Saturday, February 21, 2009

Twenty Poetry Books

I was tagged on facebook to do this, but I thought I might as well do it here instead. The tag was essentially this: “What are 20 poetry books (if there are twenty) that made you fall in love with poetry?”

So here’s my initial playlist. Which is, I’m not claiming these as the best books of all time, and I’m also not claiming them as the books I return to most often, or that they are the best books by the individual poets listed, and I’m also skipping anthologies. These were—simply stated—the ones I came into contact with that changed something fundamental in me at the time, things I’ve remained changed by, organized here roughly in the order in which I encountered them, starting around 1986:

Selected Poems, Robert Lowell
Country Music, Charles Wright
Collected Poems, Wallace Stevens
The Desert Music, William Carlos Williams
Selected Poems, John Ashbery
The Complete Poems, Elizabeth Bishop
Selected Poems, James Tate
Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein
Dark Harbor, Mark Strand
Notes for Echo Lake, Michael Palmer
Region of Unlikeness, Jorie Graham
Of Being Numerous, George Oppen
The Wild Iris, Louise Gluck
Lawn of Excluded Middle, Rosmarie Waldrop
Selected Poems 74-94, Gustaf Sobin
Eyetrouble, Martha Ronk
Chicamauga, Charles Wright
Massacre of the Innocents, Bin Ramke
Viridian, Paul Hoover
Louise in Love, Mary Jo Bang

There are many books I’ve read that are as good as the books on this list, but they came along to support or clarify or otherwise swerve from these core books. The last ten years alone have brought wonderful work that continues to strike me, but trying to name it all would just be impossible. Suffice it to say it’s everything I’ve been talking about on my blog since I started it.


So what core texts do you carry around? What books of poetry have put tapes in your head that continue to play, long after?


At 2/23/2009 7:03 AM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

John, your list reminds me -- on my list, I forgot to include Charles Wright! Reading his "World of the Ten Thousand Things" compilation was a real turning point for me.

At 2/23/2009 7:25 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I feel similarly about your mention of Lux and another mention by someone over the weekend of Berryman's Dream Songs...

I've been debating with myself if they went onto the list, what would come off, given as we're only allowed 20 books, naturally.


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