Esta Spalding described reading poetry as “rid[ing] into absence, [the] province of the heart.” Joyous or bereaved, poetry is the ink and paper realm of emotion. April is National Poetry Month, and as such, I asked a number of local creatives to contribute to a suggested reading list. Below are some of their most beloved poems.
“Loading a Boar” by David Lee
This is a prose poem that could, technically, be considered a form of cowboy poetry, but it is about art and from where we draw our inspiration and real, real life. And it's funny. That always helps almost anything. It's about literally loading an angry boar, and it is beautiful. It does what I think, in a way, all poetry does, it shines a light on a way of being. Look it up now. Read it now.
Mike Smith of Albuquerque is a member of the Dirt City literary collective. His work has been featured in Tin House, Booth and New Delta Review. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
“You Can Have It” by Philip Levine
Few poets capture the toil and misery of low wage work better, but every time I read him I'm also struck by the underlying rage at lives and talent wasted on an oppressive system. His poems leave me almost physically tired and feeling … the guilt of privilege. Opportunity, no matter how much we want to believe it is, is not distributed equally.
Beau Carey is an Albuquerque-based painter whose work has been exhibited nationally. His landscapes emphasize contemporary issues in ecology and the historical contexts of humanity's relationship to wilderness.
“Tribal Chant” by Carol Lee Sanchez
I grew up with this poem and it continues to be an incredible exploration of identity in 1950s New Mexico that holds true to this day. The use of repetition reinforces the chanting aspect of the title and the vivid imagery paints a beautiful and delicate portrait of life and living in the canyon country of western New Mexico.
Dr. Lee Francis IV is a poet and the National Director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, a non-profit that promotes the work of Native American writers and storytellers. He also is the founder and CEO of Native Realities Press.
“Say it to me Now” by Noah Cicero
Noah uses plain, simple language to express feelings of shame, love, regret and joy that I immediately recognize in myself but somehow have failed to articulate in my own writing. His work’s simplicity, honesty and complete lack of pretense make it feel entirely vital and life-affirming.
Matthew Binder is the author of the recent novel High in the Streets, the story of a writer whose success challenges his liberty.
As Marya Errin Jones, writer, zinester, musician and curator of the Tannex put it: “Selecting a favorite poem is like trying to grab water from a wave. Soon you are inundated and soaked with the madness of a billion droplets.” Her favorite poet? “The poet who has cast out a life preserver to me countless times, as I drowned under the weight of loss, confusion or heart break is and always will be, Rainer Maria Rilke.”