In honor of World Poetry Day, we have each reflected on our favorite poetry books. We celebrate the work of these poets and hope their writing inspires you as much as it has inspired us.
“You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won’t tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you’ve done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you’re tired. You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and you’re trying not to tell him that you love him, and you’re trying to choke down the feeling, and you’re trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you’ve discovered something you didn’t even have a name for.”
I came across this excerpt of a poem by Richard Siken online, and these few lines captured me enough that I immediately ordered his book Crush. It was the first time I’d ever felt inclined to buy a book of poetry, and when it came I took an entire afternoon to read it cover to cover. I was crying by the end of the first poem. Siken had a way of capturing the pain and suffering of unrequited love--of obsession—in such an honest, raw, and beautiful way. I felt like he was unearthing everything I felt and was too ashamed to admit, or reveal. After reading his poetry, I wanted to write too--I wanted to explore our darker side, the monsters and skeletons we keep in our closets. It felt cathartic to talk about these things I always had felt were too taboo to reveal, in the same way it felt cathartic to read Siken’s work. I was inspired to create that feeling for someone else, which is why Crush will always have a special place on my bookshelf.
In Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line, Sean Thomas Dougherty has translated music into language. Like Sasha, these poems sing and dip and dance “like breath across the page of a book.” Dougherty’s poems exist in a weightless world, in the space between mourning and joy. Shell is a poem I have come back to many times over. It is a poem about fragility and resilience and when I read this poem I feel it reverberate in me the way only a poem ever can. Dougherty captures a beautiful tension in his work that I strive to bring into my own writing.
“In the park, she found a robin’s egg, broken and blue on the sidewalk, gathered up the shards, and carried them home in the pocket of her purse. She took them out when she entered the empty apartment, spread them on the placemat he had bought. She leaned over them on the dining room table. On tiny, white pieces of shell she scratched out with the head of a pin the secret hieroglyphics of her new life. “