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BBAW: Profile of Poetry Book Blogger Regular Rumination

I was honored to win the poetry blogger award for BBAW in the past, but I also thought that any blog featuring poetry should be recognized since there are so few of us.  As part of that process, I looked to my network of blogs that I read and love, and thought it would be great fun to profile at least one poetry blogger this week in honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

To that end, I sent over a few interview questions to one of my blogging and Indie Lit Award judging buddies, Lu from Regular Rumination.  She’s one of the first bloggers I noticed posting about poetry, so I think it’s appropriate that she’s the one I profile today.

When did you first read poetry and what drew you to it? Or if you were initially put off by poetry, what changed your mind?

I think I first read poetry seriously my freshman year of high school. My teacher passed out copies of Pablo Neruda’s “I could write the saddest lines” and I immediately fell in love. I remember inhaling poetry from then on, but my love for poetry also came from wanting to write it and wanting to write it well. In college, I took as many poetry workshops as I could and now I miss it.

I don’t know that I was ever put off by poetry, but I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with poetry if we didn’t have to focus on it in high school. We also were required to write it, which was when I discovered that I really enjoyed it. For me, I often don’t learn to appreciate something until I’ve tried to do it myself. After that project ended, I joined an old AOL message board called My Poetry and Writing, and not only continued to write poetry, but also found my first online community. Now that I’m older and write poetry a lot less than I would like, I read poetry because it is important to me. It is less about learning how to write and more about seeing the world in new, exciting, and beautiful ways.

About how many books of poems do you review each year on average? Do you have an established goal of how many you will read and/or review each year? Or is the process more organic?

My blog has slowly moved away from reviewing books and I often find myself discussing specific poems over specific books of poetry. I have reviewed several collections over the years, but I rarely have established goals of any sort for my blog. I find that makes me avoid doing them; really, if there’s anything I don’t want to do for my blog, I should just say I’m going to do it. I like my reading to be more organic. I have made a conscious effort, though, to read more poetry every week, whether it is an entire collection, the monthly issue of Poetry Magazine or the daily email from Poets.org.

Tell us a little bit about the Read More/Blog More Poetry project (click on the image to learn more) that you started at Regular Rumination and what inspired you to start it and how has participation been? What are some upcoming events associated with the project?

What started out as the Read More/Blog More Poetry event has turned into The Poetry Project, which was started by myself and Kelly, from The Written World. It all started as a request on Twitter from a few bloggers for a list of poems. I wrote a list of my favorite contemporary poems and Jason from Moored At Sea made a list of classic poems. Kelly and I started talking about wanting to share the lists and also to convince more people to blog about poetry. Kelly is a new reader of poetry and I think that’s what makes us a good team: we have two very different experiences with poetry, but we both want to read more of it. The Project isn’t really about reading a specific poem or posting at a certain time, though we do have monthly optional themes, it’s really just about getting your feet wet with poetry and with blogging about poetry, if you’re new to poetry, and about making poetry a more visible part of your blog if you’re already a regular poetry reader.

What I think has been most successful about The Poetry Project is that anyone can participate, whether you’ve just started reading and blogging about poetry or you’re a seasoned poetry reviewer. It’s turned into a small community of people who are blogging about poetry and how they relate to it. The only real requirement is that you blog about poetry and link back to the post. Kelly and I are committed to including a roundup of each participants posts at the end of the month, so there’s one place where everyone can go back and look to see what we’ve all read and talked about. Participants are even contributing original poetry! It’s been really amazing.

Recommend some poets for beginners. Recommend some poetry translations or poetry for those who’ve read more poetry than others.

If you’re new to reading poetry, I think Edna St. Vincent Millay, for an older poet, and Natasha Trethewey, for someone more contemporary, are excellent places to start.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit of a challenge, I really recommend Derek Walcott and, in translation, Neruda’s Residence on Earth. In the US and around the world, Neruda is famous for his love poetry, but the poems in this book are a love poem of a different sort. They focus on the earth and our relationship with our physical surroundings. They are beautiful and sensual and sometimes difficult.

What are you reading now? How do you view the world of poetry and its future?

Right now, I am still reading some of the collections I have out from the library for last month’s Poetry Project theme of Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, including Marianne Moore’s collected poems. I am also always reading the Poets.org Poem-A-Day emails.

As for the future of poetry… I’m not sure. I think there are enough dedicated readers of poetry in this world to keep it an active and thriving community, even if it is a very small one. I hope that there will be enough English teachers like mine who help foster young people’s passions about poetry.

