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Eating Poetry

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
- from "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand, in Reasons for Moving.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we've prepared a menu of books by some of the best and most well-loved modern poets from around the world. Sample the experimental poetry of e. e. cummings and bpNichol, the beat verve of Allen Ginsberg, the clean precision of Louise Gluck and Elizabeth Bishop, the jungle-lush imagery of Michael Ondaatje, or the deceptive simplicity of Billy Collins - there's something here to please every palate.


e. e. cummingsComplete Poems: 1904-1962
e. e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.

women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
- from "anyone lived in a pretty how town"
All e. e. cummings books


Czeslaw MiloszNew and Collected Poems
Czeslaw Milosz

Burning, he walks in the stream of flickering letters, clarinets,
machines throbbing quicker than the heart, lopped-off heads, silk
canvases, and he stops under the sky

and raises toward it his joined clenched fists.

Believers fall on their bellies, they suppose it is a monstrance that

but those are knuckles, sharp knuckles shine that way, my friends.
- from Artificer
All Czeslaw Milosz books

Louise GlückMeadowlands
Louise Glück

Little soul, little perpetually undressed one,
do now as I bid you, climb
the shelf-like branches of the spruce tree;
wait at the top, attentive, like
a sentry or look-out. He will be home soon;
it behooves you to be
generous. You have not been completely
perfect either; with your troublesome body
you have done things you shouldn't
discuss in poems. Therefore
call out to him over the open water, over the bright water
with your dark song, with your grasping,
unnatural song--passionate,
like Maria Callas.
- from "Penelope's Song"
All Louise Glück books


bpNicholThe Martyrology

of those saints we know the listing follows
saint orm married saint rain
gave birth to saint iff and saint ave

this is the oldest family....

future music moves now to be written
w g r & t
its form is not apparent
it will be seen

k l m n
b r v
a hymn for saint iff
a song for his only son
the lonely one who died less lonely
& for his son
who never knew him
a song to
carry him thru to
the end
- from Martyrology Book 1
All bpNichol books


Edwin MorganBeowulf: A Modern English Verse Translation
Edwin Morgan (translator)
Nothing would make the protector of warriors
Let slaughter's emissary escape alive,
Nor would he reckon many days left to him
Of profit to any man. Then Beowulf's soldiers
Brandished here and there their ancient swords,
Anxious to defend the body of their lord,
Of the illustrious prince, as they might be able --
Ignorant of this, when they moved to fight,
Iron-minded men of arms,
Thinking to his spirit; that the lawless ravager
Was not to be reached by any war-blade,
Not by the choicest metal on earth,
For every sword-edge and weapon of victory
He had blunted by wizardry.
All Edwin Morgan books

Billy CollinsSailing Alone Around the Room
Billy Collins
We are busy doing nothing
and all we need for that is an afternoon,
a rowboat under a blue sky,

and maybe a man fishing from a stone bridge,
or, better still, nobody on that bridge at all.
- from "Poetry"
All Billy Collins books


Elizabeth BishopGeography III
Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
- from "One Art"
All Elizabeth Bishop books


Allen Ginsberg Howl and Other Poems
Allen Ginsberg
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz.
- from "Howl"
All Allen Ginsberg books


Maya AngelouAnd Still I Rise
Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
- from Still I Rise
All Maya Angelou books


Anne CarsonAutobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse
Anne Carson

His mother's friend Maria gave him a beautiful notebook from Japan with a florescent cover. On the cover Geryon wrote Autobiography. Inside he set down the facts.

Total Facts Known About Geryon
Geryon was a monster everything about him was red. Geryon lived on an island in the Atlantic called the Red Place. Geryon's mother was a river that runs to the sea the Red Joy River Geryon's father was gold. Some say Geryon had six hands six feet some say wings. Geryon was red so were his strange red cattle. Herakles came one day killed Geryon got the cattle.
All Anne Carson books


Wole SoyinkaSelected Poems
Wole Soyinka

"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
"You mean - like plain or milk chocolate?"
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. "West African sepia" - and as afterthought,
"Down in my passport."
- from Telephone Conversation
All Wole Soyinka books


Michael OndaatjeHandwriting
Michael Ondaatje

The brush of sandalwood along a collarbone
Green dark silk
A shoe left
on the cadju tree terrace
these nights when "pools are
reduced by constant plungings"
Meanwhile a man's burning heart
his palate completely dry
on the Galapitigala Road
thinking there is water in that forest
- from "The Nine Sentiments"
All Michael Ondaatje books