Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Poetry Obscura

Confessions of a bibliophile: sometimes when I shelve or re-shelve my books of poetry, I imagine the authors talking to each other, like they're all shoulder-to-shoulder at a cocktail party. What would Rita Dove say to Carol Ann Duffy? Would Martin Espada and T.S. Eliot have anything to say to each other? It's an event when someone new comes along. All of a sudden, Sylvia Plath is no longer talking to Adrienne Rich, and they're both talking to Claudia Rankine instead.

I also introduce poets to each other by selecting one or two to take to my annual trip to Anne Sexton's grave in Forest Hills Cemetery. I think that doing something three times assures that it is becoming a tradition, and this was the third year that I and fellow poet KL Pereira (you can read her account of this year's trip here) picnicked in Forest Hills and read poems aloud there. This year we actually became part of the main attraction when a walking tour of people visiting "wondrous, curious, and esoteric places" happened to pass by (apparently March 20, 2010, was Obscura Day - who knew?).

My method for choosing this year's "read to Anne" poet was simple - the most recently purchased, unread book of poetry on my shelf: Elena Georgiou's Rhapsody of the Naked Immigrants (Harbor Mountain Press, Sept. 2009), which I had not purchased from Amazon (see Elena's blog to find out why) but had instead ordered through my local independent bookseller, who got it from the publisher. So, I read aloud two poems: "Immigrant #18: Prayer for an Alien with Extraordinary Ability in the Arts" (and nearly wept) and "In Case of Emergency" (what a love poem that is).

KL read two poems from Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler. Her method of choosing this year's "read to Anne" poet was also simple - the most recently purchased, never-heard-of-before-but-immediately-loved book of poetry in her bag. In his review of this book, David Kirby writes that "a poem either sends you a bill or writes you a check." On Sunday in the cemetery, we were rich, and the dead people joyfully rattled their coins as well.


  1. Hey Kat, I love the idea of the authors talking to one another on your shelf...you've made me look up to my lonesome books and wonder what the authors would be saying to one another!

    Also, can I come along to your next grave/reading venture? As long as you tell me in advance I will be able to do it. Are there any here in Vermont or over by you?

  2. Definitely! The closest dead poet to me that I know of is Emily Dickinson. We should find out if there are others.