Recently in Poetry Category

egghead.jpegBo Burnham is a comedy prodigy. Not like the old dial-up computer service Prodigy, with its garishly colored message boards and bizarre games, but like a child prodigy in the manner of Mozart (but with a bit more profanity and less powdered wigs). Bo released his first comedy album online in 2008 at the age of eighteen, and his career and skills have been soaring ever since. So when I find out that Bo had written a book, Egghead, or You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone, I eagerly checked it out from the library, wondering exactly what sort of approach the YouTube video star took to bring his comedy style to the printed page. I was not expecting a book of poetry.

The comparison to Shel Silverstein is inevitable, given that it is a book of humor poems accompanied by drawings (by artist Chance Bone); Bo even cites Shel in the acknowledgments. Amazingly, however, the comparison is apt (though fans of The Giving Tree be warned, you probably do not want your children reading Egghead). Egghead has an excellent mix of poems that are wickedly funny, surprisingly touching, and absolutely bizarre. To demonstrate, here's just one of the poems from the book:

Wooden Soldiers

I bought a box of wooden soldiers.
I bought them from the store.
And now a hundred tiny soldiers
guard my bedroom floor.

So if you're a scary monster-thing
who wants to go to war,
my bedroom door is open.
I'm not frightened anymore.

Tim @ Central

Throw the Damn Ball by R D Rosen, et al


Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs by R. D. Rosen, Harry Prichett, and Rob Battles

Let your poetry-loving pooch share the couch for a read-aloud of this collection--poems from the canine perspective accompanied by photos of dogs being dogs. Most of the focus is on food, sticks, toys and body and potty humor--which is where it's at for dogs! Especially fun are the titles or lines that reference famous poems, at least the ones which even I recognized: "Whose Ball This is I Think I Know", "Do not go gentle into that dog run", "I think that I shall never see/ A poem as lovely as a half-eaten sandwich", and from 'Growl': "I saw the best of my generation/ barking madly moonward". Five paws for this one!

Chris at Bay View and Tippecanoe

National Book Awards 2013

The National Book Awards (NBA) has a reputation for recognizing literary excellence. Independent panels of five writers choose the National Book Award Winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. Take a look at the 2013 winners.


Nonfiction--The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer paints a picture of the last 30 years of life in America by following several citizens, including the son of tobacco farmers in the rural south, a Washington insider who denies his idealism for riches, and Silicon Valley billionaire.


Fiction--The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.


Poetry--Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. One poem is presented as a diagrammed sentence. Another is an abecedarium made of lines of dialogue spoken by girls overheard while assembling a puzzle. Several poems arrive as a series of Annunciations, while others purport to give an update on Mary, who must finish the dishes before she will open herself to God. Inside these poems is a deep yearning for love, motherhood, the will to see things as they are and to speak.


Young People's Literature--The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Just when 12-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong in a year filled with bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for the harvest workers.

Jacki @ Central

Good Poems; edited by Garrison Keillor

There is so much poetry in the world; breaking into the world of reading it can be really difficult! Old, new, conceptual, rhyming, short, epic - poetry basically covers all the adjectives. Sometimes it can be a real slog trying to get through a poetry book, no matter how much you like the poet or the poetry, because reading a bunch of someone's work right in a row can be a little exhausting. Enter: the poetry compilation.

Garrison Keillor hosts an entirely enjoyable week-daily radio piece/podcast called The Writer's Almanac. Each episode clocks in around a mere 5 minutes long, making it an unobtrusive addition to your daily listening. The first half is literary and historical information about that day in history and the second half is a poem. From the archives of these shows he has put together several poetry compilations that are absolutely perfect for the novice poetry-reader. They are Good Poems, Good Poems for Hard Times, and Good Poems American Places. They are a very eclectic mix of poems organized along themes, and the poems vary greatly in style, length, and tone. There are some terrifically funny poems and some absolutely devastating ones too. If there's one you don't like, you can just move on to the next. That's the beauty of a compilation!

My personal favorite of these three is Good Poems for Hard Times. The poets range from old favorites Walt Whitman and Edna St. Vincent Millay to new favorites Barbara Hamby and Maxine Kumin. They're organized in earnest and poignant chapters such as "This Lust of Tenderness," "Let It Spill," and "Such as It Is More or Less." My personal copy has little flags throughout for all the poems I love reading when I'm not feeling so great. I can always flip through and find the right one that hits the spot.

Allie @ Central

Pultizer Prizes Announced


There is a Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. The winner is The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, described as "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart."

Other finalists are:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander -- "A diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader."

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - "An enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the hard wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope."

The prizes in the other book awards went to (finalists listed here):

History: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall -- "a balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war."

Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss -- "a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels."

Non-fiction: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King -- "a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle."

Poetry: Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds -- "a book of unflinching poems on the author's divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge."

Add some poetry to your life this April in celebration of National Poetry Month. Many people don't read poetry simply because they don't know where to start. We are here to help! For each of the popular fiction titles below there is a matching poetry collection with a similar theme, tone, or writing style. Find the collection that fits your interest. Happy reading!

If you like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice Series, try:


Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. Le Guin

You may be familiar with fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin's novels, but did you know she began her career as a poet? Finding My Elegy is a collection of her best poems spanning over 50 years. With the compelling and richly detailed language similar to Martin's series, Finding My Elegy is sure to transport you to another world.

Excerpt from A Lament for Rheged:
In the cold days/ of the end of December/ in dead Rheged/ I stand alone.
Winter wind/binds hand/binds tongue./The songs are sung./No fires burn.

Flying At Night.jpgIf you like Marissa Silver's Mary Coin, try:

Flying at Night by Ted Kooser

Mary Coin is a fictional account of the life of the unknown woman featured in Migrant Mother, a famous Depression-era photograph. The novel's moving and reflective tone immediately reminded me of Great Plains poet Ted Kooser's work, particularly Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985. Kooser writes about everyday life and his subjects are often from the rural Midwest. He has a wonderful ability to write about the past with a keen eye towards understanding the hardships of the time.

Kristina @ Central

Celebrate National Poetry Month

While year-round, life-long reading of poetry is encouraged, National Poetry Month is a great way to celebrate the reading, the sharing, and the writing of poetry. You can even subscribe to receive daily poems by email for free, all year long.

Red Doc> by Anne Carson

Continuing the adventures of Geryon in Autobiography of Red, who is called only "G" in this volume, the modern world is observed through prose poems, marrying myth with contemporary culture. G is stunned and appalled by humanity, travelling with a lover named Sad and an artist named Ida, he faces death and love with maturity.


Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton by John Borling

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword--or, in this case, the mind and scarred knuckles. This collection was composed while the author was held in military prison by the Viet Cong for eight years. By rapping on the cell walls with his knuckles, Borling communicated pain and despair as well as humor and hope to his fellow prisoners.


The Oldest Word for Dawn: New and Selected Poems by Brad Leithauser

This collection explores the varied subjects of prehistory, travel and love through quirky patterns and inventive designs taken from traditional forms. Readers come upon a sonnet in one-syllable lines, a clanging rhyme-mad tribute to the music of Tin Pan Alley, and autobiography through parodies of Frost and Keats and Omar Khayyám.

Jacki @ Central




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