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The Sad Reputation of Poetry
When most people think of reading poetry, their mind probably jumps to the classics like Shakespeare, and let’s be honest, they probably instantly lose interest. Stuffy prose, flowery language, iambic pentameter… all this comes to mind like some high school flashback nightmare. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone I’m reading poetry and their nose instantly wrinkled in distaste.
On one hand, it seems to be that I’m admired for sticking it out and reading poetry but on the other hand, people will instantly tell me that poetry just isn’t for them.
I, friends, am here to tell you that poetry is for everyone. I can already hear the groans from near and far. But hear me out- I’m going to convince you that poetry is a breath of fresh air and the ideal palate cleanser for an avid reader.
My Convincing Argument
Listen, all of us are different and all of us have different tastes. However, I guarantee you that every avid reader has had a book hangover. You know, where you read an incredible book that drags you deep into its world- a literary meal that you simultaneously gorge yourself on as fast as possible so as to taste every flavor but also hope to never reach the end of. You devour it page after page then BOOM! It’s over. You finished it. You sit there in a haze, unsure of what just happened.
You become listless. You find and discard book after book hoping to recapture the magic but nothing seems up to the task. Enter stage left: Contemporary Poetry.
The Palate Cleanser
Many of you are likely rolling your eyes at me but I’m serious. Contemporary poetry is a gift of literature, the ideal palate cleanser. Poetry books tend to be rather short, ranging from 80-120 pages typically. Contemporary poetry is written by a diverse group of poets with vast lived experience. You can read about the good old standard topic: love. You can also read about growing up as an immigrant in the US, buying your first bra, or trying to figure out what an orgasm is like from friends.
So please, dip your toe into the world of contemporary poetry. The water is warm, I promise! I’ve rounded up four books that I really enjoyed reading after a book hangover.
4 Books to Start Reading Poetry
Revel in Chen Chen’s ability to weave stories of love and learning through poems exploring his identity as a queer Asian American immigrant. Chen Chen writes with a sense of self that is a joy to read. He elicits feelings of longing, and writes about love.
In which she includes poems by her younger self, a brave move if you ask me. The poems I wrote at twelve I would be slightly self-conscious to publish. I love that she is okay with us seeing all of her, even the silly young parts. Alternating between serious themes and tongue in cheek poems (see Orgasm), you can’t go wrong.
Is a journey that pulls you in from the beginning. He writes of growing up, of being a child, of having a family, of falling in love. All the things that we experience as humans, yet his keen insight into how these themes impact us via a handful of stanzas is clear eyed.
Be ready to be enchanted. Rupi Kaur seemed to start the trend, between her sweet short poems and her illustrations her book was a joy for me to read. I know that some people argue that the market is over saturated with her poems, but I disagree. Go back to where it began and prepare to be delighted.
What poetry books do you recommend as a palate cleanser to your friends?