Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who's your favorite?

I was just picking up a second cup of coffee when a colleague asked me, "Who's your favorite poet?"

Imagine the sound of screaming inside my head. AAAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

He tempered his query by adding, "I know that's like asking, 'What's your favorite air molecule.' "

Oxygen in my lungs, carbon dioxide in the Champagne.

I asked him if I could get back to him.

Why is this so hard? Because there are so many! And because I am a fickle reader, shifting attention to whomever I'm reading, if I'm liking the reading, at any one time.

I'll admit that I've been reading Best American Poetry on the bus. So many poets, so many names. And a lot of them just don't do it for me. I'm sure they're brilliant, but they do not speak to me. At least, not this morning.

I could look at which poets I come back to again and again—but often it's not the poet's whole body of work. Rather, a specific collection has drawn me to their poems. By the time the next volume is in print, they may have moved on into artistic terrain that is too rugged or strange for me. Or I may have changed my way of looking at the landscape. We have parted ways. And that's okay.

For example, I love James Galvin's book God's Mistress. That one.

This is the long way of avoiding an answer to the question. Another sip of coffee…

I am horribly underread in the classics, the canon, so those names aren't going to show up.

But over the years, I return most often and joyously to these:

Frank O'Hara, Roberta Spear, and Louise Gluck.

I can't tell you why. I know I certainly don't write like O'Hara or Gluck. Or maybe that is why—they give me something that I cannot give myself: O'Hara, the music and exuberance; Gluck, the unflinching precision.

If I have to choose just one, it's Gluck.

(But wait--I'm at work, and it's the day before Thanksgiving, and I could be forgetting someone, the most obvious someone. It's almost inevitable!)

Who is your favorite? And can you pick just one?


K. said...

Hank Williams and Robert Johnson.

Galvin's Fencing The Sky is a terrific novel.

Premium T. said...

It's so nice to discover another poet who suffers from the same I-can't-name-my-favorite-poet-malady. For me, it's often a poem of the moment. I go back often to Dick Hugo. James Galvin has some terrific fiction too, by the way.