Did you forget that April is National Poetry Month? Here are few reading suggestions for you to celebrate–before it’s too late! Even the non-poetry reading readers may find something to enjoy here, from Stephan Crane’s short (and easy to read) selection to Noyes’ celebrated romantic ballad “The Highway Man.”
Although best known as a novelist in the naturalist tradition, Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, also released two volumes of poetry: The Black Riders and Other Lines and War Is Kind and Other Lines. His poems run the gamut from reflecting on life, the relationship of God and man, the nature of war, love, and more. I particularly like his poems because they are often questioning and even contradictory. In some, Crane seems to reaching for an idea of a just God–but may be conflicted about whether this justice is something people should be consoled by. In others, Crane wonders whether there is a God at all. Or if God is just making sport of humans.
Most of Crane’s poems are short and free form, so it’s easy to pick a few to read even if you are short on time. They’re currently in the public domain, so available with a quick online search. Here’s one from The Black Riders and Other Lines to get you started.
If I should cast off this tattered coat,
And go free into the mighty sky;
If I should find nothing there
But a vast blue,
One of England’s most famous metaphysical poets, John Donne’s work ranges from the erotic poem “The Flea” (in which he compares sex to being bitten by a flea to seduce his lover) to his Holy Sonnets. His work often deals with religion, but in unexpected ways, such as in “Holy Sonnet 14,” which begins, “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.” From there, the poet implores God to attack and overthrow him as if he were a fortress; only by capture, he says, can he be free. His unconventional imagery may shock and disturb some readers. However, it is also one of his great strengths as poet, causing readers to think about topics in new ways.
Noyes’ best-known work may be “The Highway Man,” a romantic ballad that tells of how the titular highwayman and his lover were betrayed by a jealous ostler. The repetition and cadence make it wonderful for recitation. Indeed, readers are probably most familiar with the poem as one recited by L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley. This is the perfect poem for readers who unabashedly love the dramatic and the romantic.
Who are some of your favorite poets?