National Poetry Month 2020: LMU Librarians’ Recommendations

Dylan Thomas said “A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” In this moment, when many of us are reflecting upon our knowledge of the world and our place in it, poetry is a welcomed psychological solace. We asked our librarians what texts they recommend for National Poetry Month 2020. All of the selections below are available online with your MyLMU login.

The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as an e-book.

“The Poetics of American Song Lyrics is the first collection of academic essays that regards songs as literature and that identifies intersections between the literary histories of poems and songs. The essays by well-known poets and scholars including Pulitzer Prize winner Claudia Emerson, Peter Guralnick, Adam Bradley, David Kirby, Kevin Young, and many others, locate points of synthesis and separation so as to better understand both genres and their crafts.”

Bashō’s Haiku: Selected Poems

Recommended by Alexis Weiss. Available as an e-book.

Basho's Haiku book cover“Basho’s Haiku offers the most comprehensive translation yet of the poetry of Japanese writer Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), who is credited with perfecting and popularizing the haiku form of poetry. One of the most widely read Japanese writers, both within his own country and worldwide, Basho is especially beloved by those who appreciate nature and those who practice Zen Buddhism. Born into the samurai class, Basho rejected that world after the death of his master and became a wandering poet and teacher. During his travels across Japan, he became a lay Zen monk and studied history and classical poetry. His poems contained a mystical quality and expressed universal themes through simple images from the natural world.”

“David Landis Barnhill’s book strives for literal translations of Basho’s work, arranged chronologically in order to show Basho’s development as a writer. Avoiding wordy and explanatory translations, Barnhill captures the brevity and vitality of the original Japanese, letting the images suggest the depth of meaning involved. Barnhill also presents an overview of haiku poetry and analyzes the significance of nature in this literary form, while suggesting the importance of Basho to contemporary American literature and environmental thought.”

This Present Moment: New Poems

Recommended by Alexis Weiss. Available as an e-book.

“Gary Snyder is the author of sixteen collections of poetry and prose. Since 1970 he has lived in the watershed of the South Yuba River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992, he has been awarded the Bollingen Poetry Prize and the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award”

Conversations with Gary Snyder

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as an e-book.

Conversations with Gary Snyder book cover“Gary Snyder (b. 1930) is one of the most distinguished American poets, remarkable both for his long and productive career and for his equal contributions to literature and environmental thought. His childhood in the Pacific Northwest profoundly shaped his sensibility due to his contact with Native American culture and his early awareness of the destruction of the environment by corporations. Although he emerged from the San Francisco Renaissance with writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, and William Everson, he became associated with the Beats due to his friendships with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who included a portrait of Snyder as Japhy Ryder in his novel The Dharma Bums. After graduating from Reed College, Snyder became deeply involved with Zen Buddhism, and he spent twelve years in Japan immersed in study. Conversations with Gary Snyder collects interviews from 1961 to 2015 and charts his developing environmental philosophy and his wide-ranging interests in ecology, Buddhism, Native American studies, history, and mythology. The book also demonstrates the ways Snyder has returned throughout his career to key ideas such as the extended family, shamanism, poetics, visionary experience, and caring for the environment as well as his relationship to the Beat movement. Because the book contains interviews spanning more than fifty years, the reader witnesses how Snyder has evolved and grown both as a poet and philosopher of humanity’s proper relationship to the cosmos while remaining committed to the issues that preoccupied him as a young man.”

The Five-colored Clouds of Mount Wutai: Poems from Dunhuang

Recommended by Alexis Weiss. Available as an e-book.

In The Five-Colored Clouds of Mount Wutai: Poems from Dunhuang, Mary Anne Cartelli introduces a significant corpus of Chinese Buddhist poems from the Dunhuang manuscripts celebrating Mount Wutai. They offer important literary evidence for the transformation of the mountain into the earthly paradise of the bodhisattva Mañjusri by the Tang dynasty.

Mystical Poems of Rumi

Recommended by Rachel Wen-Paloutzian. Available as a book.

