It’s hard to say what my five FAVORITE books of poetry are, because favorite can mean so many different things. But there are exactly five books that I’ve read and read and read again until they broke in half and the covers ripped, and here are those books:
I carry Necessary Stranger, by Graham Foust around with me in my purse, because it’s so heartbreakingly direct that if you open it while you’re waiting line at Walgreens and then the cashier is ready for you after you’ve only read a single line, you’ve still been refreshed, and amazed, and a little bit changed. My favorite poem in it is “Marital,” which starts, “To have and have and // have and how / could you not // stop blossoming.”
I have an extra-special place in my heart for It is Daylight, by Arda Collins because it, like Necessary Stranger, shows that the suburbs are as beautiful, scary, strange, boring and exciting as driving alone on a Midwestern highway in the middle of the night. My favorite poem in it is “Snow on the Apples,” which has a part that goes, “God? You say, but not aloud. Since / there is no god, have you be / both you and god.”
I always want to give In the Western Night, by Frank Bidart to people who say they don’t get poetry; Frank Bidart was going to be a movie director and it’s like watching the scariest, most beautiful movie your own mind could ever invent. Also, the interview at the end sort of contains the meaning of life.
Louise Gluck’s First Four Books of Poems is the first book I broke. It spoke to me so strongly, especially the first book, Firstborn, which is formal and controlled and almost mean. I still steal all the time from the the one (“Bridal Piece”) that goes, “The moon / Lurched like searchlights, like / His murmurings across my brain– / He had to have his way. As down / The beach the wet wind / Snored… I want / My innocence.”
The edition of The Dream Songs, by John Berryman with all of the dream songs in it, not just the first 77. Because some of the most beautiful parts are in the later ones, like “I – I’m / trying to forgive / whose frantic passage, when he could not live / an instant longer, in the summer dawn” (145) or “degraded Henry, at the ebb of love–/ O at the end of love–” (109) or “Dry, ripe with pain, busy with loss, let’s guess. / Gone.” (224) or “If there were a middle ground between things and the soul // or if the sky resembled more the sea” (385).
BIO: Lucy Biederman’s poems appear in the current issues of The Journal, Country Music, and PMSpoememoirstory and are forthcoming in The Apalachee Review and Open City. You can find links to poems of hers that have been published online.