A friend asked me to share with her some of my favorite poems because she is a scientist who never once took a poetry course.
I went back to college in my mind, to Rita Dove and Lisa Russ Spaar and all the poetry workshops and poets and coffee and meaning.
Where do I begin? Keats, Wordsworth, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, AR Ammons, Milton, Herbert, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Shakespeare, Barry, Robert Frost, Tennyson, EA Robinson, Louise Bogan. . .
Where do I begin?
I thought of a few for my friend that don’t classically make the list of folks’ favorite poems ever:
Try Seamus Heaney’s “The Oysters” or Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time” to start. Then add in Ammon’s “Loss” immediately. You’ll want to read Hart Crane’s “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” and then probably Frost’s “For Once Then, Something.”
Later, when you want to think about beauty and truth, read all the Keats you can, especially “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode on Melancholy,” and “Ode to Psyche.” End with Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”
Before you go to bed, read Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Man-Moth” and the entire collected poems of her friend, Marianne Moore (especially “A Grave.” ).
In the morning, begin reading Wallace Stevens. Then take a break and read Robert Lowell’s “After the Surprising Conversions.”
With afternoon tea, read Emily Dickinson. All of Emily Dickinson. Read Whitman the next day, but only if you want to.
That was college. I’m so glad you asked.