The Poetic Side of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is almost here. There are lots of traditions among couples, some influenced by the consumer culture, while others not. I am all for celebrating it, or not, in your own way. One thing that comes to mind, though, with the tradition of Valentine’s day is poetry.

I started to do a poetry challenge a while ago. It is a weekly check-in and, in the week prior, you had to either write something, read something, or discover something poetry related. When I started this challenge, poetry felt like it was a lost art form. There are Literary magazines that publish poetry, but I wasn’t seeing poetry books –at least not at the frequency of fiction or nonfiction.

However, since starting this challenge I have found that poetry is not a lost art form. There is a thriving poetry community and, once you start looking, it is everywhere. I have discovered some amazing books of poetry—and some that were not so great. Like any book, a lot of it depends on personal taste; a poem that might speak to one person falls flat on someone else. But there is a rich and diverse community out there. One book that I picked up while browsing the Coach House website was My Ariel by Sina Queyras, this is one that I would read bits and pieces at a time, but her voice is so intriguing, and her words are so elegant, that reading it distracts me from everything else going on around me. This is the same publisher of Suzanne by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette which was longlisted for 2018 Canada Reads (though sadly it was not shortlisted). So, this is a publisher I will be going back to and keeping an eye on upcoming books.

Another great poet I have discovered is Emily Berry. Her book of poetry Stranger, Baby is about her dealing with the loss of her mother. Her style is unique from the other poets I have read. Berry’s words are raw and touching but they still maintain a beautiful flow. She is one of the newest discoveries and I will be checking out her other work. And while she is trying to overcome her grief her words portray a sense of self-discovery.

I find that sometimes poetry can read as obscure or it relies too heavily on romantic heartbreak. And while poetry about heartbreak has its place, sometimes it begins to be a bit too much, there are other things to explore and that is what these two poets do, for me at least. There is an exploration of human experiences and feelings, but it feels grounded; the reader is not left adrift in the same sounding poems about the same thing for too long.

Another poet that was recently recommended to me, and I don’t know how I didn’t know about her earlier (because now that I have been reading her I am seeing her name everywhere) is Mary Oliver. She is a renowned poet and she talks a lot about the experience of being outdoors, being in nature, and just appreciating the moment out there. She is very down to earth, and her words show how important it is to just be present—how much a person can take from even the most mundane moment.

Poetry isn’t just for Valentine’s day cards (though this is a good place for some), poetry is something that can be enjoyed every day. There is a poet and a style out there, I believe, for everyone. I change which book I am reading depending on my mood—my present tastes. And this generally means having several on the go. These books are meant to be savoured, I don’t read through them in one go like I do a novel, but in bits and pieces as they call to me.