In this post, I’d like to comment briefly on two books of poetry (mostly poetry), that I finished reading in the last couple of months and which were listed on my 2022 TBR Pile Challenge list.
On September 12, I started reading Rimbaud: Complete Poetry and Prose. I finished it on October 4. This is one of the more thoughtfully and interestingly collected “complete” editions that I’ve ever read. Two things, in particular, stood out when reading this one. First, an excellent introduction by Wyatt Mason, which explains his translation ethos and the rationale behind his design decisions. Second, the design itself. While I was pleased to find the original French poems included along with the English translations, I was even more excited to see some of Rimbaud’s process documents included. The book itself is ordered chronologically, which allows the reader a wonderful and illuminating look at Rimbaud’s progression and development as a poet and thinker, but later in the edition, Mason provides selected drafts and revisions of certain poems. The writer and teacher in me was thrilled by this. I learned quite a lot about Rimbaud’s skill and persistence by reading his poems and the later documents section, but much more about Rimbaud the person and artist by reading his letters, his schoolwork, and other prose materials that Mason includes in this edition. Taken all together, and considering how well-designed this tome is, I think Rimbaud Complete was both enjoyable and elucidating. It made of me a Rimbaud fan (previously I felt for some reason, I had to choose a camp: Rimbaud or Baudelaire? Ah hell, the answer is, both!) I gave this one five out of five on Goodreads. This one was Book 10 completed for my challenge.
Another tome I’ve been working on for some time is Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. I started this one on April 15th and didn’t finish it until November 19th. This one is a brilliant and erudite exploration of poetry, including everything from form and technique to history and examples. Admittedly, even as a somewhat practicing poet, much of this one went over my head. I felt it read much like a textbook that would have benefitted from live instruction or workshopping, especially for readers who don’t have much formal education in or exposure to poetry. That said, what I loved about this book are the helpful examples across all sorts of forms, styles, techniques, etc., and I will be using the prompts section (which also include example readings to help writers understand the peculiarities of each prompt’s form, rhythm, meter, style, or whatever.) In fact, just a few days after finishing the book, I found myself sitting with it at a local cafe, working on the first prompt in the “Exercises for Beginning and Advanced Writers” section. Lastly, there’s an excellent annotated bibliography for further reading near the end of the book, which provides a wonderful roadmap for continued study. I gave this one four out of five stars on Goodreads, and it’s Book 11 completed for my 2022 challenge.