What I Read in Poetry, 2017

Each year I start off with a grand vision about what I’ll read. I might actually have achieved it this time. Let’s see what I read in poetry this year —

  1. 20th Century American Poetry, edited by Conrad Aiken

I learned A LOT from this little, dense book. My only complaint was that it was mostly old white men sprinkled with a few white women, and I know that’s not reality, even in the 20th century. It did lead me to learn more poets I’d never heard of before, though.

2. Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems

I learned I don’t like her work as much as I like the poems of hers I love. Does that make sense?

3. Selected Poems: William Carlos Williams

I wish I could write as clearly and as straight-forward as he does, and still have it mean something to someone. I want to add that the meme going around twitter about the plums is a delight. If someone compiled those, I’d buy it.

4. Poems of Akhmatova

I picked these up because Catherynne Valente uses some of these poems in Deathless, and I wanted to fully understand.

5. On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell

This slim book was packed with exciting and stimulating ideas about how to write better poetry. This is where Famous Starts, Humble Endings originated.

6. One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds

Oh, I didn’t know you could write poetry like this! I loved it, and I still think about many of these poems when I spend time thinking I’m in love and he is too.

7. Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

See #6

8. Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar is a beautiful person if his online life is to be believed (which I think it is as evidenced by the reaction of people who meet him offline). These poems do the thing I wish I could do — they reveal deep personal truths, slant-wise.

9. 100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

Ah, I love love love what he does with words. It’s all backwards and wrong, and somehow right-side up more than it would be if he’d said it straight at first.

10. The Metamorphoses by Ovid

If I’m ever stranded on a deserted island, this is the one I want.

11. Rattle #55 & #56 by various

These were a gift to myself this year, and well worth the price. I like having the different themes and styles and voices to bounce off my brain and back into my life. Now, I’ve heard there was some controversy with the editor, but I’ve found the contents of each magazine to be diverse and engaging, especially the interviews. (note wrong number in picture, sorry about that!)

12. The Unswept Room by Sharon Olds

See #6

13. The Selected Poetry by Robinson Jeffers

Whew. This tome was NOT what I expected. He wrote, like, epic stories in rhyme. I didn’t like them, but the sonnets tucked between were sublime.

14. The Art of the Sonnet by Stephen Burt

Speaking of sonnets…this book fired me up. Can you be fired up about sonnets? Yep. If you are a history and word nerd, you sure can!

15. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth by Diane Wolkstein

Speaking of history and word nerding. This book will satisfy all those cravings. The translated poetry from thousands of years ago is mesmerizing.

16. Walking with Ghosts: Poems by Qwo-li Driskill

This was a tough read because of the stories being told. Stories of trauma and murder, and the shame I have as a white person who is part of that cycle. What Driskill does with language here isn’t to be missed.

17. The Sun’s Paces: Thirty-six Hymns for the Decans of the Zodiac by A. Wyatt

I’d never heard of decans before, and I’m still not sure I fully understand them. Astrology has never been a strong point for me. (too much math, maybe?) I enjoyed the idea of a hymn to each attribute, though.

18. Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldy Advice for Everyday Troubles by Kitaiskaia

This might have been my favorite book this year. It’s hard to choose just one, but her quirky and ethereal framing of life advice was fun and profound.

19. The Whetting Stone by Taylor Mali

Good lord, this chapbook broke my heart. I can’t recommend it to everyone because it hurt so much.

20. The Odyssey by Homer

Not true poetry like we think of today, but I’m counting it. I’m very interested in picking up a copy of the newest (and first) translation by a woman now that I’ve read it the whole way through. I was surprised by what was included and what wasn’t. I mean, we hear a lot and think we know what’s inside, but it wasn’t exactly as I thought. A nice surprise.

21. Milk and Honey by rupi kaur

My daughter, who is a sweetheart, bought me this just because. It was a little hard to read, because all of the triggers, but I loved how she handled her experiences and emotions. I know there’s a lot of stuck-up noses at her verses, but I find value in the smaller poems. Sometimes, that’s the doorway you need to lead you on.


I read TWENTY-ONE books of poetry this year. WOW! I was not expecting the number to be that high. Go, me!

Did you read any of the ones I listed? Do you have a favorite poet you think I should read in 2018? If so, drop the name in the comments, and I’ll add it to my TBR pile.


8 thoughts on “What I Read in Poetry, 2017

  1. i don’t read poetry, really, but some of your stuff has inspired me to try it more. i’ve got one or two of the ones you blissed about during the year on my goodreads ‘to read’ list.
    and of course, am with you on the metamorphoses and odyssey. i haven’t read the translation by the woman, will have to check that out.
    dang thing might be written by a woman after all!

    1. Aren’t you a huge Shakespeare fan? I struggle to enjoy him, which I realize is tantamount to heresy. That’s one of the things I love about poetry – there’s so much of it, if you keep trying you’ll eventually find some you love.

      1. oh, i adore shakespeare. but you fall in love with shakespeare more from watching than from reading. that’s why i came at it from a storytelling POV when i was teaching the kids at FCC. since i couldn’t perform the actual play, i performed it as story pieces.
        i don’t enjoy reading shakespeare, o no.

  2. Wow, now that is a lot of poetry.
    Also, I suppose I should go look up “sonnet,” just kidding! Actually… let’s see…

    Huh. Ok. So then, what’s an iambic. Sigh, I’m hopeless.

  3. You probably already know this Suz, but I saw it and thought of you.
    In 1910, American writer Brainerd McKee rewrite all of Shakespeare’s plays as limericks!

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