Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poems Jeanne Leiby Was Glad to Know

This post was part of the "Poems I'm Glad to Know" series the Southern Review Lagniappe blog featured for National Poetry Month 2011; it originally appeared there on 4/19/2011. I am reposting it out of the utmost respect. Godspeed to you, Jeanne. It will always be the poets.

POEMS I'M GLAD I KNOW (Jeanne Leiby's 2011 National Poetry Month Picks)

Not only was it difficult to pick only five poems, it was extremely difficult to pick single pieces by poets whose work I have loved for so long. Nevertheless, here are five poems that have shaped me as a writer and reader:

"What Work Is" by Philip Levine (This poem -- above all else and every other piece of writing I’ve ever read -- has had the biggest impact on me. It taught me there is poetry in the industrial landscape of my native Detroit and its suburbs. No lesson has been more significant to me as a writer.)

"Poetry" by Marianne Moore. (I remember reading this poem in my introduction to poetry workshop at UMich, a course taught by the great writer Richard Tillinghast. It was eye opening to discover poetry can have wit and humor. The phrase "imaginary gardens with real toads in them" still hangs above my home computer.)

"In the Waiting Room" by Elizabeth Bishop (although it was really hard to choose between "In the Waiting Room" and "Filling Station" and let us not forget "The Man-moth." Okay, yes, this is three poems instead of one.)

"1st September, 1939" by W. H. Auden (I was introduced to this poem via the play The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer. Just after graduating from college, I moved to London. It was the first West End play I ever saw, and the production starred Tom Hulce who was just off his Academy-award winning performance in Amadeus. It was the first time I experienced -- and internalized -- the interaction between poetry and performance.)

"View With a Grain of Sand" by Wislawa Szymborska. (I love the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, and if I ever get to publish her, I will be a happy editor.)

-- Jeanne Leiby, 1964-2011