Rather than dither around the bookshelves last night (Kindle is now reserved for off-property reading) I walked up to the poetry bookcase and pulled out three volumes of poetry. My night reading was Katrina Vandenberg, Peggy Shumaker, and W.S. Merwin.
Don’t you just appreciate the thinness of books of poetry? Unless they are anthologies or complete collections, of course, most volumes of poetry are less than 200 pages; slight books with most of the weight contained within the words. Perfect for night reading.
I fanned the pages of one volume, finding a word or title that looked interesting and I read the poem. Then I flipped through a few more pages, read another poem, turned the page and read another poem. Then I changed books, followed the same process, and read my way randomly through some great poetry.
Recreational poetry reading. At one point, a Merwin poem, I found a passage that I really liked and thought I should save for a future project’s inspiration. I didn’t mark it, just thought “I should remember this” Isn’t it wonderful that from these slight volumes of poetry I can find and then find again a poem that is particularly apt?
I remember trying to find a specific Emily Dickinson poem in my Complete Works of E. Dickinson, a thick book with thin pages and so many poems. It took weeks, it required reading every single poem, it was a long and wonderful process. I marked that poem, and then I memorized it. I can still recite it, all 8 lines of it. A great poem, a great poet, but best appreciated in small amounts.
What was truly delightful about random poetry reading is that I can take three different volumes this evening and do the same thing. There is no pressure to understand the book’s premise, just the ability to appreciate individual poems as individual poems. I don’t have to commit to a long term (full book) relationship with the poet. No need to decide what I want to read, what topic, what type. Instead I get a small elegant buffet of individually portioned delicacies set out for me to select and savor.