I took my first poetry class in my last year of college. It was an unusual group ranging in age from 18 to 72 and we all came to this class for surprising reasons. To learn skills unique to writing poetry. To find new favorite poets. To help start our first book of poetry. To have structured writing time. To claim a writing credit. The class was small so we all sat around one round table and listened to our professor, a young, recent graduate, tell us what poetry meant to him. A poetry class is different than any other writing class in that it heavily revolves around discussing poems and what the poet might have been thinking or feeling in writing the poem. We would analyze a booklet of poems each week and discuss how it made us feel. This class didn’t make me a better poet, but it made me appreciate poetry, which will help me along my way.
Poetry books have started popping up in top book lists, highlighted at Powells and on Amazon along with the usual door stopper fiction. It’s been exciting for me to pick up these books and find something in them that makes me feel something new and unusual. At a time where the majority of the country is feeling scared, alone, and anxious about the upcoming political change, poetry might be part of the potion to heal.
My favorite poet is Mark Strand. I was just a kid when I flipped through a poetry book at my grandmothers and found one of his poems. I wrote his name on a scrap of paper and shoved it in my pocket and found it again much later. It’s what set me off. Now I’m dabbling in these newer poets, popular poets, and classic poets, trying to find others that hit that sweet spot. No better time than now to start that process yourself.