Where Does the Poetry Come From?

I often share poetry on this blog. These poems all come from a variety of sources. Lately I have been spending time reading through poetry collections in preparation for a workshop I am giving later in the week. If you want to spend some time with poetry, here are some volumes you might want to check out at your local library.

Good Poems , selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor.
This is an anthology of poems he has read on The Writer's Almanac on public radio each morning. It includes a wide variety of poems under categories such as O,Lord, Scenes, Day's Work, and A Good Life. Some of my favorites I found in this book are "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver, " A Blessing" by James Wright, and "Courage" by Anne Sexton.

poetry 180 , a Turning Back to Poetry, selected and introduced by Billy Collins.
When Billy Collins was the United States Poet Laureate he introduced a poem-a-day program with the Library of Congress. This collection is comprised of poems and poets we remember. Ones I love in this book are "Lines" by Martha Collins, " Small Comfort" by Katha Pollitt, and "The Invention of Heaven" by Dean Young.

Otherwise by Jane Kenyon. When she was in remission with cancer she began putting together this collection. In the last five days of her life, she finished this book. Each time I reread it I think of her love of words, her persistence for completion, and her sharp mind as she was adding and deleting with her poet husband Donald Hall up to the last day of her life. I love all the poems in this collection.

New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. This Pulizer Prize and National Book Award winning collection moves into more of a focus on nature. Again, it is hard to pick favorites. I do tend to reread "A Letter from Home", " "Roses, Late Summer", and "The Return."

Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda. This, like all his volumes, are presented side by side in English and Spanish. I was first introduced to this book in a poetry writing workshop years ago, but the reminded again of his work at my brother's writing workshop last summer. Neruda's book brings to light to beauty of the common things we can all understand like a pair of socks, a chair, and a spoon.

by Jane Kenyon
©2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birchwood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.


  1. some of my real favorites there.

  2. Very nice selection of work. I've used most of these - Oliver's Wild Geese, Kenyon's Let Evening Come, Collins and selections from Good Poems - on both a blog and with lifelong learners.

    Don/Issa's Untidy Hut


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