On Poetry and Culture Shock

Libraries and influences

I have reorganised my library to set apart the poetry. I have about thirty books of poetry that are only mine (meaning that they don’t belong, even nominally, to other members of the family). They are a mixture of the bought-for-class, gifts, and my own choices, but the collection seems coherent as a carefully curated museum exhibition; a curious time traveller from the 31th Century could see my collection and have a have a very good idea of what sort of poetry mattered a millennia before.

I have a preference for complete works in a single volume (one third of my books are like that). It’s easy to see things are divided in three clear groups: English classics with a preference for Shakespeare and Romanticism (the Muses spent too much talent inspiring Keats, and then Spanish Romanticism was stuck with the awful, lousy, embarrassing Bécquer: it’s NOT fair). Modernism and free verse in any language (Spanish anthologies, Pedro Salinas, Adrienne Rich, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, e. e. cummings, Edwin Morgan, Alan Spence, T. S. Eliot, Bukowski). Haikus and other Japanese or Chinese poetry (Issa, Shiki, Zhang Kejiu, Li Po, Alan Spence, Sei Shonagon, anthologies without end)

I don’t particularly enjoy that my poetic vocabulary and artistic loves are so far away from my own culture. Sometimes I wish I could express myself fully in one language and one mode, instead of groping my way in the darkness of two different languages. But that would mean to choose Spanish only, and Spanish has very little excellent free verse so it is not enough for inspiration. And as I have said before, unrhymed poetry in Spanish that is not free verse is extremely rare. Unrhymed, non-free verse being my favourite metric pattern, I will have to keep finding my way in two languages and borrowing stanzas from any other that catches my attention.

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