The Gift of Poetry

compiled by Jerod Santek, Artistic Director, Write On, Door County

Poetry makes a wonderful gift any time of the year, as do all books. During this season of gift-giving, current and former Door County and Wisconsin poets laureate offered their recommendations for poetry collections that make wonderful gifts.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

“To hold the assembled collection of her writings in your hands – covering her earliest work beginning in 1963 until her last years – is a treasure from one of our most beloved poets.”

Sharon Auberle, Door County Poet Laureate, 2017-2019 

Undocumented: Great Lakes’ Poets Laureate on Social Justice ed. by Ron Riekki and Andrea Scarpino 

“This anthology includes poems from 78 poets organized around themes from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide.’ The poetic forms and voices vary, but the works will bless the readers with new perspective around notions of courage and justice as we head into the new year.”

Kimberly Blaeser, Wisconsin Poet Laureate, 2015-2016

Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez

“The best poetry book I have read recently is by José Olivarez, Citizen Illegal. The poet comes from a Mexican immigrant family and he writes about  his experiences in the family and outside of it in beautifully honest, unassuming, but highly skilled prose poems. Each of the book’s five sections has a poem titled ‘Mexican Heaven’ that showcases a wry and contagious sense of humor. One of our granddaughters (age 19) recently read these poems to her parents at dinner! The book provides a wonderful tonic for readers who are worried about the effects of current culture wars.”

Estella Lauter, Door County Poet Laureate, 2013-2015

Rose by Li-Young Lee

“A long-time favorite of mine, and the book I’m recommending here is Rose, a slender volume of poems by Li-Young Lee. Not his newest work by far, it was published in 1986, but I believe it may be a most welcome gift which, with easy accessibility, takes the reader deep into the world of poetry. These pieces should be approached with a sort of reverence, I think, which was certainly reflected when I heard the author read his work.”

Ralph Murre, Door County Poet Laureate, 2015-2017 

Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works, ed. Jenny Penberthy

“Although published in 2002 this collection of the work of Wisconsin’s Unknown Poet continues to be a favorite. Niedecker’s verse is both simple and multilayered and the reader can return to it often. I would also recommend buying chapbooks of area writers to give as gifts. They are inexpensive and every sale encourages the author to continue in the craft.”

Nancy Rafal, Door County Poet Laureate, 2019-2021

American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith 

“I knew right away what book I want to suggest, recent U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time. A friend who attended Smith’s presentation in Door County bought a copy for me as a gift. I treasure it. I think others may enjoy it for the same reasons. This anthology gives me a sample of the work of poets I’ve wanted to get to know, including but certainly not limited to Layli Long Soldier, Ross Gay, Laura Kasischke, Marie Howe and Jericho Brown. It gives me a sense of the range of what’s going on in poetry today. It also helps me decide whose work will go to the top of my must-read-more list.”

Margaret Rozga, Wisconsin Poet Laureate, 2019-2021

Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected by Joyce Sutphen

“Sutphen’s poems are always so gentle and filled with her love for her family and Minnesota. She uses subtile rhythms unless she is writing in form, something I can’t do. These are poems that read easily like conversations with old friends. These are poems of becoming, coming of age, and coming to terms. ”

Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate, 2017-2018

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