The Next Chapter: Sunday Poets

I am still recommending books on Bookstigram. Recent recommendations include Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. But along with that, every Sunday I pick a poet to discuss. People asked me to do it. I was skeptical at first but my friends really seem to like it and I enjoy talking about poetry.

I started when I did my first Instagram Live last year. Somehow someone asked me to talk about poets and I talked about Randall Jarrell and his poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”. The next Sunday I talked more about Jarrell and that short, powerful poem. People were genuinely interested and asked me to continue to talk on poetry.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Don Levy (@donaldelevy)

I originally decided to post on Sunday because of Wallace Steven’s “Sunday Morning “. It’s about an older woman sitting on her porch communing with nature instead of going to church. It starts out “Complacencies of the peignoir, and late/Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair “. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I read a poem that I love. I’d rather commune with poetry and I want to share my love of poetry to my friends on Bookstigram so they enjoy it too.

I mostly talk about poets I love. I am a fan of American poetry after WWII. There was so much wonderful work during that era by poets like Theodore Rothke, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Frank O’Hara. I like some older poets Carl Sandburg, and Edgar Lee Masters, but I doubt I will talk about poets I’m not a fan of like Lord Alfred Tennyson or John Milton. I think it would show that I didn’t care for their work. Maybe if I run out of poets to talk about, but don’t hold your breath.

Diversity is important to me. I don’t want this to be a collection of old white men. I have talked about poets as diverse as Joy Haro, Audre Lorde, Ai, and Gary Soto. I also think it’s important as a male poet to honor female poets like Anne Sexton, Stevie Smith, and Elizabeth Bishop.

My process is simple. I have a whole week to think about which poet I want to talk about. I try to pick a photo of the poet that I think looks interesting. Then I try to find a short poem or two to show what their work is like. I also try saying a little bit about each poet. Sometimes the picture or the poem won’t fit the space. I’ve lopped off the heads of poets like Lawrence Ferlinghetti and W.H. Auden. Another frustrating thing is when I can’t find a copy of a certain poem online. When Marvin Bell died, I couldn’t find a copy of his poem “The Perfection of Dentistry”. Google apparently never heard of it. It was odd that I could find a dissertation of the poem but not the poem.

Sometimes I’m not sure I’m the best person to talk about poetry. I’m not a professor and I don’t teach a class on it. One poem I posted was Theodore Rothke’s “The Waking” but I had no idea how to explain that it’s a villanelle and what that entails. Still, I’m proud to encourage people to read more poetry. I know some people are intimidated by it. They think it’s this mystical form that they can’t understand. There’s a lot of poems that I don’t get either like T S. Elliot’s “The Four Quartets” or any of Ezra Pound’s “Cantos”. However, I think most people can appreciate poems like Gary Soto’s “Oranges” or Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”. There’s a lot I want to talk about too, like gay poets beyond Whitman and Ginsberg and talking about prose writers who write excellent poetry like Raymond Carver, Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. I also want to talk about poetry anthologies that I like. I am trying to demystify poetry. I want my Bookstigram friends to read more poetry. I may have accidentally put myself in the position to talk about poets, but it’s a position I love and I take seriously.