Poetry Reading List

Isn’t that quote just perfect? It is from the poem “Evangeline,” and was written on the chalkboard at the entrance to one of my favorite bookstores: Sundog Books. Wooden floors, tall shelves, and tables stacked high with books make it the perfect early morning stop in Seaside. Plus, there are giant mimosas next door to sip once you’ve found the book you’d like to spend the afternoon with. So today, inspired by Sundog, I’m sharing my poetry reading list.

“Evangeline” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m familiar with this title because my favorite aunt’s name was Evangeline, and she had a beautiful antique copy of this epic poem. But I confess, I never read it. So after the chalkboard’s gentle reminder, this one has gone to the top of the list! The plot follows Evangeline in her search for her long-lost love, Gabriel.

“Telling the Bees” by Faith Shearin

Garrison Keillor has read several selections from this poetry collection recently on the Writer’s Almanac, and I have loved the subjects Shearin chooses to write about. There’s something about the sense of place she describes in her poems that I find incredibly comfortable. My favorite was “My Grandparents Generation”…

I am going to miss their attics, 
their ordinary coffee, their chicken
fried in lard.

“O, What a Luxury” by Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor’s poetry, much like his radio show A Prairie Home Companion, is just fun. There’s a chapter in this book titled “Was Ethel Merman a Mormon?” because sometimes alliteration is awesome. Among odes to Minnesota and the Lutheran Church, he even writes his own “Thong Song.” It’s definitely worth a read!

So tell me: Do you read poetry? If so, what else should be on my list this summer?

A Poem

A little poem about a small town to start the week…

A window on Bull Street in Savannah, Georgia

A window on Bull Street in Savannah, Georgia


by Jack Gilbert

In the small towns along the river
nothing happens day after long day.
Summer weeks stalled forever,
and long marriages always the same.
Lives with only emergencies, births,
and fishing for excitement. Then a ship
comes out of the mist. Or comes around
the bend carefully one morning
in the rain, past the pines and shrubs.
Arrives on a hot fragrant night,
grandly, all lit up. Gone two days
later, leaving fury in its wake.

A Poem of Peace

Presented without comment.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
by Dr. Maya Angelou

from the National Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 5, 2005

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.