"Like when a bell sounds and then leaves a whole countryside waiting"
October 12, 2015 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Looking for poetry that is warm, thoughtful, deceptively plainspoken, esp. if very rooted in place? Examples: poets like Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, Wendell Berry, William Stafford, Hayden Carruth

Some other poets I like: Philip Levine, Mary Oliver, Lisel Mueller, David Romvedt, Annie Lighthart

Poem examples: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, Window Poems (selection) by Wendell Berry, I Love the Way Men Crack by Ellen Bass, The Existing Pool by Hayden Carruth, Once in the 40's by William Stafford

Some other writers I like: Steinbeck, Carson McCullers, Emile Zola, Tolstoy, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Kate DiCamillo, Ellen Meloy

Please, no: Billy Collins, Allen Ginsburg, anything satirical. Also, there's a thin thin line between "overlooked moments in everyday lives" and domestic poems. Eh to domestic poems.

Anything that strikes you, please share! Thank you.
posted by grokfest to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ted Kooser
--So This is Nebraska
posted by barchan at 6:43 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: barchan - Mmm, I will be reading much more of his.
posted by grokfest at 6:49 PM on October 12, 2015

May Sarton, April in Maine
James Wright, A Blessing
Philip Larkin, The Trees (actually, Philip Larkin in general is a good candidate for thoughtful and deceptively plainspoken...)
Jack Gilbert, Getting Away with It

That april-is tumblr is an excellent way to discover wonderful poems, by the way. I really like the curator's taste and there are several years of poem-a-day-for-all-of-april entries to browse.
posted by aka burlap at 7:02 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ooh, thought of more possibilities:
C.K. Williams might not be plain-spoken enough for you, but suggesting him just because he reminds me of Philip Levine sometimes. Here is one of my favorites by him, Tar.
Jane Hirshfield, Heat
Li Young Lee, From Blossoms
Seamus Haney, Postscript

OK, stopping now!
posted by aka burlap at 7:22 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is the sort of thing, but a few by Edna St Vincent Millay that might fit:

Hearing your words, and not a word among them/Sonnet XXXVI


posted by you must supply a verb at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2015

Here is a beautiful beautiful poem filled with nature, clarity, & great, direct feeling.

Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be

By Ross Gay

The way the universe sat waiting to become,
quietly, in the nether of space and time,

you too remain some cellular struggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm

swim of mostly quietest self. If you come to be-
and who knows?-I wonder, little bubble

of unbudded capillaries, little one ever aswirl
in my vascular galaxies, what would you think

of this world which turns itself steadily
into an oblivion that hurts, and hurts bad?

Would you curse me my careless caressing you
into this world or would you rise up

and mustering all your strength into that tiny throat
which one day, no doubt, would grow big and strong,

scream and scream and scream until you break the back of one injustice,
or at least get to your knees to kiss back to life

some road kill? I have so many questions for you,
for you are closer to me than anyone

has ever been, tumbling, as you are, this second,
through my heart's every chamber, your teeny mouth

singing along with the half-broke workhorse's steady boom and gasp.
And since we're talking today I should tell you,

though I know you sneak a peek sometimes
through your father's eyes, it's a glorious day,

and there are million of leaves collecting against the curbs,
and they're the most delicate shade of gold

we've ever seen and must favor the transparent
wings of the angels you're swimming with, little angel.

And as to your mother-well, I don't know-
but my guess is that lilac bursts from her throat

and if she is both honeybee and wasp and some kind of moan to boot
and probably she dances in the morning-

but who knows? You'll swim beneath that bridge if it comes.
For now let me tell you about the bush called honeysuckle

that the sad call a weed, and how you could push your little
sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe.

Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why
four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range

of your knuckles are so hard. And you would throw back your head
and open your mouth at the cows lowing their human songs

in the field, and the pigs swimming in shit and clover,
and everything on this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer

of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade
of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman,

tiny blood thrust, tiny trillion cells trilling and trilling
little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat,

little best of me.
posted by flourpot at 7:43 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Reynolds Price covers a lot of ground; some of his poems are like this.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:48 PM on October 12, 2015

What is a domestic poem?

