“Some invisibility would come in handy” is one of my favourite lines by Wislawa Szymborska. I often ask myself, if I had to choose three poets and they would be the only poets I could read for the rest of my life, which three would I select? Would it be best to focus on free verse poets or maybe a formal poet like Donald Justice? Should I select prize winning poets or stay with lesser known poets? What about foreign poets such as Jorge Luis Borges who has written some of my favourite poems, in particular The Dagger.
Derek Mahon’s Unborn Child is a poem I often return to for inspiration. It’s also a poem I keep in a binder of my 12 favourite poems. I only keep 12 in the binder at any given time and when I find a new poem that I think may belong, I compare the poem to the others, which forces to me look at the strengths and weakness of the new poem and consider whether it stacks up.
The Mud Turtle by Howard Nemerov is poem that has found a place in my binder, so Nemerov would be a solid choice. Galway Kinnell’s line, “Ink is their ichor” rolls off the tongue. He should be given consideration. And Langston Hughes’s lines “When the old junk man Death/Comes to gather up our bodies” are lines that are rich in word play and grab my attention. He is a poet who deserves his place in my big three.
A few years ago I purchased Patrick Lane’s collected poems and this past year I returned to some of my favourites: Wolf, Weasel and Two Crows in Winter. His line, “The owl knows he will starve”, has resonance and generates a great backstory. He’s a poet who I could continue to learn from. This past summer, Lucille Clifton caught my attention. She’s more relevant today than ever. Her line, “you, with your point blank fury”, is a line that reverberates during these troubled times. Poets will always call to me from their place on the bookshelf. Some a little louder than the others.
Edward Dewar’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Event, PRISM international, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Nashwaak Review, Vallum and Southern Poetry Review.