I pulled off 15 poetry collections from my shelves and whittled my choices down to five favorites. So tough.
The Dead and the Living by Sharon Olds When I read Sharon’s poem “The Victims,” in which the narrator “fires” her father—I was hooked. That book gave me license to “go there” in my own work.
Good Woman: Poem and a Memoir, 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton. Reading Ms. Clifton’s work (little or no punctuation, all words in lower case) forced me to reexamine the notion of a traditional poem.
Local Time by Stephen Dunn. Dunn’s poems are the right combination of sensitivity and craft in this collection.
Words Under the Words, Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye Some of my favorite poems come from this collection, drawn from Nye’s Palestinian-American heritage.
Nappy Edges by Ntozake Shange Read the poem “With No Immediate Cause,” and then get back to me.
BIO: January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, December 2009).Underlife was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. She was featured in Poets & Writers magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of its 12 debut poets. One of her poems has been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. She is on the advisory board/planning committee of the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. A Cave Canem fellow, January is a senior writer/editor at Babson College, runs a popular blog called Poet Mom, and lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.