Today I did a meme on Facebook that asked me to list the 20 books of poetry that made me want to be a poet. These were my answers:

1. The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills – Charles Bukowski
2. Blood Sugar – Nicole Blackman
3. The Good Thief – Marie Howe
4. Dien Cai Dau – Yusef Komunyakaa
5. Gravedigger’s Birthday – BJ Ward
6. Local Visitations – Stephen Dunn
7. Ariel – Sylvia Plath
8. The Complete Poems – Anne Sexton
9. Tulips & Chmineys – e.e. cummings
10. What Narcissism Means to Me – Tony Hoagland
11. Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive – Patrick Rosal
12. 100 Love Sonnets – Pablo Neruda
13. Next – Lucille Clifton
14. Collected Poems – Edna St. Vincent Millay
15. Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman
16. Repair – CK Williams
17. What the Living Do – Marie Howe
18. Fuel – Naomi Shihab Nye
19. Correspondence – Kathleen Graber
20. Lunch Poems – Frank O’Hara

It was actually kind of hard to come up with 20 complete books, because I’ve spent so much time studying and reading individual poems. So I thought I’d use this space, where I am apparently self-involved and over-interested in myself, to ramble a bit about the 20 poems that really changed things for me.

1. “For Jane: With All the Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough” – Charles Bukowski
2. “Theme for English B” – Langston Hughes
3. “I Cannot Live With You (640)” – Emily Dickinson
4. “Love Is Not All” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
5. “At the Smithville Methodist Church” – Stephen Dunn
6. “Afterlife” – Joan Larkin
7. “Rap Music” – Tony Hoagland (scroll down the page for the poem)
8. “What the Angels Left” – Marie Howe
9. “Citrus City” – Patrick Rosal (pardon the blog entry; note that the spacing of the poem is not correct, either)
10. “she being brand” – e.e. cummings
11. “Errata” – Charles Simic
12. “With Mercy for the Greedy” – Anne Sexton
13. “Poppies in July” – Sylvia Plath
14. “5.8.1942: In Memory of Janusz Korczak” – Jerzy Ficowski (from the anthology Holocaust Poetry, ed. Hilda Schiff)
15. “My Mother’s Last Cigarette” – BJ Ward (from Gravedigger’s Birthday)
16. “Red Berries” – Jane Hirshfield
17. “I Go Back to May 1937” – Sharon Olds
18. “Herbert White” – Frank Bidart
19. “Ellen West” – Frank Bidart
20. “The Lost Baby Poem” – Lucille Clifton

0 Responses

  1. “I Go Back to May 1937” is definitely one of my favorites. I’m so happy Olds chose Strike Sparks as the name of one of her collections.

  2. I only have one book that made me want to write poetry and that was the Norton Anthology, which I first read in high school and still have. I was most taken with Yeats, Poe, Cooleridge and T.S. Elliot. The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock and The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water, were my hands down favorites.

  3. Your link to Bukowski’s poem is broken. That’s a poem I wasn’t familiar with. Love Bukowski.

    Most Komunyakaas, Plaths, Cummingses, Millays (especially the sonnets), and then a host of others, will do it for me.

  4. Pure Bukowski. Didn’t disappoint:

    “I pick up the skirt,
    I pick up the sparkling beads
    in black,
    this thing that moved once
    around flesh,
    and I call God a liar,
    I say anything that moved
    like that
    or knew
    my name
    could never die”

    And bravo for “Lot’s Daughters”. I like Boxcar Poetry Review, too.

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