It's rare that I'll respond to a marketing plea from a public relations firm with anything other than sarcasm, but I recently received a request to review Roger Housden's ten poems for difficult times, so given my love of poetry, I jumped at it, received a free copy and here we are.
In his Ten Poems series, Housden chooses ten poems and then discusses each one. I've got copies of several of his other volumes, but given how difficult all of our lives are right now, this volume has special significance. Housden says, "Poems like the ones in this book shake me awake. They pass on their attentiveness, their insight, their love of this broken world to me, the reader." He adds, "We ourselves can wake up to the world and to ourselves in a new way by reading poems such as these -- especially when we read them aloud, and shape the sounds on our lips and the rhythms on our breath -- making us more fully human." In an interview with the publicist, he stated that it was Trump's election that propelled him to add to his series, that his despondency over the election and a walk in the forest (he's British and uses beautiful language) inspired the title and then the collection.
I couldn't agree more with Housden and found his selections wonderful. Familiar with Maggie Smith, Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, William Stafford, W.S. Merwin, Jack Gilbert and Wendell Berry, I found something new to love in the poems he chose of theirs and was introduced to Jan Richardson, Nazim Hikmet and Conrad Aiken. Housden's commentary is great, as well, and includes interesting insights about the poetry and the writers.
In short, I highly recommend this slim volume. Right now, I can't bear to look at any more news of Terrible America, but I'm carrying the little book around today as I take care of a still-struggling Sophie.
Here's a poem by Ellen Bass that speaks to me:
THE THING IS
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
An interview with Mr. Housden: https://youtu.be/5zUrsTXN5Pw
ten poems for difficult times by Roger Housden, published by New World Library