A few years ago, February 22, 2009 to be exact, I was asked this question:
What are 20 poetry books (if there are twenty) that made you fall in love with poetry, the books that made you think: I want to do this, I need to do this. What are the books that kept you going? Don’t put down the books that you think you’re “supposed” to like, but list the core ones, the ones that opened all of this up for you.
On February 22, 2009, this was my list of 20:
I also included these additional thoughts:
So that was 2009. I should say, at that time, I was admonished by someone (two guesses what gender and ethnicity said giver of admonition was), that my list was too provincial, too contemporary, lacking in the great enduring classics and canonical works. Obviously, this person had their own ideas and context with little intersection to or consideration of my own context (we may have “shared” space on Silliman’s blogroll back in the day, and that’s not a meaningful enough intersection for me).
I know I had answered as honestly as possible; I always say — and it’s the absolute truth — that if I had never seen or encountered poetry collections from fierce, indie WOC and POC, especially Filipino Americans, especially Filipino Americans in the Bay Area, then the likelihood of my pursuing a career in letters would have been near impossible.
What saddens me most and what grosses me out is that we still don’t allow or give space for people to find their own ways into poetry, whatever route, whatever timetable. And we just don’t let folks love the poetry they love.
I wanted to revisit this list, especially this part of the question: works “that made you fall in love with poetry, the books that made you think: I want to do this, I need to do this.” I wanted to think about how I, a decade later, would amend my 2009 list above. And maybe the way to word it now would include: stripped of all the noise and hype, what books make you rethink, make you challenge and reevaluate your own poetics, rekindle your love for, your faith in poetry, and in what poetry can do. That said, my list grows, and will continue to grow:
I have tremendous “To Read” stacks at home. This list will continue to grow as I make my way through my stacks.