About Regular Rumination from Lu:

Regular Rumination is my own corner of the web where I talk about books, poetry, crafts, and whatever else is on my mind. I started it back in 2008, while I was home from college on winter break, looking for a great book to check out from the library. My life has changed a lot since then, but my blog has been the constant.

Thanks so much, Lu, for participating in this week’s BBAW profile of poetry bloggers.

Guest Post: The Passion for Poetry: the Writer and the Reader

Today, we have an excellent guest post from Lu at Regular Rumination about generating a passion for poetry among readers from her perspective as a reader and writer of poetry.  I can’t wait for all of us to share our methods for reading and/or writing poetry.  Without further ado, here’s Lu:

“You can’t be a good reader if you don’t have the experience of writing,” is the essential philosophy of one of my literature professors. He has said on a few occasions now that he prefers reading and discussing poetry only with poets. Keep in mind he said this to a classroom full of students who are decidedly not poets, but rather Spanish-language literature students. Now, I’m not always the most attentive student, but this made me stop and really pay attention to what he was saying. This is exactly the kind of alienating idea that I try to work against, constantly. Poetry should be for everyone, not just those who are devoted to studying or writing it. Poetry is a sensual, literary experience for the masses, not for the few.

But what if he has a point? As someone who has studied writing poetry, not just reading it, do I have an advantage or some kind of insight that those who are “just” readers do not?

Don’t worry, I don’t actually think I am better at reading poetry than you are, but I do think there are some differences. I think the best metaphor to describe it is that reading poetry as a poet is like listening to music as a musician. I am no musician, even though I’m currently taking piano lessons again after 10 years, so when I listen to a complex piece of music (read: music with two or more instruments), I generally can’t tell the instruments apart or even what instruments are being played. I can’t tell you why I like the music. There are some things I’m more familiar with, like the piano, and that I can recognize and explain, but everything else? I just listen and enjoy.

When I am reading a poem for the first time, I am often more interested in what the poem sounds like than what it says. So, since I have been taking piano, when I first get a new piece to play, I always play my right hand first, then my left. Finally, after practicing those over and over again, I put them together and practice some more. With a poem, the first thing I “read”  is the sound. Only after I have gotten a grasp on what the author is trying to do with the rhythm, meter, rhyme and other aspects of sound in poetry can the meaning make its way through. Then I put the two together and read it again. That’s why people often say you can’t read a poem only once.

When I write poetry, what I pay more attention to really depends on the poem. Sometimes form comes first, others meaning. But for me, when I am reading and when I am writing, the two often begin as separate things and then come together to form the complete poem. However, I hope that when someone reads the poetry I have written, the two work together seamlessly. My poetry mentor once said to me, “We do all of this hard work as poets just so our readers won’t notice it.”

So how can we apply this to our daily poetry lives? How about getting people passionate about reading and writing poetry? If you are reading this post, you probably already are. I believe that the way we teach poetry makes it seem hard. I don’t think poetry should be hard. It should make you think, it should make you passionate, it should make you happy. Of course, not every poem can do all of those things for you, but introducing people to the wonders of poetry at an early age could get people passionate about poetry again.

Maybe you saw this coming, but I think the best way to get kids passionate about poetry is to get them writing it. There were plenty of things that I didn’t understand about poetry until I actually spent time writing it. Meter, for instance. I have a horrible ear, to this day I still have trouble hearing the meter in poetry. But writing in form, something I never thought I’d be able to do (and trust me, the first time, I did it kicking and screaming), really helped clarify what I was supposed to be hearing and writing.

Of course I disagree with my professor. Not everyone has to be a poet to understand, love or talk about poetry. Not everyone has to have a talent for poetry or writing to enjoy reading it. But there are advantages to studying the process of writing poetry when it comes to reading it, at least there were for me. In the end though, all that really matters, is that people are reading poetry and falling in love with it.

I don’t think everyone has the same reading or writing process that I do, so here’s my parting question to you: what is your poetry reading process like? If you write poetry, how do you incorporate form and meaning? Do you focus on one and then the other? I’m fascinated by both the reading and the writing process, so please, answer away!

Thanks, Lu, for participating in the National Poetry Month Blog Tour! I can’t wait to see what everyone has to say about their reading process.

***Also, don’t forget to check out today’s tour stop at Haiku Love Songs and Read Handed.