Hello, my poetry-nerd friends! Today I can’t help gushing about poetry books I’ve read recently and loved.
First off, I want to talk about the poetry collection What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer. Then I want to delve into a classic book on poetry as a craft, A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver. We’ll follow that up with a quickie poetry prompt for your writing practice pleasure. Sounds good? Excellent, let’s go!
What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
A New York Times bestseller published in 2020, Kate Baer’s debut poetry collection is both remarkable and relatable. As a mom of two young kids, this collection hit home for me. We’re struggling here and Kate captures the mood of a generation of women caught between the old guard expectations of what marriage and motherhood should be like, and the new internal expectations of looking for equal footing and missing a step.
Baer writes in a style that is both irreverent and refreshing. For example, “Like a Wife” takes some terrible wedding day advice and ends in a fun cannibalism for the giver of that advice.
There is something about her style that on the surface seems simple and straightforward, but underneath there is a complexity and creativity that begs for a second and third reading.
If you’ll forgive me for taking poetic license here, her words taste like dandelions (I see these words everywhere) but once in your body burst in your nervous system like a firecracker (why am I crying right now?).
These are brave words, set down by someone who has suffered but who has turned that pain into a weapon to curve back the curtain and shine a light on how powerful women can be. There is hope here.
Her poem “On the Evening of Her Birth” captures the overwhelming emotions brought on by tucking her newborn under her chin, “even the glass of water is poetry now,” perfectly captures the mysterious intersection of the miracle of motherhood and the persistent reality of practical matters.
Her newest collection of poems—I Hope This Finds You Well—will be released in November, and you know I have a copy on order already! (I order all the best poetry books)
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
I am personally drawn to Mary Oliver in the same way I am drawn to the poems of Robert Frost. Often their poetry focuses on the quiet happenings in nature. I will never write The Iliad, but when I see the willow tree in my backyard pick up her tresses in a gust of wind and the setting sun shines through, I feel like this is what miracles look like.
If you’re looking for a craft book on poetry, no matter what your favorite subject matter, you can’t go wrong with Mary Oliver.
Her philosophy on writing and improving the craft is simple—conductors, painters, and musicians are taught step by step ways to improve their passions, and building a poem is no different. The desire to write a poem in the first place may be mysterious, but the techniques to get those words polished and impactful are things anyone can learn, and she can teach you those things. I am still finishing this one but my biggest takeaway so far is her advice about poetry workshops. She says if we have a choice between reading poetry and taking a workshop on poetry, read the poetry. Some solid guidance.
Last but not Least—Quickie Poetry Prompt
Now I am veering from poetry books, but this is still poetry adjacent! Recently I splurged on some magnetic poetry tiles to put on my fridge. Almost every day this week as I’m filling a glass of water I pull out a sentence. Just one. Here are a few:
when will the whisper roll into a kiss
barefoot sky clouds bring rain thoughts
They’re silly and fun, but also inspiring. The trifecta. I also like that I’m forced to use only the words in front of me. It is a wonderful way to tune in, focus, and be reminded that poetry is everywhere: in the words of the street signs we pass, in the graffiti on the railway overpass, and even on the magnetic tiles on our fridge.
Next time you’re out for a walk, take note of the street names. Could any of those be the start of a poem? Bring those words in, work them around like a jigsaw puzzle until you find the pattern. It doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean sonnet, but it does have to be fun. I would love to hear what you come up with!
Share a line or two in the comments below.
Happy writing (poetry) and reading!
Tell us in the comments: What poetry books have you been loving lately?
Angela Yeh hails from Atlantic Canada but lives and works in Texas – after her liberal arts degree she wandered into Corporate Canada but managed to escape. She is a fantasy author who is gobsmacked she gets to work for and with writers from all over the world at DIYMFA.com. She considers it a personal challenge to find an article or podcast that will answer any question you ask us. Bring it on! She lives with her family, big Texas pine trees, and three cranky fur babies. You can check her out on Instagram or Twitter.