I haven’t mentioned it on the blog since, oh, let’s see, it looks like it was last June, but 2011 was the year I started trying to read a poem a day. To recap, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by poetry and haven’t made the time to read much in the past, but when I do read poetry, my mind and thoughts slow down to a pace that is much healthier for my heart and soul. So, I wanted to take time each day for a year to read a poem, preferably out loud.
You might have guessed from the fact that I didn’t mention it again in the second half of the year, but I didn’t exactly read 365 poems in 2011. I did read a couple hundred more than I read in 2010 or any preceding year, though. I started the year off right with Wendell Berry and A Timbered Choir, then read a couple of not-so-memorable books by people whose names I won’t mention (because they’re not memorable), then got bogged down in Emily Dickinson in the summer. Her poems aren’t boggy, but the large “collected poems” volume of hers is quite boggy if you don’t take a break from it. Somewhere around July I found myself reading a poem every other day, then every couple of days. Soon after that, I was reading only poems I came across in literary journals or posted as poem-of-the-day by a few people I follow on Twitter or Facebook.
Honestly, I’m ok with that. Mostly because in 2010 I would skip over a poem in a magazine or newsfeed. Now, I stop and read them. It’s not the same (i.e. not as good, as beneficial, as dedicated) as reading through an entire set of poems by one person, but it has helped expose me to a great many more poets than I’ve ever read before, including some writers who are my contemporaries.
On January 1st of this year, I found myself sitting under a group of trees on the banks of the Columbia, looking back on a few of my favorite poems from last year, trying to take Wendell Berry’s advice about how to read his poetry. My desire to keep reading poems on a regular basis is renewed. As I read back over some of my posts on poetry from last year, I was reminded of my quest to read more poets who aren’t white and from the eastern part of the U.S. My friend Erin left a comment suggesting Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet from the previous century. I remember at the time she left the comment, the library here in the Tri-Cities didn’t have anything by him, and I never got around to finding his work anywhere else. This year, however, the library has a brand new copy of an anthology of his — which makes me wonder if he’s suddenly under demand by others in the Tri-Cities or if the librarians can see a list of search terms and ordered this book after I looked for it. Helpful, but sort of creepy (although, who am I to complain, with my fascination for looking at search terms?).
To sum up, if my goal had been to check a poem a day off a list in my 2011 calendar, I failed. But since I wanted to develop a greater appreciation for poetry, one that I hope lasts a lifetime, I’m calling the year a success.