Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Muse: '365 Poems'

365 Poems Cover Art

I subscribe to more than my fair share of online poetry sites, each one different enough from the other that I appreciate them all. Still, I don't think I'll ever be ready to commit solely to the virtual word. I prefer print, and I especially prefer poetry in print, and I make no apologies for that. 

Recently, I've added quite a few new volumes to my eight-plus bookshelves of poetry collections, anthologies, and chapbooks. One of the most recent additions is 365 Poems for Every Occasion from the Academy of American Poets, more commonly recognized by its Website address, All the poems, selected by editor Tamar Brazis, come from the academy's well-known Poem-A-Day program, which delivers a poem daily by e-mail to many hundreds of thousands of subscribers. While each of the poems resides and can be found in its proper place(s) on the academy's Website, the publication of 365 Poems marks the first time a year's worth have been made available in print.

There is much to recommend this attractively designed, hard-bound book. Poet Edward Hirsch contributes an introduction that beautifully conveys what poetry is and can do, how it "sings us into being." Sized at 5.5" x 1.4" x 7", the collection fits well in the hand, even when open; it's substantial without feeling heavy. The anthology contains two indices, one alphabetical by poet name and the other alphabetical by subject. Of the 17 broad subject categories, "Death", "Love", "Nature", and the collective seasons are primary.

Some of the 295 poets appear more than once. Favorites — Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty, Carolyn Forche, Jack Gilbert, Denise Levertov, W.S. Merwin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Linda Pastan, Adrienne Rich, to name just a few — are featured alongside the well-known and expected — Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rainer Maria Rilke, Christina Rossetti, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams — and still there is room for those "new" and awaiting readers' discovery — Jericho Brown, CAConrad, Joy Harjo, Fady Joudah, Yusef Komunyakaa, Larry Levis, Khaled Mattawa, January Gill O'Neil, Lola Ridge, Dean Young, Matthew Zapruder. The only biographical information provided is year of birth and, as appropriate, year of death. Classic, modern, contemporary; familiar and first-time-read; formalists, and not; varied in the demographics they represent, all these are poets who, Hirsch suggests, "enlarge" life by showing us what "happens in words".

The poems themselves are grouped by month, January through December. There is a poem for each day of every month (the exception being February 29, or Leap Day), although the days are not numbered. Readers' time is respected: None of the poems is particularly lengthy; many run less than a full page, and some are even shorter (Carl Sandburg's "Window" is just three lines long). Within the monthly framework, it seems care has been taken to loosely group some poems thematically, perhaps with a particular season in mind or for an occasion such as Valentine's Day (see the first days of poetry for the month of February). 

One could quarrel a bit with the for Every Occasion part of the title, but no matter. This book is about promoting the reading and enjoyment of poetry, and it succeeds equally as well as its online counterpart in making itself a handy companion to anyone's daily poetry practice. 

1 comment:

Lidy said...

I'm one of the many subscribers of the Poem-A-Day program. And I enjoy discovering new poets and their poetry. Recent favorites are Dane Smith and his poem " The Bullet was a Girl" and Rangi McNeil's "The Heart Is a Foreign Country."