Monday, June 25, 2018

Poetry in Michigan / Michigan in Poetry (Huron River Mist) Hardcover – October 1, 2013 by William Olsen (Editor), Jack Ridl (Editor) (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

I'm not used to oversized, hardbound, beautifully illustrated poetry books. Most of my poetry anthologies are softcover, well-thumbed, and shabby with age. Some of the pages keep falling out. My own poems are in a three-ring binder with a picture of a horse on the cover. The majority of them were typed on a typewriter.

Do the poems in "Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry" deserve such luxurious surroundings?

Some of them do. The poems are arranged alphabetically by the last name of their authors, so it was just a matter of pure serendipity that it was the first poem in the book that rose up and hit me between the eyes and made me shout, "Yes, that is how it is!" Let me quote the last stanza of "At Burt Lake" by Tom Andrews:

"Lord,/ language must happen to you/ the way this black pane of water,/ chipped and blistered with stars,/ happens to me."

Many of my favorite poems in this book are prose poems, detached paragraphs surfacing out of the depths of the poet's subconscious mind like "Stones that Float" by Peter Markus. My least favorite entries are the poems that are so personal to the poet that I can't begin to understand them. The poet is curled so tightly around the poem that I can't catch sight of the innermost chamber that would have given life to the words. These are the kept poems that should have remained in someone's three-ring binder.

In a collection this extensive (90 poets) you have to expect such a mix. Some of Michigan's most famous poets are in here, including Conrad Hilberry and Diane Wakoski, but most of the names are unfamiliar to me. Many of the poems could only have been written in Michigan. Taken as a whole, this book is a keenly honed tribute to this watery, industrial-strength peninsula.

And if you are ever asked to read a poem at a funeral, as I once was, check out "What is Written on the Leaves" by Robert Fanning--a grand eulogy for any Michigander!

This book was published under the auspices of the College of Arts and Sciences, Western Michigan University, and was "supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, and Bell's Brewery." The poems were chosen by William Olsen and Jack Ridl, both published poets. (They each have a poem in this book).

Another collection of Michigan poetry that I can highly recommend is "Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry" edited by Conrad Hilberry, Herbert Scott, and James Tipton.

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