Has Poetry Kicked the Bucket?

March 27, 2015 | Maureen

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In 2013, a Washington Post headline asked, “Is poetry dead?” A few weeks later, an answer seemed to come from the UK newspaper, The Independent: “Poetry is dying. Actually, it’s pretty dead already…”  Another nail seemed to be hammered into poetry's coffin with this article title: "Poetry is dead. What the hell happened?" (PiD magazine) As the librarian responsible for the Canadian poetry collection at North York Central Library, I’d just like to say that reports of poetry’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Poets today rarely, if ever, attract the readership that popular fiction writers do. Still, poetry continues to be written, quoted, loved. If I were banished to a desert island for a year and could bring only one book, I’d choose a fat poetry anthology over fiction (even though I adore fiction.) If I was offered a swap -- my fat poetry book for a sack of fiction -- I’d refuse. With all that spare time on my hands on the island, I'd glut myself on poetry, I'd swallow it whole, memorizing it, furnishing my mind palace with a tyger, tyger burning bright, and a Jabberwock with eyes of flame. Christina Rossetti's little goblin men tramping down the glen would have a place there, too. (Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market" really makes me hungry. See the first verse of this trippy poem at the bottom of this post, if you want to know why.)

Don't get the idea I'm trying to twist your arm to get you to read poetry, even though April is National Poetry Month. Let poetry speak for itself. You decide if poetry deserves to die.

We have hundreds of poetry books at North York Central Library -- the biggest circulating collection in the Toronto Public Library system. All the poetry books you could ever want to tuck into your backpack and read lying in a Toronto park on a sunny day, or rattling to work in the tin can poetically known as “the rocket." People may not realize that poetry comes in eBook format, too, which is why I feature only eBook and eAudiobook poetry below, available in Overdrive, which you can access via the Toronto Public Library webpage. (Look for the "Downloads & eBooks" tab.)

Popular Poetry

Aimless Love - Billy Collins Dog Songs - Mary Oliver The Poetry of Robert Frost
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well - Maya Angelou Annabel Lee - Edgar Allan Poe The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses - Robert W Service

Poetry Anthologies

The Knopf National Poetry Month Collection The Griffin Poetry Prize 2014 Anthology The Nation's Favourite Poems

Canadian Poetry

Book of longing -- Leonard Cohen The dream world -- Alison Pick Morning in the burned house -- Margaret Atwood

American Poetry

Pleasures of the damned -- Charles Bukowski Collected poems 1947-1997 -- Allen Ginsberg Ariel -- Sylvia Plath

Children's Poetry

Pizza, pigs and poety  -- Jack Prelutsky Alligator pie -- Dennis Lee Dirty beasts -- Roald Dahl

Classic Poetry

The Odyssey -- Homer Shakespeare's Sonnets -- William Shakespeare

Paradise Lost -- John Milton

 

Here's the first verse of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). See if you crave fruit after reading it!

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”
 
 
 

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