If you think you don’t like poetry, you need to read these poets. If you do like poetry, you need to read these poets.

April is National Poetry Month and poetry is making a comeback, perhaps because poems offer a complete experience in few lines compared to other genres.  Like a reduction sauce, you receive intensity in a smaller bite. Poets focus on word placement and electricity, and

B.H. Fairchild

The Blue Buick, New and Selected Poems

Funny enough, B.H. Fairchild spent most of his life trying to get out of flat land Kansas, only to spend much of his career writing about it. His poems tell stories with rich characters, like watching your favorite movie, but in just a few lines. His work is not only tender and honest but often hilarious. One of the best character sketches ever, from “Keats.”

I knew him. He ran the lathe next to mine.
A short guy, but fearless. At Margie’s
he would take no lip, put the mechanic big
as a Buick through a stack of crates out back
and walked away with a broken thumb
but never said a word. Marge was a loud
dirty girl with booze breath and bad manners.
He loved her….


 

Ellen Bass

The Human Line
As a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, Ellen Bass is a household name for poets and writers. But if you haven’t heard of her, relish the discovery. She writes with a gentle, stark awareness. In her book The Human Line, she addresses all forms of love. Having met her, Bass exudes a generosity that made a mark on me. Start with “Gate C22” and you will never smell Cinnabon without thinking of true love again. Here’s an excerpt.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray. She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish kisses

We were all watching–
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons….


 

Mary Oliver

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

The world mourns the loss of best selling poet, Mary Oliver, who died in January at the age of 83. She was known for her privacy, daily walks and for traipsing the woods. She once said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” When I read her work, I feel both inspired to seize the day and be content with the ease of it. She made the world seem small, yet limitless. An excerpt from “Wild Geese.”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.