I try to read a poem or two a day. I thought I would be reading a lot more during retirement. I expected I’d devour books; it would be like a return to my adolescence when I was a voracious reader.
But to my surprise (and chagrin), retirement has not been a return to the compulsive reading of the last period in my life when I had a lot of free time. I’ve been trying to figure out why and have identified a few likely culprits.
First, I’ve always been something of a political junkie and the internet has been a real enabler. I spend far too much time reading online newspapers and blogs.
Also, my husband and I subscribe to far too many periodicals. When I was working, I usually did not have time to get through them all and would read an article or two and then throw them into the recycle bin.
Now we have these long breakfasts every day and slowly get through the stack. I may not be reading many books, but I sure am reading a lot of book reviews! There is something really wrong with this picture.
To make sure that I have some connection each day with literature, I try to dip into one of the poetry anthologies scattered around my house. No matter how packed my day, I can always find time for a poem or two .
And another tremendous advantage of poetry—-it forces me to slow down. The internet has turned so many of us into skim-readers. But you can’t skim poetry. It has to be read word for word or it’s not experienced. I find it very satisfying to spend time really reading one short poem.
And has Audre Lorde said in her 1984 essay, “Age, Race, Class: Women Redefining Difference," in Sister Outsider:
Of all the forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry has been the voice the major voice of poor, working class and Colored women.
I’m planning to compile my own personal anthology of poems I love. Any one have any suggestion of poems I should include?