Looking For Poetry Suggestions

by Josh Hanagarne on June 3, 2014

in Uncategorized

Hi all, I’ve been in a poetry phase for a couple of weeks now. This is only strange because I don’t read much poetry, and have always felt helplessly clumsy when discussing it, or pretending to.

When I was a senior in college I took a modernist poetry class. At the beginning, we each had to tell a poet that we loved and a poet that we hated. I can’t remember who I said I hated, but I had two answers for poets whom I loved.

Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.

I still love them, but am attempting to broaden my horizons a bit, to use a cliche that would be excised from any respectable poem, or so I hear.

So, over to you, geniuses. I’ve liked a lot of poetry from TS Eliot, Margaret Atwood, James Fenton, Dylan Thomas, Auden, and especially Rilke. I’ve mostly read Rilke in French, which seems to make anything sound lovely.

Do you have a favorite poet? A favorite poem? I’m in the mood to try out anything you’ll steer me towards.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Mark June 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Ted Kooser — wonderful poet from Nebraska, past National Poet Laureate.

If you’re wanting to study poetry a little more, you can find a few upcoming and archived poetry MOOCs here: http://writingwyoming.blogspot.com/2014/05/moocs-for-word-lovers.html


kb June 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Billy Collins


Tony June 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Love Rilke..

“Pathways” might be my favorite:

“Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale stars rising,
blooming, over the oaks.

I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.”

I keep an Evernote book and clip poems I come across and love rather than hitting a complete collection. Here are a few that I have fallen for recently. You should turn most of these up with a search.

Paul Vermeersch – “Shadowing the Medivac” Not sure what I would have thought of this before I had kids but now it hits me like a mace.

Philip Booth – “Nightsong” Sure, sex is good but this is an ode to something even better that happens in bed.

Billy Collins – “Aristotle” and “An Introduction to Poetry” Both unfussy and wonderful.

Campbell McGrath – “Pentatina for Five Vowels”


Josh Hanagarne June 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Can you explain why you love Rilke? I do, but I can’t.


Tony June 4, 2014 at 6:11 am

Hmm, not really, his imagery is very evocative and rather grand. They flow easily. Something about many of his poems strikes a chord with me.

Anyone who gives you too hard a time about why you like a certain poem/poet should be rapidly directed to Billy Collins –“An Introduction to Poetry” :)


Dan Nieman June 3, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Fun and humorous poetry:
Ogden Nash

Robert Frost

Free verse:
Carl Sandburg

Modern Poet:
William Kloefkorn


Robin June 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm

One of my favorites I studied in college was May Swenson. She’s a Utah poet, great visual imagery.


Josh Hanagarne June 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Never heard of her, which may very well be a sign of how good she is:)


Sister Hilda Kleiman June 3, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I second Billy Collins and also suggest William Stafford and Shakespeare’s sonnets.


Josh Hanagarne June 3, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I wish I could get into Shakespeare. I love the stories, and just don’t like reading any of it. Even my Shakespeare-heavy English degree didn’t help with it!


Karen Tobo June 7, 2014 at 8:39 am

Woo hoo – I’ve got something to say!

I seem to enjoy copy editing and contributing to Wikimedia projects more than contemplating poetry, and found that loads of Wiktionary definitions are lacking a good quotation from Shakespeare (as referenced in 1913 Webster’s).

I gathered some tools at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/User:Kjtobo/Shakespeare to help me search out the needed quotations, and while I’m at it some of the surrounding lines in the play or poem sort of sneak up on me. Sometimes I even catch myself reading a whole page. It’s like Shakespeare for Attention Deficit.

My book club friends are the best. Thanks to Lani for finding you. I look forward to your next book!


Susan Mark June 3, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Ted Kooser. Amazing poet from Nebraska and former National Poet Laureate.


Josh Hanagarne June 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm



Brahma Bill June 4, 2014 at 4:53 am

Wallace Stevens


Nici June 4, 2014 at 5:47 am

Charles bukowski! He has some great novels too…


Josh Hanagarne June 4, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I love Post Office!


Jack M June 4, 2014 at 6:18 am

Try Patti Smith’s poetry. Most people just know her music, but her verses are wonderful. Two collections come to mind – Seventh Heaven and a small chapbook called Ha Ha Houdini.


