Sometimes we read poetry 2 Comments

Sometimes we read poetry

Last time I wrote for Virgule I wrote about how poetry works with the seasons. It’s been interesting reading for this submission cycle with that in mind because we’ve had poetry that refers to insects, summer, long nights, Australian suburbia and the country. We’ve had a really strong submission round so congrats to all you gorgeous submitters!

As we approach the task of giving feedback to writers we have been talking about compiling a list of poetry to refer our writers to for further reading and inspiration. I’m hoping this list will grow over time and encompass all sorts of themes, from seasons, animals, places, emotions, history, times.. We want to make a reference for people submitting to the magazine and also general starting points for people who don’t really “get” poetry.

You can find websites that already list poems according to theme, poet, form or literary genre like Poets.orgPoetry Foundation, Poem Hunter and Ubuweb. They are great, but it’s easy to get lost in such all-encompassing resources. So I asked some of the Voiceworks Edcomm to start off with a few of their major favourites and influences.


So I like Frank O’Hara the best. His verse is generally pretty strange, and often quite oblique, but I feel like his weirdness comes from a genuine place, and his skewed reality always feels like a reality he actually inhabits. This poem particularly embodies his unique spirit, in its passion for life, people, and culture, and its surprising turns of phrase (“We are drifting back and forth between each other / Like a tree breathing through its spectacles”). It takes the age old “I love x because it’s like y” poem into untrodden territory. It’s funny and weird and pretty as heck.


A lot of my favourite stuff is 19th century and older, but don’t want to encourage more bad sonnets/ rhyming poems etc! The last contemporary collection I loved was ‘The Lifting Dress’ by Lauren Berry. It’s a collection of quasi-confessional poems about a girl who’s been raped–sounds bad but it works somehow. There’s a narrative arc and characters and a strong setting (Tallahassee, Florida) so it appeals to my fiction-brain. The poems all have titles like ‘The Just-bled Girl Refuses to Speak’ and ‘The Pale-skinned Catholic Girls Go Topless Sunbathing.’ [ED: Found this one with a similar title ‘Revision in My Wife’s Powder Room‘]


I enjoy writing in general that combines facts, imagery and more emotive language. I have recently been introduced to Forrest Gander, who writes poetry in this vein. My fave at the moment is ‘Ligature 4‘, which entangles squid facts with what seems to be the human condition, but which is abstract enough to be open for interpretation.

Susie (me)

A big influence on my writing and what I enjoy reading is [sometimes banal] realism. This includes but is not limited to Dorothea LaskyDorothy Parker and prose writers like Lorrie Moore and Elizabeth Smart. For the sake of finding a point, let me refer to Chelsea Martin. I love the way she combines irreverent activities, humour, gross/weird aspects of life, sadness, ‘life feelings’ and how she doesn’t adhere to strict forms a lot of the time.

I maintain that you don’t need to be a poet to enjoy, understand or [have a reaction to] poetry. In future this list will hopefully grow bigger and we will expand into categories more complex than our favourites, but this is just the beginning.

Are you reading poetry at the moment? Share your favourites or current influences in the comments.

  • luna

    That’s a wonderful list. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    When it comes to inspirational poetry, I always prefer a touch of nature in Robert Frost’s poems and a dreamy touch in Edgar Allan Poe’s, with a bit of Matthiew Arnold’s complex words and deep meanings then into Emily Dickinson’s rhyming poems and a bit of Christina Rossetti’s Nursery rhymes…
    Overall, am always lurking in the 18th an 19th century poetry, I feel very comfortable with it.

    • Susie Anderson

      I feel you Luna. For me it’s really hard to whittle down to one single favourite poet. I find different things to love in different poets. I think that here we hope to put up broad inspiration so our readership has.. somewhere to start!
      I love Emily Dickinson and I love Christina Rosetti. I had a compendium of poetry when I was younger and wrote out my favourite ones and hung them on my bedroom wall.. I think it’s still there at my mum’s. Christina and Emily were both on it :)))

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