And then there's the contemporaries. There are probably a half dozen poets whose every work I'll buy; and there are probably twenty or thirty poets whose book I'll pick up in the second-hand shop on the strength of their name alone. I've got lots of books of poetry waiting to be read: every year I seem to discover between twenty and forty new poets.
I've got a hankering, however, to get to grips with some contemporaries on a deeper level. To that end, I posted on Facebook this morning the following: "Looking for a new focus: who's the one poet -- between 30 & 50 -- besides yourself -- whom you think I ought to immerse myself in?" I got a bunch of responses, and here's the list:
Noah Eli Gordon
(Points off, Mike Theune, for not reading instructions – one poet.) 29 poets in all – with Kevin Prufer recommended twice. If nothing else, the list shows me that I'm perhaps not as out of touch as I'd feared: only maybe four of these names are entirely new to me, and I've read books by about half of them. (I seem to have actually met about 2/5 of them – which means it's a small world.) Indeed, a few of them fall into my "know pretty well" category. I think the "pick up whatever looks interesting, then read other books by the good ones" method is working out alright.
What I decided this afternoon, however, was that I would indeed work to expand my "knowledge base," but not necessarily by changing my consumption/study of 30-50-year-olds. Instead, I'd focus on a few slightly older – boomer generation, really – poets who've written both poetry and essays, and whose work has always compelled me even if I haven't given it quite the time it deserves. So one of my ancillary reading projects over the next few months will be an in-depth reading of Rachel Blau DuPlessis (whose Drafts I've followed since they started appearing, but which I've never given the kind of concentrated reading they deserve); Norma Cole, every word of whose I've read I've been compelled by, but whom I've never quite been able to see whole; and Marjorie Welish, whose work – or at least the four or five books I've read – has both sensuality and really dazzling conceptual rigor.
That should keep me off the streets for a while.