Today is World Poetry Day, and Haute Macabre writers would like to share with you this post from a few years back of some of our favorite poets and collections.
A River Of Stars, Yosano Akiko. This is my go-to, treasured book of beloved poetry. I tell anyone that if they really want to know my heart, my secret heart, full of hopes and fears and loves and longings that I can never hope to properly express, then you must read these tanka and long-form poems by Yosano Akiko, a goddess of poetry and the embodiment of early-twentieth-century Japanese romanticism and feminism.
And now you must ask
whether I’ve written new songs.
I am the mythic
koto with twenty-five strings,
but without a bridge for sound.
Salt Is For Curing, Sonya Vatomsky. I loved this book before I loved its author, our very own Sonya Vatomsky. But like, only a few days before I loved them, because it was a head-over-heels affair with both book and human that all happened very fast, and now I can’t imagine my life without either! In reading Salt Is For Curing, it took all that I had not to devour this uncanny collection of spooky delights in one greedy instant. I feared that to do so, to ingest all of these potent magics– a fanciful combination of myths, metaphorical recipes, and cheeky spellwork– at once, would give me a terribly heartsick sort of heartburn and yet leave me with the very worst sort of emptiness, knowing there is no more to be had. I drew it out for as long as I could stand, and I unexpectedly found myself gorgeously stuffed full. But knowing both Sonya– and their writings– is to have a heart filled to brimming with weird magics 24/7. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sometimes A Wild God, Tom Hirons & Rima Stime. This small, unassuming booklet, brimming with beautifully potent imagery, was a surprise gift from a friend, and a really quite marvelous collaboration which flung open doors of wonder deep within my heart, doors that had been closed firmly shut for such a very long time. I’ll say no more. I wish for you to be surprised, too.
Call me melodramatic (I’ll own it), but I can no more pick a favorite poet, poem, or book of poetry than I can place my heart in your hands. Yet I know to my core that doing so would be the closest equivalent. Some might look at the photo below and say that I’m cheating, that I haven’t been sufficiently discerning for this sort of write-up. I’d argue that choosing favorites among the things I love is painfully difficult for me (yes, I am stamping my feet and huffing). However these 17 books represent a fraction of the poetry collections I own, so, believe it or not, I did choose! Besides, if I think about it much longer I’m going to think of books I shouldn’t have left out, so let’s save them for next year’s National Poetry Month.
Some of these books have been in my possession since high school, perhaps even longer. A few are replacements for books at least that old, that I’d either loaned and lost or simply wore out over the years. Others I’ve owned for anywhere from a decade to just a few years. I love each of them dearly.
From left to right, starting at the top:
Ophelia Wears Black by Segovia Amil
The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
Ghosty Boo by Kate Litterer
Cure All by Kim Parko
Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky
The Sex Lives of Monsters by Helen Marshall
The Truth Is We Are Perfect by Janaka Stucky
The Animal Bridegroom by Sandra Kasturi
Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs by Leonard Cohen
Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson
At Night by Lisa Ciccarello
My books are formative friends and, among them, books of poetry are singularly special companions. Each one has been there for me when I needed them most, my eyes falling on them or lines springing to mind at the perfect moment. Every one of these books has and continues to speak to me personally, strumming resonant nerves and sinews, making me cry or rage, making me smirk, making my heart sing, ache, both at once, or everything in-between, making me slow down and center and breathe in some beauty, making me remember that, no matter how lost I might get inside my own head, I’m never truly alone or feeling something that hasn’t been felt before. I recommend each of them wholeheartedly.
As an aside, it pleases me no end and yet doesn’t surprise me at all that two of these books also appear in Sarah’s list above. Salt Is For Curing goes with me everywhere and, like Sarah, I dearly loved these poems before Sonya Vatomsky became one of my dearest friends. That they later became so is a gift beyond measure. And River of Stars was recommended to me by Sarah herself, so how could I not love something that so truly speaks to and of the heart of someone I love?