Poetry in the New Year

Moon Rise Through the Locust Tree

The end of year holidays seem to go on forever.

With Christmas and New Year’s on a Wednesday, from Dec. 20 until Jan. 7 I will have worked only two days at the home, farm and auto supply store. Yesterday I needed to get out of the house.

I found a box and filled it with discards for the public library book sale, the second such box this winter. As soon as it was filled, I drove it in, donated the contents, and socialized with friends. There will be more donations by the time I get organized for 2020 writing projects.

Afterward I stopped at a convenience store to buy a lottery ticket before finding my way home. Restlessness abated.

Who reads poetry? Why do we read it?

These are not a random questions. I have a few hundred books of poetry I’m either going to read, re-read, or get rid of. I’m interested in the 21st century case for reading poetry in a time of social media. I believe there is one.

I read poetry. When I do it’s mostly because of how I connect to the poet.

I’m thinking of Lucia Perillo who taught at Southern Illinois University during the time I was regularly visiting the Shawnee National Forest. I’m not sure I met her but the creative community there was small and tightly knit. Her poetry resonates of that time.

I’m thinking of Donald Justice who I encountered at the UPS terminal in Coralville. He was shipping books to himself in Chapel Hill, N.C., leaving Iowa.

I’m thinking of Robert Laughlin, William Carlos Williams’ editor at New Directions, who spoke about his last times with Williams at an event at the Lindquist Center in Iowa City.

I’m thinking of poets who visited and stayed at our rental on Gilbert Court in Iowa City: David Morice, Darrell Gray, Pat O’Donnell, Jim Mulac, Sheila Heldenbrand, Alan Kornblum, and the rest.

I’ve noticed there are many bad poets and plenty of good ones. If we can find ways to connect with poets, it makes time engaging and worthwhile. It smooths off the rough edges. Poetry can give us a different way of seeing our lives. We can get lost in the words, conjured images, and emotions. We need that from time to time.

As we begin a new year filled with tumult and uncertainty, I am reading again. I’m not ready to give up on the imagination. It’s there we may find relief and salvation.

Best wishes for a happy new year from On Our Own.