What poem would YOU like to hear?
August 3, 2006 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Poetry reading suggestions for a non-poet?

Seeking entertaining readings for casual, anything-goes open-mike poetry situations. I like Billy Collins, but guessing he's too well-known and therefore tiresome.
posted by Rash to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you should check out Tony Hoagland if you like Collins. He's funny and accessible. For something a little gruffer, think about Bukowski. He can be crude, but also funny. You might find a hit with a crowd in there. Other accessible stuff can be found in Garrison Keiller's _Good Poems_.
posted by theantikitty at 10:13 PM on August 3, 2006


(BTW...that's a list geared towards reading out loud to people who may not be that "into" poetry.)
posted by theantikitty at 10:15 PM on August 3, 2006


Philip Larkin reads well, lots of British gloom and plain talk. I've always liked David Wagoner, who is very musical. Actually, Thomas Hardy and Gerard Manley Hopkins were intensely musical, far beyond what most people would try to write but fun for reading. Try Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- near the accessible (less wanky) side of Beat. A bit more sober (ha ha) than Bukowski.

Both of Billy Collins' anthologies, Poetry 180 and the sequel, are full of good stuff.
posted by argybarg at 10:25 PM on August 3, 2006


Richard Brautigan's The Pill Versus the Springfield Mine Disaster is one of my favorite books of poems:
"The American Hotel, Pt. 2"

Baudelaire was sitting
in a doorway with a wino
on San Francisco's skidrow.
The wino was a million
years old and could remember
dinosaurs.
Baudelaire and the wino
were drinking Petri Muscatel.
"One must always be drunk,"
said Baudelaire.
"I live in the American Hotel,"
said the wino. "And I can
remember dinosaurs."
"Be you drunken ceaselessly,"
said Baudelaire.
I would also recommend the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (but try to find a translation that's not Fitzgerald; he takes all the fun out of it).
posted by nasreddin at 10:28 PM on August 3, 2006


I'm big into Kimiko Hahn, some of her poems can be found online.

I also love Joe Wenderoth. A poem and some audio can be found online.
posted by cior at 10:34 PM on August 3, 2006


Everyone loves Bukowski, man.
posted by borkingchikapa at 10:39 PM on August 3, 2006


I love cummings. But it takes a particular type of read. If you know what I mean.
posted by GIRLesq at 10:42 PM on August 3, 2006


Paul Durcan
posted by fshgrl at 11:13 PM on August 3, 2006


My vote is for William Matthews. If it weren't a kind of insult I would call him a "poet's poet"--the technics are so incredibly subtle, quickly grasped but always revealing more upon rereading. Many are hilarious, many are gorgeous, all are crowd-pleasing.
posted by j.s.f. at 11:23 PM on August 3, 2006


Philip Larkin
posted by fire&wings at 3:47 AM on August 4, 2006


The anthology Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, is suprising diverse and very accessible. It may introduce you to some poets you've never considered before.
posted by arco at 4:09 AM on August 4, 2006


Check out Nin Andrews. She writes prose poetry, so it's really accessible, and wickedly funny. Try The Book of Orgasms if you're feeling sexy, or Midlife Crisis with Dick & Jane if you're feeling nostalgic and/or political.
posted by ferociouskitty at 5:15 AM on August 4, 2006


It depends who you're reading to, how old they are, how cool they think they are, etc.

If you're reading to readers of (and therefore almost always writers of) avant garde poetry, for example, maybe you should avoid most or all of the folk mentioned above. Many (most? almost all?) of the crowd at an avant garde poetry reading are going to scorn Garrison Keiller's Good Poems and wouldn't be very interested anything you might select from it because they've always hated it or they've heard it a billion times or both. They will gag at the mention of Billy Collins. They probably won't think Brautigan or Bukowski are very interesting, either.

If you're reading to the average book club, however, maybe Garrison Keiller's selection and the like will go over well. If you're reading to the average customers of the average bar, well, they might not like any poetry at all unless you select a simple, entertaining, narrative poem (some Robert Service?) and perform it well (amusingly or dramatically).

So who is your audience? What do you mean by "casual, anything-goes open-mike poetry situations." Would you be reading to non-poets in a non-poetry-reading situation, like a bar full of average folk? Or would you be reading to the sort of audience you get at a poetry reading -- a crowd of people who probably write their own poetry and maybe even give public readings themselves? How and where is the event advertised and characterized (if at all)? What do people expect to hear? What sort of acts are likely to be on before and after you? Is it all poetry? Or will you be following a dancing dog and warming up for a fan dancer?
posted by pracowity at 6:12 AM on August 4, 2006


British poet Carol Ann Duffy has written some excellent poetry that begs to be read aloud.
posted by cadge at 6:32 AM on August 4, 2006


For entertaining and casual not unlike Billy Collins maybe something by Frank O'Hara or Robert Creeley would fit the bill.

If the audience is something like the post-garde-avant-modernist type mentioned above you could drift toward Nick Flynn or maybe even Louise Gl├╝ck.
posted by exit at 6:32 AM on August 4, 2006


Dorothy Parker is both accessible and smart.

The Wild Party is also quite good.
posted by bingo at 6:54 AM on August 4, 2006


I loooove A Really Good Story by David Kirby.
posted by radioamy at 7:14 AM on August 4, 2006


The Vintage Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry is a nice overview, and there's something for everyone in there, from formalists to the Beats. Might give you some new directions to check out.

I'm going to second Frank O'Hara for informal readings. He's breezy in the best way and sounds great out loud. Plus he's fun.

Don't turn your back on anyone writing in metre and rhyme -- they're meant to be read out loud. Two great practictioners: Richard Wilbur and Anthony Hecht -- both are represented in the Vintage anthology. Philip Larkin is a fantastic English edition.

You might also want to look into Dean Young. He's funny as shit and would probably play well to a crowd.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2006


*cough* Philip Larkin is a fantastic English *addition* *cough*
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 8:13 AM on August 4, 2006


I've been reading a bunch of Edna St. Vincent Millay recently - it's a double whammy of lyrical and relatively unknown (she wrote during the 20's? maybe?). Anyway, it's not the best poetry every but it's great to read aloud, lots of intensity and structure.
posted by muddgirl at 8:32 AM on August 4, 2006


So unknown she won the Pulitzer. ;-)

Poor Ms. Millay fell out of fashion for a while, but seems to be getting more attention these days -- and Muddgirl is absolutely right, she sounds great out loud.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 10:07 AM on August 4, 2006


So who is your audience? Would you be reading to non-poets in a non-poetry-reading situation, like a bar full of average folk? Or would you be reading to the sort of audience you get at a poetry reading -- a crowd of people who probably write their own poetry and maybe even give public readings themselves?

A room of the latter, adjacent to a coffee-shop containing the former -- and I like it a lot when the average folk are attracted to what I'm reading, and drift in to listen, as opposed to the young poets whose stuff bores me, especially when they start rapping (shudder).
posted by Rash at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2006


Stuart Ross.
Shane Koyczan.
posted by poweredbybeard at 11:27 AM on August 4, 2006


If it's an audience of poets, you can't go wrong with Mallarme, Verlaine, and Rimbaud (especially him). I second Dorothy Parker, too--she writes in this self-deprecating style that goes over well with young people.
posted by nasreddin at 12:16 PM on August 4, 2006


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