Favorite Poetry (& Novella) of 2015

I did not read as many books as I could have in 2015. There were several that I started and found them not worth finishing. My test for books is simple: I give them all a chance. If after one or two chapters I have not connected with the story or the author's voice, I do not torture myself. While books are many, time is short. I have zero guilt about this, and you shouldn't have guilt either unless you're reading for school or paid research, or something of the like. If you are reading to feed yourself, it should never be force-feeding. You want satisfaction when you complete a meal, not overwhelming relief that you don't have to eat anymore. That's my #bookworm advice of the day.

Since I did not read a lot of books last year in comparison to my goals, and we are already well into January, I will not review too many more. I simply must share my favorite poetry/creative writing indulgences of 2015, and then I will move forward. I think it's wise to make the turn into the new year slowly, glancing in the rearview and cautiously viewing the new landscape. I tried to tear around the bend two weekends ago and ended up colliding with reality. The impact is sobering. I think I'm less likely to disappoint myself if I let the new ideas percolate a little longer. So I'm stalling by talking about my passion for these books, because it's the most productive way I can imagine. Ha!

You Are Not Dead by Wendy Xu. I stumbled upon one of her poems through The Poetry Foundation website and immediately felt a kindred connection. So I put her book on my wishlist and it was given to me as a birthday gift. I was sick on my birthday, so this was quite a highlight in my convalescence. Really. The title may seem off-putting but it's actually meant as a victory cry- no matter what happens, there is always a glimmer of hope and love.

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver has a stunning simplicity about her that makes each poem a masterpiece. Richly layered with life experience, empathy, and compassion for the human condition, I always feel more, well, like a person; someone whose life has inherent value, meaning, purpose, and beautiful mystery. I feel accepted through her words. It's grace embodied in poetry. And some keenly observed truth about what to do with this precious life we possess. Just keep writing, love. (Like I'd have to even tell her.)

If you are not sure where to begin to search out poetry books, start by sampling the authors' works on sites like the above mentioned. When you connect with one, do a library search for their name and request one of their collections. That's my budget-preserving strategy, anyway. Here's another good resource if you are looking for new works. I am reading some of them RIGHT NOW and I'm absolutely spellbound. Felicity is pure delight. I requested it from the library and had it about two days later. I will have plenty of time to reread it before it needs to return.

The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. This one reads like poetry to me, even though it is storytelling in a series of vignettes. Classified as a novella, I believe. It's fairly close to home since the story is rooted in Chicago. It's not always an easy read as it reflects the realities of growing up as a minority, living in poverty, but her resourcefulness and determination as well as her curiosity and compassion were inspiring. I enjoyed not only the narrative, but the fact that it never took more than a few minutes of my time to read a chapter. No endless page-turning-will-this-chapter-ever-end?- anxiety. It was always just around the corner. This is perfect for busy folks who have to fit their reading time into the margins of their movement-filled existence. I mostly read it in the parking lot while waiting for school to let out. I simply love Cisneros' writing voice.

This feels like such a brief summary to me compared to all that I learned, felt, experienced through these books. Take your own adventure through them and you'll see what I mean!

On to 2016!


Jamie Bagley