April is National Poetry Month: Four Favorite Poetry Books

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m actually going to attempt the challenge to write a poem each day.

Here are some recent favorite collections. You can probably tell that I like accessible poetry.

Kin Types

The stories of ancestors help keep them alive. Luanne Castle does that regularly on her blog called “The Family Kalamazoo,” but in this slim volume of 19 poems and flash prose, she captures individuals with a vignette of well-chosen details that give you goosebumps, even a lump in your throat. They are poignant, sharing some harsh scenes as well as how one name is so ubiquitous in her ancestry.

I especially enjoyed the one about family resemblances in old photographs, and noting the names, dates, and places as her forebears crossed the ocean from The Netherlands and Germany and ended up in Michigan. I also enjoyed finding pictures of some of these on her genealogy blog. This delightful chapbook, Kin Types, helps keep alive individuals largely forgotten otherwise.

Luanne Castle’s latest book of poetry is called Doll God.

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Rumble & Flash

Chad Allen Elliott’s path to poetry began with a love of music. He has performed original songs across the U.S. for over 20-years, winning several awards for composition including the Woody Guthrie Songwriting Award in 2009. Early in his career, he learned some verses do not need musical embellishment. They stand alone in their own cadence. Since that time, this Iowan has penned nearly 2,000 songs and released 22 albums.

In Rumble & Flash, Chad shares poems composed during his time on the road. They are steeped in archetypal themes like fatherhood, love, nature, and spirituality.

Chad read the winsome opening poem, “Ringgold County,” on John Busbee’s “The Culture Buzz” program on KFMG-FM.

Rumble & Flash is full of wisdom from perspective. I especially enjoyed “The Rough Aesthetic of Men,” “One Harmful Thing,” “Refining Years,” and “Bur Oak.”

Chad Elliott’s artwork is also absolutely captivating.

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Dust and Diamond: Poems of Faith and Beyond

Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. Now retired from college teaching, he writes suspense and mystery fiction as well as literary poetry designed for the ordinary reader. He lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction, poetry, and essays on ethics and U.S. foreign policy.

These poems in Dust and Diamond are wide-ranging, from profound to tongue-in-cheek, all delightful. I especially enjoyed the beautiful “Notation,” the gritty “Panhandle Dust Storm,” “Epigram: 1869,” the miracle of “Ear,” the profound “Terminal Conditions,” and the laugh-out-loud “Fashion Models.”

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Horse Lawyer and Other Poems

Greg Seeley was raised on a farm north of Afton, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a major in history and received his Master’s Degree from the University of Iowa. Greg is a retired certified public accountant and lives in Overland Park, Kansas with his wife Carolyn, a retired math teacher.

These are delightful and accessible vignettes. What a compelling way to preserve and share the soul of three generations of farm families, through the author’s fatherline in free verse. Not only that, but they lived on the same nook of Iowa soil over a span of 125 years. I’m encouraged to try something similar with my own motherline.

The Horse Lawyer and Other Poems is divided into the three generations and accompanied by winsome photos. I especially enjoyed the poems called “His Rocker,” “Fraternity of the Soil,” and the two about aging–“Two Shall Be As One” and “It’s Getting Gray.”

Greg Seeley also wrote Tractor Bones and Rusted Trucks: Tales and Recollections of a Heartland Baby Boomer, which is a collection of poetry and short stories.

11 comments

  1. I can only recall having written one poem in my life. Maybe I wrote a few more, but I can’t remember them. The one I do remember I wrote for my wife: “True love with its source divine / Can no complete fulfillment find / Until it gives itself away / And keeps on giving day by day. . . .” [I can’t remember the intervening lines, but it ends thus–) “But it must always Christlike be / And live and give eternally.” I, too, like “accessible” poetry, as you call it. My favorite poets are Edgar Guest, James Whitcomb Riley, and Jesse Stuart (_Man_With_a_Bull-tongue_Plow_), probably because they all relate to rural life and values.

    • Beautiful. She’ll cherish that one. I gave up trying to rhyme poems, mostly honing in on how few words can convey what you’re aiming at. I especially like ones that tell a story. The Seeley poems are wonderfully agrarian. Next week will be four more, including my favorite: Ted Kooser.

  2. Thanks for these recommendations, Joy. I really enjoy poetry and love Kin Types. The others sound wonderful, too. My own efforts at the genre are rather lame!

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