Thursday, November 19, 2015

Calling All Book Clubs

Call for Submissions.
I've been a book clubber long enough to know that coming to a consensus about what to read can be one of the biggest challenges. Some people want to read all the new edgy fiction; others want "something light for a change." Some come for the wine.

Some book clubs are well-organized, choosing books, hosts, and meeting locations a year at a time. Some plan programs about the author or the book. Some have book-themed food--or wine. I've visited book clubs in which the members swap books but never read the same one at the same time. (They also serve refreshments using the good china and silver.)

My book club rarely manages to settle on a single book, often adding a second or third extra choice.  We can't plan too far ahead because the book we read in June might not have been published in January.

Most book clubs I know lean heavily toward current fiction, but some read nonfiction--and some read the classics. One of my male college friends, a non-reader back then, joined a book club after he retired and read War and Peace--and convinced his wife and grown son to read it.

Very few book clubs choose poetry. On a few rare occasions, I've been invited to speak to friends' book clubs who selected my chapbook for reading.  I'm sure there was some duress on the part of my friends. Usually, though, the members expressed surprise that they enjoyed reading poems.  They even seemed to enjoy them more after discussions. 

After teaching high school for all those years when students, given an option, tended to choose the shortest book, I wonder why, then, adult readers avoid poetry? As I've mentioned in an earlier, some  people are put off poetry by school experiences.

I think a bigger problem may be that people rarely have any contact with poetry after school, any reason to pick it up and read it. Try browsing the big box bookstore poetry section, and you will find a little Frost, Dickinson, Whitman--but very little poetry from this century.  If your exposure to poetry is limited to The New Yorker, you might think it's all supposed to be highbrow (translation: obscure and abstract.)

Show up at a local poetry event--yes, most cities have them, even small towns--and you might be surprised. Sometimes the best introduction to a poet is hearing that poet reading his or her own poems. It adds another dimension to the words on the page. 

When I started going to our local poetry reading, I made a point, whenever I could, to buy two copies of a chapbook or collection from the featured poet--one for me, one to share.  Then I had an automatic book club meeting, someone else who could talk about the poems with me.  Almost always, something in the poems suggested exactly who my recipient should be.

Jane and I would love to hear from book club members to know (1. what you are reading; (2. if you've ever considered poetry. 

While I'm talking poetry: The National Book Awards for 2015 were just announced. Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis was the poetry winner.  Yes, there is a poetry winner! Check it out.

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