Starting Anew: Looking at “The Greats” for the first time

So, I’m going to confess something to you all, because this feels like a safe space and it’s something that I’m not really THAT ashamed of, I don’t think. I probably should be but. Whatever. Here it goes…

I hate the classics. I cannot stand To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ve skimmed East of Eden, and Great Expectations went right over my head. With that being said, I did a thing that might be hurting me in my poetic voice, but I don’t know? This is where I need your help.

Since I’ve tried really really hard to steer clear of “the greats” in fiction, you can probably guess that I’ve never had any real relationship with any of the poetry greats either. I’ve read some Emerson, some Thoreau, and ummm… some other things? This section makes me feel a little bad for ignoring some historic writers, but at least I’m admitting my wrongs!

This class has turned me into a poetry fiend. I want to write it, live it, and research it as much as I can. A trip to the Ithaca Book Sale (which everyone should try to get to before it ends on October 28th. They have a bag day where you can buy BAGS OF BOOKS for $1!!! It’s incredible) left me with arms full of poetry books that I never would have found in a Barnes and Noble or any other commercial bookstore. I grabbed some e.e. Cummings books, Maya Angelou, and Ezra Pound. I can’t wait to dive into these works and contrast the more contemporary stuff I’m in to. But I want more! Does anyone have some authors that I can get acquainted with, so I can become a well-rounded poet? I’m literally open to any suggestion at this point. Who am I missing? Who will help me re-imagine the line? Who will make me shiver with emotion while I read their books on the weekends?

Gimme all of the poets! And thanks for being here for this very important message (don’t worry, I’m judging myself just a teeeeeeny bit, too).

2 Replies to “Starting Anew: Looking at “The Greats” for the first time”

  1. Hey Meg–as we went over in class, I feel a lot of the same way about reading “the classics,” and I also find that my knowledge of poetry is lacking. Of course, we are probably underestimating both of ourselves. We’ve probably read more than we think.

    I think you will really like reading E.E. Cummings. He actually was one of the first authors that got me really into reading and writing poetry after I bought one of books on sale at the Strand freshman year. This was after being briefly introduced to him in my 11th grade English class. He really encouraged me to be experimental with my writing since his work challenged my conception of how to use grammar and punctuation in poetry. He’s pretty eccentric and also wrote a decent about of erotic poetry– my friend got me a copy with some his erotic poems over the summer– I still need to read it but I’m totally down to share it 🙂

    Another poets that I got into when I discovered poets was Allen Ginsberg. If you can get a hold of his work, it’s really political and also hilarious a lot of the time. He was really influential in the Beat movement of the 1950s. I’m actually using one of his poems as a model for the panel at our FUSE Conference– his poem entitled “America.” I think you’ll find his work really groovy and moving.

  2. I just typed out this really long, thoughtful comment only to have it get erased when I logged back in. I’m so mad.

    With that being said, I think I have a healthy way to start reading the classics if you are feeling a lil’ guilty for not having read them sooner: go for the ones you like. Why bother forcing yourself to read materials you don’t care about on your own time? You can always do that later, because right now, they’re obviously not going to be absorbed in the same way a horror nut might like Frankenstein, a novel literally about a reconstructed corpse. The romance lover might enjoy Gatsby. But if you’re not into religious analogies and weird love triangles, then East of Eden’s California farming may not be for you. You can always come back to the boring stuff after laying down some groundwork.

    Hope this helped!

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