As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we sent out an email to the English department and asked them a single question: “What is your favorite poem, and/or who is your favorite poet, and why?” Here are some of the answers we’ve received so far.
My favorite poet as of late has been Linda Gregg. I read her 2008 collection All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems late last year, then learned that she passed away on March 20, 2019. Her imagery and straightforward language are vivid, compact, and startling. In “The Weight,” she describes two horses who lived together: “There are things they did that I do not know. / The privacy of them had a river in it. / Had our universe in it. And the way / its border looks back at us with its light.” Her poem “Let Birds” is like a song of acceptance: “Let winter impress you. Let spring. / Allow the ocean to wake in you.” She, W. S. Merwin, and Mary Oliver are of the same ilk, I think — all of whom recently passed. Their writing proves that a mastery of language doesn’t need to be demonstrated in complexities; sometimes the simplest images are the most profoundly beautiful.
Devon Fulford, who is currently an instructor in the English department and also one of our alumna, having gotten her B.A. in English: Creative Writing, responded: “Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ is my favorite poem.”
Pam Coke, Associate Professor of English Education, said: “My favorite poet is Mary Oliver. Reading one of her poems transports me outside, whenever I need a break, even if I can’t actually go outside. I turn to her when I need inspiration in my own writing, too, as her language helps me craft what I am trying to express. I miss her already.”
Airica Parker, an instructor in the English department, answered:
I’m not a big fan of “favorites” because so many poems and poets contribute to the landscape in so many different important ways. With that said, a poem I value on a personal level is “Promise of Blue Horses” by Joy Harjo because it reminds us of the power of love as a vital yet impossible promise made as “blue horses of electricity who surround the heart,” and this short, hopeful poem reminds us of a world still spinning as it lives another precious day full of many stories and loves.
I’m going to go with June Jordan [for favorite poet] because her work is accessible, and I treasure her courage and clarity. She made poetry about fighting for a better world, and that’s something I love about poetry, too. I wish more people would think about how to use their own unique voice to express language that is both beautiful and powerful, like June Jordan did.
Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, Professor of English Education, said: “My favorite poem is ‘To Be of Use’ by Marge Piercy. My favorite poet? AAAAHH, I think it’s a toss-up between Mary Oliver, William Stafford, and Pablo Neruda.”
What about you, kind and gentle reader? What is your favorite poem, and/or who is your favorite poet, and why? Comment on this post and let us know.