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This post was originally on my library’s blog Read @ MPL.

Good Poems for Hard Times

There is so much poetry in the world; breaking into the world of reading it can be really difficult! Old, new, conceptual, rhyming, short, epic – poetry basically covers all the adjectives. Sometimes it can be a real slog trying to get through a poetry book, no matter how much you like the poet or the poetry, because reading a bunch of someone’s work right in a row can be a little exhausting. Enter: the poetry compilation.Garrison Keillor hosts an entirely enjoyable week-daily radio piece/podcast called The Writer’s Almanac. Each episode clocks in around a mere 5 minutes long, making it an unobtrusive addition to your daily listening. The first half is literary and historical information about that day in history and the second half is a poem. From the archives of these shows he has put together several poetry compilations that are absolutely perfect for the novice poetry-reader. They are Good Poems, Good Poems for Hard Times, and Good Poems American Places. They are a very eclectic mix of poems organized along themes, and the poems vary greatly in style, length, and tone. There are some terrifically funny poems and some absolutely devastating ones too. If there’s one you don’t like, you can just move on to the next. That’s the beauty of a compilation!

My personal favorite of these three is Good Poems for Hard Times. The poets range from old favorites Walt Whitman and Edna St. Vincent Millay to new favorites Barbara Hamby and Maxine Kumin. They’re organized in earnest and poignant chapters such as “This Lust of Tenderness,” “Let It Spill,” and “Such as It Is More or Less.” My personal copy has little flags throughout for all the poems I love reading when I’m not feeling so great. I can always flip through and find the right one that hits the spot.


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