Book Fitting: First Date with Poetry

Book Fitting: In Which a Librarian Tries On a Book

You’ve found a match on OkCupid who seems attractive. You really want to like them. They’re obviously smarter than you but claim to be laid back, sometimes even funny. You agree to a date. But every time you’re getting ready to meet them, you bail. Too intense. You’re just not in the mood. You feel embarrassed. You’ve used any number of excuses.

I knew someone named Poet once. She said my aura was dirty. I’m not talking about her. I’m talking about that free verse gribble garble you gave up after freshman English because it didn’t rhyme, or you didn’t “get” it, or somehow two pages felt longer than a Ken Follett novel and you couldn’t bear it any longer. And now when people mention poets, you nod your head as if you’re familiar with them.

You are not familiar.

This Valentine’s Day, how about picking up poetry one more time? Just try it on and see how you like it. Below is a list of poetry that is full of emotion and intellect and the beauty of language but also (and this is key) not boring or stuffy or difficult to understand. These poets are everything their online dating profile would “doth declare”. I’ve also included poem suggestions to give to your loved ones this V-Day because I’m just. that. good.

poems(Look how trim these books stay. You can definitely read a book this size)

Wendell Berry, Entries: Try: “For an Absence” is a bee-you-tiful poem to send to a loved one far away or someone who has lost a loved one.

Nikki Giovanni, Love Poems: Try: Oh gee, all the poems from the I Hope It’s Love section are great to give to your sweetheart, but “I Wrote a Good Omelet” is particularly perfect for those in the infatuation stage.

Conrad Hilberry, Until the Full Moon Has Its Say: Try: Give yourself a valentine and read “Enormous Leaf”.

Galway Kinnell, Selected Poems: Try: “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”, this is a lovely romantic poem to put in the Valentine card of the mother or father of your children and probably not a good poem to give to someone you just started dating with the note, “This will be us!”

Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows: Try: Please give “After Years” to a unrequited love. This poem is good for a wistful sigh.

Philip Levine, News of the World: Try: “Of Love and Other Disasters” is a poem for the anti-Valentines Day crowd.

Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair: Try: Send along “Tonight I Can Write” to an old flame you hope to reunite with. It’s less creepy than just liking all of her selfies on Facebook.

Grace Paley, New and Collected Poems: Try: send along “Note to Grandparents” to Grandma and Grandpa along with the kind of crappy valentines your kids made them in school or give the poem “Love” to your love-r.

Carl Sandburg, Selected Poems: Try Up here in the North country, we need to dream of warmer, happier times like “Village in Late Summer” (originally from Cornhuskers).

If you don’t want to jump all the way into one author, you can speed-date several by browsing through a collection and seeing who you might be interested in. Browsing compilations is like match.com for books. Try:

Bartlett’s Poems for Occasions, edited by Geoffrey O’Brien

Good Poems by Garrison Keillor

If you fall in love with poetry all winter long, come spring you can go to the FREE Poet’s Night Out at the City Opera House on April 26, listen to poems by local poets and vote for your favorite.

Featured photo credit: Sweet disposition,hearts texture,hearts bokeh via photopin (license)