The Poetry Corner

The Poetry Corner

Last week, I started writing a post that opened with an observation about how frequently I’d been posting, but I never got around to finishing it. Or posting it. And then I let several days go by without doing anything with it, resulting in that opening statement being entirely untrue. So, I’m starting again, with an observation about how typical my current schedule is: erratic, unpredictable, and irregular. Excellent.

Talking of erratic posting, I sort of forgot that I have a book blog. Well. I didn’t forget — there’s a link to it in the menu of this blog, and I guess I occasionally look at books and think, “I should review that,” but never do anything about it. But I hadn’t posted anything since November of last year, which is frankly pathetic.

On Monday, though, I started volunteering with the Reading Challenge (this year it’s the Record Breakers challenge) at my local library, and was paired with another volunteer who had recently started a book blog. You can find him, and his blog, over at “How To Read Books“, so check that out if you’ve a mind to do so.

When he told me this, I considered the matter for a moment. “I have a book blog,” I told him eventually. “Except I literally never update it.”

And then I spent that evening redesigning it (until way too late / early) because the old theme bothered me, and decided to finally do this thing properly, with a regular schedule. My long-time readers are laughing already. The idea of me conforming to any sort of schedule, ever, is pretty absurd. But I figured book reviews are less time-sensitive, so I can write them when I’ve got the time and inclination, and schedule them for a regular day, right?

Thus, I present to you the new and improved Miriam Joy Reads, currently featuring book reviews on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, although this may drop to once a week during term time. Maybe I’ll sometimes have extra posts on weekends (shelfies, a brief post about latest book acquisitions or whatever), but for the most part, that’s the plan. Book reviews, three times a week.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t read enough books for that, seriously. And I forget them so fast that maybe writing reviews will help me remember a few more details.

But don’t worry. This blog will remain its normal esoteric, eclectic and erratic self. (Check out that alliteration.) It will still contain its usual rambles about writing, feminism, the world, life, growing up… all the sorts of things I just love to go on and on about. And I still won’t be keeping to a regular schedule, though it’s less likely that I’ll post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays if I’m using my blogging time to review books, and instead you might catch me here on the other days of the week — who knows?

I’ve been thinking about books quite a lot, actually. I mean, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. But I’ve been thinking a lot about my attitude to owning books. I love stories most of all, so I’m not the kind of book lover who won’t let anyone touch my shelves, insists on perfect condition, and collects special editions as though they’re my dragon’s hoard. I’m happy with library books, Kindle editions and second-hand copies — even if non-matching editions do make me rather sad.

As a result of reading most of my books from the library, I have a lot of incomplete series, and as a result of literally never getting rid of any books ever, I have a lot of books from my childhood. But what I don’t have a lot of is poetry.

I think this is a shame. I also think it’s hypocritical of me to expect other people to buy my poetry when I don’t buy much myself, even if mine’s a lot cheaper than traditionally published collections (psst! The most expensive one is only £3 on Kindle!). But mostly I just feel like I’m missing out on the chance to sample more than the poetry I studied in school and the sort of general canon of well-known poems that most people hear at some point in their lives.

Over the last year, largely thanks to Christmas and birthday presents from my uncle, I’ve acquired some poetry collections by poets I’d never read before: Kate Tempest, Liz Berry, Jorie Graham. For myself I bought some Ted Hughes, Peter Porter and Sandra Beasley, and from the family bookshelves I nabbed some Rilke and a couple of other bits and pieces to try out.

Even so, my poetry shelf literally occupies about six inches of space on one shelf in the corner, next to the books I studied at school, a few classics, and some Shakespeare. One’s attention is usually drawn to the duct-taped copy of the Aeneid or the rainbow wrapping paper with which my sister wrapped To Kill A Mockingbird when she owned it; the poetry seems like an afterthought.

Poetry is expensive, prohibitively so. But how can that ever change if the demand isn’t there and the market remains tiny? Of course, that’s not the only barrier. It’s not easy to browse poetry online, so it’s the kind of thing that requires a visit to a quality bookshop, which isn’t always easy to find.

But I’ve got a £20 Waterstone’s voucher waiting to be used (it’s so old, it’s a paper one rather than a gift card), and maybe it’s time I took myself on a trip to London or Bluewater, the nearest decent-sized Waterstones to me, to try and build up that poetry shelf.

Because how can I ever really improve as a poet if I don’t read beyond the A-Level English syllabus, without being challenged by contrasting and conflicting styles? Frankly, I can’t.

So here is a question for all of you. On my trip to Waterstone’s, as and when it happens, are there any particular poets or collections you think I should investigate? What would you recommend adding to my collection based on what’s already there?

4 thoughts on “The Poetry Corner

  1. Throwing out a few names that spring to mind for perspective and style:

    Individuals: Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Nathaniel Mackey, Walt Whitman, Kofi Awoonor,

    Anthologies: the Metaphysical Poets, the Beat Poets

    1. Thanks. I’ve read some Sylvia Plath — while studying The Bell Jar, we were also encouraged to read her poetry — but not a great deal. And I’ve got T.S.Eliot’s “Selected Poems”, which I like: “The Hollow Men” is my favourite of his work. I’ve not read Maya Angelou beyond anything we did in school, and I’ve tried a bit of Whitman but not much. Never approached Nathaniel Mackey or Kofi Awoonor that I’m aware of, though; I’ll look into them. :)

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