplishes so much in such a small space, but doesn’t require the same amount of time it does to read a longer work.
So for this week’s post I decided to compile a list of a few of my more recent favourite books of poetry:
1. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur.
“and here you are living
despite it all”
— Rupi Kaur
I’m sure you’ve heard of Rupi Kaur. Her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, was released in 2015 and has since sold half a million copies. According to a CBC article, Kaur dubs her writing as “design poetry,” which is a mix of words and minimalist drawings.
As Kaur is quoted as saying in the same CBC article: “So much of it is in how it looks visually to the reader, so I use only lower case … I want to basically get rid of as many distractions as I can so that the reader can just pour themselves into the word.”
Milk and Honey focuses on themes such as love, abuse, addiction, and the experience of being an immigrant to Canada. Not to generalize, but I truly believe everyone should read this book. It sheds light on issues I had previously not thought about too much, and the feminist angle Kaur writes from is particularly striking. Milk and Honey has become hyped about over the past little while, but its popularity is entirely justifiable.
2. Mouthful of Forevers, by Clementine von Radics.
“We can’t just be the wife of the artist, we have to be the artist.”
— Clementine von Radics, interviewed by Erin Taylor for Maudlin House
Clementine von Radics began her poetry career on Tumblr and has since released three books. Mouthful of Forevers is her first collection, and touches on themes of love, loss, and the difficulties of young adulthood.
She is based in Portland, Oregeon and is the founder of “Where Are You Press,” a publishing house “committed to publishing accessible, innovative poetry by a diversity of voices.”
She is an incredible poet and I highly recommend her, as well as any of the other writers her publishing house supports.
3. The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.
I have been told it’s odd one of my favourite poets is from the 13th-century, but I’ve adored Rumi’s writing for the past six years.
Lots of his work is religious, which threw me off at first, but replacing his definition of “God” with my own beliefs made me appreciate the writing more. I don’t consider myself religious, but reading Rumi is somewhat of a meditative experience that led me to a new way of thinking.
4. We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival, an anthology edited by Andrea Gibson.
I finished this book in two days and I cried through the majority of it. I usually don’t read works featuring multiple writers (unless it’s a literary magazine) but after finding this one on a shelf of a Calgary bookstore I had to read it.
The anthology is a collection of “social justice poetry” and covers a wide range of topics. Each piece begins by describing an organization the writer supports, and follows it with concrete ways social and political issues can be addressed and changed. Reading this book got me thinking about a few things: Can poetry be used as a tool for social activism? How can words actually make a difference? (I still do not have the answer to these questions, but it’s an interesting topic).
In terms of work strictly by Andrea Gibson, read The Madness Vase. You can thank me later.
5. What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, Charles Bukowski.
I know, Charles Bukowski is so cliche. He is a total misogynist but I still cannot help but love his writing. I have been told he’s overrated and has become too popular, which is true, but I still believe there’s merit to his words. His style is simple, yet also beautiful, and there were quite a few gems within this collection that stood out to me. I still often return to this book to read my favourite pieces.
But if you’re not into blunt and depressing writing, I would shy away from Bukowski.
And because I’m annoying, here are more of my favourite poets: Ian S. Thomas, Warsan Shire, Tyler Knott Gregson, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath (well, duh), Adrienne Rich, Nayyirah Waheed, Louise Gluck, Margaret Atwood, Pablo Neruda, Shinji Moon, e. e. cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, Maya Angelou and Anaïs Nin.
I have also been trying to expand my repertoire to Can lit, so here are some Canadian writers as well (a few even from Winnipeg): Katherena Vermette, Rosanna Deerchild, Evelyn Lau, Micheline Maylor, Sheri-D Wilson, Chandra Mayor, and Jennifer Still.
So if you adore poetry the way I do, check these out. Then make sure to come find me so we can discuss them.