National Poetry Month by Natalie Lythe
1. Sonnet 116
O no! [love] is an ever-fixed mark
READ HERE. I know, I said these would be accessible and that even people who didn’t like poetry would like the poems I recommend, and Shakespeare seems like the direct opposite of that statement, but hear me out. This is my favourite work of Shakespeare, hands down, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that it is still relevant and understandable despite the fact that it is a Shakespearean sonnet. Plus, his ego comes out full force in the last two lines, which brings a bit of levity to a seriously romantic piece. Just give it a try.
2. Ulysses by J. Alfred Lord Tennyson
this gray spirit yearning in desire
READ HERE. Again, Tennyson is one of those seemingly-scary Victorian poets who wholeheartedly write with Romantic tradition, and Ulysses appears daunting at first glance. However, since I have the last line of this poem as a tattoo, I think I’m obliged to include it on this list. Read it through a few times. Read it out loud. There are a lot of stanzas in this poem that spoke directly to me, and I hope that you find something in it too.
3. Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
READ HERE. T.S. Eliot is, again, one of those classic-literature poets that most people recognize, but then immediately shy away from. This is one of the first poems that I truly fell in love with - the way that he describes his settings and manages to tell a convincing story with multiple hidden meanings left to discover is exceptional.
4. Like Totally Whatever by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
LISTEN HERE. Slam poetry is one of my all-time favourite things. I highly recommend going through the Button Poetry youtube channel and getting lost for a bit - all of their authors are incredible, Melissa Lozada-Oliva is no exception. I love the feminist commentary in this poem, and the idea of embracing our mutable language and the ways in which women use it to protect themselves.
5. the greeks believed in apricots as the cure for unrequited love - Meggie Royer
READ HERE. I stumbled on Meggie’s poetry thanks to many nights on tumblr procrastinating about any and all pending responsibilities I had, and I’ve been following her work since. She has an eloquence with language that softens the hard subjects she encounters with her work, often using metaphor and allusion heavily as a device.
1. Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn
PURCHASE HERE. I would highly recommend looking up any of Neil’s slam poetry videos, but the book is excellent as well (however, I would suggest reading it out loud for full effect). Neil has a soft-spoken fervor, and at least one of his poems are bound to spark your emotions.
2. Nets by Jen Bervin
PURCHASE HERE. Not only is Nets a beautiful publication from a small Brooklyn-based press, but the text within is also gorgeous. It contains erasure poetry of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, reducing them to a beautifully succinct few words each. The palimpsest of the original sonnet remains, greyed out on the page, but the meaning has been reinvented and reduced to breathtaking simplicity.
3. Subversive Sonnets by Pamela Mordecai
PURCHASE HERE. I had the honour of hearing Pamela speak in a Canadian Writers in Person course I took in my first year of university, and her poetry has stuck with me since. She uses the traditional sonnet form, but subverts the language she uses by incorporating Jamaican dialect and speaking patterns. Her poetry is incredibly lyrical and a joy to read.
4. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
Looking for a bus to ride us back home to Eternity
PURCHASE HERE. Allen Ginsberg is my personal favourite of the Beat poets - his language is plain but evocative, and his emotion comes across loud and clear in every word. Personally, America would have to be my favourite of all of his work, but this entire collection is excellent.
5. E.E. Cummings: Selected Works edited by Richard S. Kennedy
PURCHASE HERE. E.E. Cummings is an absolute joy to read. The way that he uses rhyme and unusual punctuation to emphasize and enhance his poems is unparalleled, and I always find myself within his work. He has some incredible one-liners, as well, if you’re looking for some tattoo inspiration!
Let it be known, as well, that I am incredibly biased and must wholeheartedly, enthusiastically recommend Letters to Frida by Rebecca Davison-Mora and a wish by terry abrahams. They are incredible, incredible works of literature, and I am so proud that we had a hand in the publication of them. They are both still available in our shop - please, please, let our lovely authors hold your hand through your discovery of poetry. There are little extras included in each book, too!
Micropublishing Blog by Brianna and Natalie of Penrose Press