One of my favorite things is to gather with other poets to talk about poems, poets, and poetry. That’s why I love teaching, and that’s why I started a blog called The Poetry Conversation. But I’m also part of another, in-person poetry conversation that has been meeting once a month since last December. There are eight of us, and whoever hosts chooses the book. So far we’ve read Kevin Prufer’s Churches, Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night, Tim Seibles’ One Turn Around the Sun, Natasha Tretheway’s Thrall, Anne Carson’s Nox, and Marie Howe’s Magdalene–and we’re about to discuss Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake. The group offers so many pleasures I hardly know where to start. Given the overwhelming number of poetry books out there, it’s a luxury to have someone say, “Pay attention to this one.” And believe me, everyone pays attention: we come with notes and stickies, and definitions, allusions, translations when necessary. This is passionate, thoughtful engagement. It is the way we all dream of being read and almost never are. We talk about individual poems, patterns, the book as a whole. We listen to interviews with the poets, and listen to them reading their work aloud if we can. And we all bring different points of view to the mix. The poems, and then the discussions, set my mind on fire. Thinking about one book doesn’t stop when we move to the next–it all accumulates. It is the richest, deepest, most faceted talk about reading poetry that I’ve ever been part of, and I hope it goes on forever.
Now go start a reading group of your own.