William Carlos Williams, esp. Paterson
Filling Station, Elizabeth Bishop
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Wallace Stevens
Cherrylog Road, James L. Dickey
posted by frumiousb at 8:04 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy
-Thomas Lux

At the Galleria Shopping Mall
-Tony Hoagland

Weather Report
-David Huddle

A Partial History of My Stupidity
-Edward Hirsch

Lines on Marriage
-Joel Brouwer
posted by Aubergine at 10:25 PM on October 12, 2015

How to Like It Stephen Dobyns
posted by Cocodrillo at 10:53 PM on October 12, 2015

You should get Garrison Keillor's collection of poems: Good Poems for Hard Times. Keillor has an ear for the sort of poetry you're talking about, and I think you will find other things that you like there. Here's a bit from his introduction to Good Poems for Hard Times:

"The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right….Poets have many motives for writing, but what really matters about poetry and what distinguishes poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesmen is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and thereby lending courage to strangers."

Keillor's other collection is also good, and it's called: Good Poems. You should also look up Keillor's site, The Writer's Almanac. They post one poem a day.
posted by colfax at 12:22 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

You might like:
Richard Hugo - Glen Uig - I love his Selected Poems, which your library may have.
Linda Pastan - Traveling Light
Maxine Kumin - After Love - She also has a kick-ass poem about Sleeping Beauty, which I wasn't able to find online.
posted by tuesdayschild at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2015

Best answer: I've always found the poetry of the late, great Anselm Hollo to be warm, plain-spoken, timeless, and gorgeous.

I am a father
bearded and warm
and listen to words coming through
the fur hat off a page
in the Finnish language
“when there’s nothing else to do
there’s always work to do”

my father said that
in one of his notebooks
and it’s true
posted by the matching mole at 9:27 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not necessarily one to profess an understanding of how poetry works, but in addition to those mentioned above (Galway Kinnell being a particular favorite), you might look into David Budbill, Richard Wilbur, and Tess Gallagher (Ray Carver's widow). These are fairly disparate poets, stylistically, but worth investigating.
posted by baseballpajamas at 5:48 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dorianne Laux

Joseph Millar

Eduardo C. Corral

J. Scott Brownlee

Kendra Decolo

Tarfia Faizullah

Jamaal May

Nate Marshall
posted by dynamiiiite at 6:05 PM on October 13, 2015

Response by poster: I marked Ted Kooser and Anselm Hollo as best answers because these come closest to scratching the itch I have in this post. Anselm in particular was completely off my radar, and I am HOOKED:

"yes what do you know
it’s winter again
but the days are well-lit
what’s more
they’re beginning to stay that way longer"

Thank you for all answers! Some other standouts/replies:

"The trees are coming into leaf
like something almost being said" -Philip Larkin. That's perfect. I so like some of his.

C.K. Williams, Dorianne Laux, Jamaal May remind me very favorably of Philip Levine. While not exactly what I was looking for right now, I will reading much more of them. Your two young poet suggestions reminded me of Kaycee Filson who I think is brilliant. Seamus Heaney is another of a disparate style but I like very much.

You're right - I never could get into Edna St. Vincent-Millay. Sorry.

Galway Kinnell, David Budbill, Wallace Stevens(!!), May Sarton, and Tess Gallagher I'm all quite fond of. Denise Levertov I've liked a few times but haven't totally gotten into, but I'll give her another chance sometime as I suspect I will one day be blown away.

Also I was reminded while reading through these suggestions of another poet not mentioned yet here who deserves to be in the "thoughtful, deceptively plainspoken" category: Rita Dove.

Writer's Almanac is A-on point! My favorite collection of his is the third, "Good Poems: American Places" which is (somewhat) themed on settings.

As for what I meant by "domestic poems" - I was actually reading Linda Pastan at the time. I think her poem "All I Want to Say" is very nice, but some others brought the term "domestic" to mind. Your question forced me to isolate what it meant: what I mean are poems about a household scene or situation in which there is no/little sense of looking outward beyond the daily setting (including looking outward by looking inward). What it may really be are poems that may be stylistically precise and linguistically astute, but to me read very emotionally and/or intellectually plain. In all likelihood, that is only because they are not accessible to me. I'm probably not representing her work accurately, but you may be able to gather the general sense I'm trying to express.

Thank you again - I welcome any and all more suggestions!
posted by grokfest at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

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