February. When I began to think about what I wanted to write for this month’s blog, I thought, of course, about love. For so many of us (poets and non-poets alike), February = love = poetry (and also maybe flowers or chocolates, but what you do on your own time is your business). And when you do the math, poetry + love = sonnet. You know: 14 lines. Maybe a rhyming couplet. Maybe Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Petrarch, or that oh-so-famous playwright you had to read in high school, the almighty Shakespeare. But I didn’t want to take that route. After all, it’s such a well-worn path. It would be like driving down a road on auto-pilot, and you, dear reader, could risk falling asleep at the wheel.
So instead, like a cupid poised with a bow and arrow at an ever-shifting target, I began to think about which poetry books I love. (Might as well stick with poetry – it’s something I aim to perfect the other eleven months of the year!) And when I started to think about poetry books, I began to realize I’d have to narrow down my list to those poetry books I keep returning to, time and time again. I mean, the really well-worn ones. The ones with so many sticky notes, you’d begin to wonder if there are pages left. The ones I’d have to take with me to that desert island if I were to be stranded there with a scant knapsack full of books. (And, dear reader, take a moment to ponder the horror of only ONE bag full of books.)
While drawing up my list of favourite poetry books, I realized that there are also books about poetry that are on my “go-to” list. These are writing books that provide food for thought when I need some inspiration, or need to defamiliarize myself from my own creative process. In other words, they’re the books I read when I need to shake things up.
So, in deference to February and all that is love (for your pet, favourite cup of tea, TV series, or, if you’re really fortunate, maybe even an actual human being) I offer below my list of poetry and “about poetry” books that I love. It’s not a complete list. (Remember that desert island knapsack? And why has no one thought about a desert island bookcase??) But it is a snapshot (literally, please see below) of books that I return to again and again. Perhaps you’ll find a book on this list that you’ll come to love. Happy February!