Literary Hook: Good Poems sure to ‘delight and awaken’

Two weeks ago, we looked at Garrison Keillor’s anthology, Good Poems, examining the book for themes. For continuity, here again are the chapter headings from this recommended and celebrated collection: “O Lord”; “A Day”; “Music”; “Scenes”; “Lovers”; “Day’s Work”; “Sons and Daughters”; “Language”; “A Good Life”; “Beasts”; “Failure”; “Complaint”; “Trips”; “Snow”; “Yellow”; “Lives”; “Elders”; “The End”; and “The Resurrection.” The 450-plus page collection contains poems sure to delight and awaken.

Let’s look more closely at Keillor’s intention when compiling this anthology as well as some of the tried and true poets contained within it. In his introduction, Keillor states: “What makes a poem memorable is its narrative line. A story is easier to remember than a puzzle.” At the end of the introduction, he brings his intentions together, saying, “These are poems that made people stop chewing their toasted muffins and turn up the radio and listen and later zip into our Web site and get the dope about the poet.”

What I greatly appreciate about Good Poems is that Keillor combines both modern poets and “dead poets” whose work have traditionally been part of the canon of good poetry. You will read Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Robert Burns, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Oscar Wilde. Next to them you will find “the new canon” of “live poets” whose poetry has become memorable during this century—poets such as Lisel Mueller, Raymond Carver, Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, May Sarton and Stanley Kunitz. And there are hundreds more.

It’s a must for your collection. Try it. I’ll bet you’ll like it.

‘Necessary Angel’ a must-see

The Poetry Center of Chicago and the Northern Illinois University Art Museum in DeKalb are presenting “Necessary Angel,” pairing poets with artists. The exhibit is now running until March 11 in the North Gallery of the Art Museum on campus.

To quote from the news release: “Traditionally, broadsides are poems printed on single sheets of paper, usually coupled with some sort of artistic imagery… Since 1999, each poet who reads in The Poetry Center’s annual reading series submits three poems to a visual artist, who then picks a piece to illustrate.”

Three poets will read for this event: Feb. 23, 6 p.m., Johne Rezek, Simone Meunsch and Dan Beachy-Quick will read at Altgeld Hall. In addition, on Feb. 19, 2 p.m., Dr. Becky Bradway will lection on “Harriet Monroe and the Birth of Poetry Magazine,” also at Altgeld.

The exhibit will run from Jan. 17 to March 11 in the North Gallery of the Art Museum on NIU’s DeKalb campus. For more information, call 815/753-1936 or log on to

On the local scene, I want to publicly praise and thank Sherry Zabinow, Community Relations director at Barnes and Noble here in Rockford. Last Friday, I gave a reading from my new book, Who Walks Among the Trees With Charity, at Barnes and Noble. Sherry did a great job organizing the reading, making sure that the books arrived well in advance of the reading (which sometimes is a feat in itself), and publicizing the reading as well as other events in the store.

She chose a spot that would attract people to the event, created an excellent poster, and kept the after-reading discussion at a high level. Her courtesy, interaction and sophistication created the kind of “literary” atmosphere most poets relish but rarely get. Sherry, I thank you for a memorable evening!

In addition, she has resurrected store events that are friendly to local writers. Barnes and Noble is becoming a place with a “buzz” for literature. Here are some forthcoming samples: Friday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m., Poetry Open Mic; Saturday, Feb. 11, 3 p.m., Valentine’s Children’s Party; Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., Mystery Book Group. Stay tuned for details about other February events at Barnes and Noble in next week’s column. Meantime, check out the literary scene in and around town.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2006, issue

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