Ashley L June 4, 2014 at 7:21 am

Marge Piercy. Currently based in VT, she’s an activist and feminist and much of that comes through in her work. She is also a novelist. My favorite of her poetry works is Braided Lives and my favorite novel is Woman on the Edge of Time.


Josh Hanagarne June 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Hooray, thanks!


Mandi June 4, 2014 at 11:42 am

I enjoy Robert Service – I find his poems have a great rhythm, and he can tell wonderful stories in a way that I find accessible and straightforward. (I am a lover of patterns and will often miss content while focusing on form, in poetry and other situations.)


Josh Hanagarne June 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Never heard of him. On my way to read!


Karen Tobo June 10, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I once joked woth my new boyfriend on a sleepless night that I might be able to drift off if, say, he recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” So he did.

Yep, I married him.

What about Gary Snyder. Or in French, there’s Jacques Prévert.


Daisy June 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Billy Collins, Naomi Nye, Ted Koozer, Ellen Kort (a local favorite and Wisconsin’s first Poet Laureate) and me.


evelyneholingue June 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Most poets I’ve read are French and I read them in my native language. Here in the US, I follow a great British poet/blogger who posts regularly about poetry. He’s excellent. Here is the link: http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/
You will, I’m sure, find many suggestions. Too many, probably!
Happy poetry reading!


spencer June 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I have always loved Dylan Thomas and Emily Dickinson. Recently read a collection by Robert Creeley, and liked that very much. W.S. Merwin is very good. I also like E.E. Cummings, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about that.

Here is a Merwin for your purview:

When I was beginning to read I imagined
that bridges had something to do with birds
and with what seemed to be cages but I knew
that they were not cages it must have been autumn
with the dusty light flashing from the streetcar wires
and those orange places on fire in the pictures
and now indeed it is autumn the clear
days not far from the sea with a small wind nosing
over dry grass that yesterday was green
the empty corn standing trembling and a down
of ghost flowers veiling the ignored fields
and everywhere the colors I cannot take
my eyes from all of them red even the wide streams
red it is the season of migrants
flying at night feeling the turning earth
beneath them and I woke in the city hearing
the call notes of the plover then again and
again before I slept and here far downriver
flocking together echoing close to the shore
the longest bridges have opened their slender wings

And a cummings:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
By E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


Josh Hanagarne June 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I think I picked up Thomas on your recommendation.


cj w June 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

I was born before Shel Silverstein so Ogden Nash was my favorite back then.

Love Mary Oliver really like Victor Hugo
least fave…Baudelaire.

I’m not widely read though so…


Jacque June 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Kahlil Gibran, Li-Young Lee, Langston Hughes or Dylan Thomas- been reading them all lately. I try for at least one poem a day so that I get at least that small moment of “somewhere else” that reading offers us.
With longer books and stories sometimes the somewhere else takes while to be complete, but the poem gives you instant gratification.


Gypsy June 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Lauris Edmonds and David Eggleton


sarah June 5, 2014 at 5:57 am

Digging by Seamus Heaney. Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Brown and Agile Child by Pablo Neruda. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but these would be top picks.


Jeannie June 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Are you familiar with Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac? It’s a short, daily radio program, in which he reads a poem each day. Here’s one of them.

Have a ____ Day

by Lou Lipsitz

Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day. Have a
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.
Have a day of wondering if it’s
going to help, or if it just doesn’t matter;
a day of dark winds
and torrents flowing though the valley,
of diving into cool water
and gasping for breath,
a day of sudden hunger for communion.

Have a day where the crusts you each
were given are lost and you stumble
with your fellows
searching endlessly together.


Josh Hanagarne June 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

I knew what it was, but hadn’t ever listened to it.


Debra June 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Ogden Nash. For me, the best poetry is funny


Clark June 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I think you might enjoy my favorite poet: Russell Edson. He is a prose poet with a disconcerting sense of the absurd, always strange and usually combining humor and menace, though sometimes just one or the other. A career compilation, The Tunnel, is available online.


Ron July 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I’v always had a fondness for A.E. Houseman’s stuff.
Took a book of Frost on a camping trip a few years ago and found it pretty satisfying to read his poems again for the first time since college, 20+ years ago.


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