Originally published in two volumes, the first volume, including the first 200 poems, or ghazals, appeared in 1968 under the title “Mystical poems of Rumi 1, first selection, poems 1-200.” The second selection was published in 1979 by Bibliotheca Persica as number 23 in their Persian heritage series. It was reprinted in 1991 by the University of Chicago Press under the title “The mystical poems of Rumi 2, second selection, poems 201-400.”

The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems

Recommended by Cynthia Becht. Available as an e-book.

Despite the foundational place of Shakespeare’s poems within his oeuvre, modern readers seldom engage with his non-dramatic works as a whole. This volume includes all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems and explains how this state of affairs has arisen.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Video)

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as streaming video.

Fifteen sonnets selected for what they tell us about Shakespeare-because of the individual addressed, or references to people or events, or because of their metaphors. The sonnets (numbers 8, 18, 25, 35, 53, 64, 65, 66, 87, 91, 94, 107, 127, 128, and 144) are read by Ben Kingsley, Roger Rees, Claire Bloom, and Jane Lapotaire, then analyzed by a noted critic or writer (analysts include A. L. Rowse, Leslie Fiedler, Stephen Spender, and Arnold Wesker).

women in shakespearean costume

Bodies on the Line: Performance and the Sixties Poetry Reading

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as an e-book.

Bodies on the Line offers the first, sustained study of the poetry reading in its most formative period: the 1960s. Raphael Allison closely examines a vast archive of audio recordings of several key postwar American poets to explore the social and literary context of the sixties poetry reading, which is characterized by two vastly differing styles of performance: the humanist and the skeptical strain.”

Emily Dickinson: Poems. Series I – III

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as an e-book.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) was an eccentric, reclusive poet, though born to a family of good standing within their Massachusetts community. She had fewer than a dozen poems published in her lifetime, though posthumously her sister found a cache of nearly eighteen hundred, all of which have now been published. Emily’s style was breaking with the common forms of poetry at the time, and foreshadowed what was to come. Her work was harshly criticized when first published, but she is now considered one of the American greats.

John Donne and Contemporary Poetry: Essays and Poems

Recommended by John Jackson. Available as an e-book.

Jonne Donne book coverThis collection of poems and essays by both poets and scholars explores how John Donne’s writing has entered into the language, the imagination, and the navigation of erotic and spiritual desires and experiences of twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers. The chapters chart a winding path from a description of the Donne and Contemporary Poetry Project at Fordham University to an encounter with the Holy Sonnets to a set of modern holy sonnets and then through the work of a poet who used Donne’s Devotions on Emergent Occasions to chart his own dying. There are further poems on sickness and recovery, an essay on Donne and disease that brings in the work of an Australian poet, and several chapters of poems with various Donnean echoes. Of the final four chapters, one places Donne in relation to another poet and one to the Psalms, followed by two chapters on Donne’s speech figures and his poetics.

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes

Recommended by Rhonda Rosen. Available as streaming video.

A riveting examination of masculinity, sexism, and homophobia in hop-hop culture. Delivering a self-described “loving critique” of rap music, director Byron Hurt – a former star college quarterback, longtime hip-hop fan, and now gender violence prevention educator – pays tribute to the power and creativity of hip-hop while challenging the rap industry to take responsibility for glamorizing destructive, deeply conservative sterotypes of manhood. The documentary features revealing insights from rappers such as Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Jadakiss, and Busta Rhymes, hop-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and cultural commentators such as Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Kevin Powell. Critically acclaimed for its fearless engagement with issues of race and racism, gender violence, and the corporate exploitation of youth culture.

C.P. Cavafy: Selected Poems

Recommended by Alexander Justice. Available as an e-book.

C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) is now considered by many to be the most original and influential Greek poet of this century. The qualities of his poetry that were unfashionable during his lifetime are the very ones that make his work endure: his sparing use of metaphor; his evocation of spoken rhythms and colloquialisms; his use of epigrammatic and dramatic modes; his aesthetic perfectionism; his frank treatment of homosexual themes; his brilliantly alive sense of history; and his commitment to Hellenism, coupled with an astute cynicism about politics. The translations in Selected Poems are complete.