Poetry in Our House

As a poetry editor I periodically pick up a book to enjoy and then perhaps review. In February I may give them away as prizes in the annual Eye On Life Poetry Contest. (Contest opens November 15th; deadline is January 31st.) In the mean time these books that may be destined to be prizes reside here and there in our home or in my backpack. If I become attached to a book of poetry and decide to keep it, it may find a home on a shelf.

In general, poetry in our house is much more likely to be found on a table, couch or nightstand than on a shelf. And since we are not very well versed, so to speak, in the library sciences, those of our poetry books that reside on shelves are not segregated, but spread across the panorama of our shelf space as the seeds of the milkweed are spread over miles and miles of sundry meadows by the wind.

The location of books of poetry within our house is sometimes related to our feelings toward them. Slim volumes of Mary Oliver are always turning up on some table, bed or couch as we re-read them often. I received the anthology, “A Book Of Luminous Things,” edited by Czeslaw Milosz, as a gift and I am currently reading it off and on. At right it is shown peeking out from beneath Austin’s “Emma,” that someone in the family is currently reading.

The books with which our poetry books find themselves keeping company can be interesting. One one particular shelf is a collection of poetry by Maxine Kumin called, “Where I Live,” one of my favorites, with these other books here, quite an eclectic bunch.

On another shelf, another favorite of mine, a rather droll book on poetic forms by several poets, edited by E.O. Parrot, “How To Be Well-Versed In Poetry”, appears surrounded by “The Best American Poetry” of the year 2000 that was nothing to write home about, as I recall. The yearly anthologies of “Best American Short Stories”, although obviously not poetry, I highly recommend.

Behind some videos can be found some works by Sherman Alexi. I like Alexi’s work, but don’t re-read it often. Come to think of it, it might be nice to revisit that window into Native American existence. There is one particular poem about a family followed by fire that I remember being very compelling. I’ll have to go and search for it after I’m done writing this.

We own a couple of anthologies that I find very useful. The “Norton Anthology of Poetry”, of course, but then there is a really excellent anthology published by Norton called “The Making of a Poem” that I highly recommend as a collection of truly compelling poetry as well as a valuable reference on poetic forms.

One book I like very much that is a book about poetry rather than of poetry is “What is Found There” by the late Adrienne Rich. It is a kind of ‘state of poetry’ address, in which the causes, effects and evolution of poetry is discussed in a very compelling and thought provoking way.

There are also slim books by lesser know poets tucked in between other books or sitting in darkness in seldom visited drawers, and doubtless other more well known works I’ve left out. The books mentioned here are the ones readily at hand. Perhaps that makes them the ones most worth mentioning. It was from these books that I chose poems to read to parents and children at our local elementary school annual Poetry Night, and also to read to my sister as she rested before she passed away. I guess it is safe to say that poetry has played a large role in my life.

That reminds me, since we are parents we have Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein on upper bookshelves and behind other books since our children lost interest in them. They wait there patiently for the probable eventual grandchildren, I suppose.

That’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll write a poem about it.

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Comments 21 comments

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I think it's wonderful that you have all these books in your home. I have kept books from my children who now have children, and the young ones love to go through and read those books their Mother read when she was a child. When you have time, check out the Hub I just wrote in honor of Poetry Month. Goodnight.


Lizam1 profile image

Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

Lovely hub drew me in to your world and the poetry and books you love. Thanks


missingyou profile image

missingyou 4 years ago from Canada

Thanks for the tour Tom. I can relate, my favorite poetry books are taking up prime real estate on the bedside table, and show no inclination to going anywhere else soon. Regards, missingyou


cleaner3 profile image

cleaner3 4 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

very nice hub Tom, What a collection.Awesomme


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Sometime I should do an article on some of the poetry books that have passed through our lives on gone on to others. I think I would have many more poetry books but for those I have given away or redeemed at the used book store. I think that after a time, if one is not going to re-read a book ever, it is best to find it a new home. Thanks, Mary, Liz, Missingyou and Cleaner for commenting! :)


missingyou profile image

missingyou 4 years ago from Canada

Hello Tom, recycling books is a good idea. They do tend to pile up, even in this age of ebooks. I've sent many books packing, part of the whole 'down sizing' effort. It is is amazing how quickly we accumulate 'stuff'. But there are a few poetry books I would never give up, 'The Oxford Book of American Verse', and an old high school text book 'Poetry of our Time', treasured, dog eared collections of the best 20th Century poetry.


Julie Livingston 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this, Tom. It's very touching how poetry has affected you and your family, and it made me think about the books and literary experiences that Peter and I have shared with our boys.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for reading, Julie! My best to Peter and all your family.


girltalksshop 4 years ago

Cool, I envy the fact you have all those books in your home. At the same time, I am happy for you. : ) Interesting hub and spin on poetry and what it has meant to you and your family.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 4 years ago from Minnesota

Your home sounds like a magical library of sorts. I can tell you have quite a passion for poetry with the variety you speak of.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

Very, very interesting. Glad you included Silverstein.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

I find that some poems have a habit of resurfacing in my life, or that I find myself in need of refreshing my memory of them. So it is good to have them around :)

I am glad I did not forget the children's poets. They are fun both for the reading parent and the listening child, and even more fun when the roles are reversed.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thank you, Tom! What a wonderful visual essay! Some thoughts:

- My wife writes a lot of poetry, and I struggle along with some, too. You encourage me to appreciate our poetry books more.

- I like your suggestions of "How to be well-versed in poetry" and "the making of a poem." They sound really helpful.

- I hadn't heard Adreinne Rich had passed away. Sad news!

- Haul down Seuss and Silverstien, and read them aloud yourself. One never gets too old!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Hello Tom, I think i have enough books to start a public library. The problem, i don't have time to read them anymore. ( Hubpages ) The one book i don't have is a book of poetry. I might mention, the book stores around me are all going out of business. The internet.... Interesting topic..Cheers


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Great advice, Sid! I was thinking of picking up "One Fish, Two Fish..." except I picked up "Head Off & Split" by Nikky Finney at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival last night, and now I HAVE to read that! Come a day, though, Seuss it is!

Hi Ruby! Yes, every retail store has to be extra clever these days to compete with online. Our local book store survives by attracting authors and poets to give weekly readings, community involvement, a big and eclectic used book store downstairs and a large piece of prime floor space devoted to jewelry and other gifts. I guess it can't be just a bookstore anymore.


Drax profile image

Drax 4 years ago from NYC....

great hub Tom, I meant to do one of these too as the next stage, never enough hours for Hubs or poems... :-)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Where does the time go? :)


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines

This is an enjoyable journey through your home...of discovering new and old "friends". For an obsessive-compulsive like me (in as far as sorting and arranging books in their proper place), the non-conformity and free spirit that kindle the beauty and evocation of feelings by poetry now make books of poetry align in bookshelves seem unnatural and out of place.:)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Wonderful observation, Silentreed. I wonder what would happen if books of poetry were dispersed throughout the bookstore instead of segregated? Interesting...


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 3 years ago

wishing you lots and lots and lots of grandchildren, so they can learn from you........ This is a really nice hub, and gives us great insight to the man who writes da poems,


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Joy. :)

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