#BookBingoNW2017: Poetry

Bingo is a game of chance. Take a chance on poetry.

Reading a poem, for some, is akin to entering a country where everybody speaks a language, except the one you know. Poetry can be daunting.  It can, also, be a journey unlike any other.  Take, Josephine Yu’s Prayer Book of the Anxious, for instance. This work leads you into the unfamiliar familiar.  Her language is plain enough but with a twist and spin you’re traveling from the coast, back to third grade, to Wal-Mart only to find Noah’s wife along the way.

From first line to last, a book takes you into lovely and unlovely regions of a mind. Poems have an uncanny way of making you see that something we take for granted is not mundane, but multitudinous. In the book of a hundred hands, Cole Swensen offers a sweeping portrait of the hand from the History of the Hand to Paintings of Possible Hands. The hand is the ultimate traveler.  Pity, it doesn’t get the same love as the heart. In Rumi’s Little Book of the Heart we’re on familiar ground, but even here you might find yourself being “blown in all directions.”

The circuitry goes awry. We’re all over the place even when standing in place! That’s why The Little Book of Neuroscience Haiku by Eric H. Chudler is a singular accomplishment.  Using the form of the haiku, Chudler created poems that focus on places in the brain (frontal lobe, etc.) equipment and creatures (scanners, etc.) and neuroscientists. Each haiku is followed by a definition or explanation of the concept being covered.  Brilliant!

How do poets dream up their ideas? One proven way into the land of metaphor mystery is an object so necessary to the poetic process that there should be a memorial built in its honor. A Pillow Book by Suzanne Buffam gets us close to our mark.  She takes us from the evolution of the pillow to Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book by constructing a modern-day version of Shōnagon’s work.

Dream on! Dreams and nightmares have brought into literature compelling and resonant images. Elizabeth Alexander’s Antebellum Dream Book uses the dreamscape to compose poems about figures who appeared in her dreams. Nat King Cole, Sylvia Plath, Harriet Tubman, Jack Nicolson and Toni Morrison have starring roles.

I’m skirting the issue. The one about the memorial that should be built for the object that commands our attention. We pay obeisance to it daily. In Book of Hours Kevin Young reflects upon the loss of his father and the welcoming of his son. Young’s book puts us in the right neighborhood.

The lives inhabiting Luis Alberto Urrea’s Tijuana Book of the Dead and those found in The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May, may reside in borderlands and margins, but they could be seen on the big screen or on stage.

“I worked morning and night, in bed and on the couch,” writes Gary Soto. Each poem in his collection You Kiss by th’ Book begins with a line from Shakespeare.

The object before which we bow, which children flee in the night, upon which our bodies rise and fall, holds us from beginning to end of life or a book of poems. Plush, utilitarian, made of leaves or a pile of clothes, we bow, collapse, crave its comfort and repose.

Poetry holds a unique place. People seek poetry for comfort and understanding during difficult moments of life. Like a bed, poems are necessary to our survival. A poem can save your life.  Take a chance on poetry.

posted by Chris, Arts librarian

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our 3rd annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category.


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