This week, I asked Sheboygan Poet Laureate Lisa Vihos if she’d be willing to close out National Poetry Month by sharing some recommendations for poetry she loves! She was kind enough to do so, and here’s what she wanted to share:
When someone asks me “who is your favorite poet?” I am usually at a loss because I don’t have just one favorite poet. I have many! I don’t even have one favorite kind of poetry. By that I mean, I’m not more partial to free verse than I am to formal poems (like haiku, sestinas, sonnets or villanelles). I like them all! If you are writing poems, forms are fun to experiment with because they provide a structure that needs to be maintained, but without sounding forced. That is always a great and interesting challenge. I recently learned of a Vietnamese poem form called a luc bat in which the lines alternate between six syllables and eight syllables, and in which the rhyme scheme is rather complex across the lines:
x x x x x A
x x x x x A x B
x x x x x B
x x x x x B x C
x x x x x C
x x x x x C x D
etc. as long as you want to go! I actually wrote several luc bat poems for the recent project, Poetry by Post, that will be on view in the display case on the first floor of the library in the month of May. See if you can find the luc bats!
As for some favorite poets, I’ll give you a few who I always love to return to, as well as one poet who I just recently discovered. Head to the stacks and look for:
Rumi: Bridge to the Soul by Rumi
Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. What I love about his poems (in translation, of course!) is the way that they sound very contemporary to me, even though they were written eight centuries ago. His words are so full of wisdom and show the interconnectedness of all things.
Say Uncle by Kay Ryan
Kay Ryan was the United States poet laureate in 2008. Her poems are generally short, skinny, succinct nuggets that are full of rhyme and meaning. Sometimes she is sarcastic, sometimes humorous, always wise. As the reviewer Katha Pollitt has said of her work, “Kay Ryan’s poems are like diamonds—small, sharp, brilliant.” I agree!
Given by Wendell Berry
I love the pictures that Wendell Berry creates with clear, bold, simple language. He conjures up rural places and I feel like I am standing right there with him, in the old barn, in the forest, along the river. His poems have a conversational feeling to them, and every single word always seems just right.
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
The poems of Layli Long Soldier grapple with history, both personal and communal. In this book, she explores the relationship between political speech (like the word, “whereas,”) and the injustices suffered by Indigenous people in this country for so many centuries. Krista Tippett interviewed the poet for On Being, and this conversation led me to this book.
I hope that this gives a taste of a few things to look for in the stacks. There is a lot of poetry in the library, online, and in the world. I hope you will go find it. And while you are looking, maybe you will write some poetry yourself!