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Outside the Book Episode 6: Ferocious Poetry

Posted March 19, 2014 in  EventsBooks and More

“Outside the Book” is a new monthly list that brings together materials from several areas of the library’s collections under the banner of an entertaining theme. Our themes may remind you of something you wanted to read, watch, listen to, or explore. Check back regularly for updates to our Outside the Book column to find new treasures!

April is natural poetry month, and the first weekend in April showcases the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. So in honor of these events, Outside the Book for April has the theme of: Ferocious Poetry: Poems about sex, death, and bad parents. Poetry often illuminates the difficult transactions in life: not just love, but loss, the turmoil of life as often as the beauty. And sometimes it makes the turmoil beautiful. So in honor of national poetry month. Life starts in sex and ends with death, and our emotions about both things are ferocious. We have the influences of ferocious poems everywhere in our collections.


Still Life in Milford – Thomas Lynch. This Michigan undertaker often writes about the connection his profession gives him to his community.

Kingdom Animalia: poems – Aracelis Girmay. Deeply personal poems of transformation and loss and the human heart.

Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides – Stephen Dobyns. Writes poems about the intersection of masculinity and meaning.

A Mind Like This – Susan Ramsey. Often connects precise moments in history with the battles of home life. Severed heads are sometimes involved.

Love Poems – Anne sexton. A confessional poet offers the reader an intimate view of the emotional anguish that characterized her life.

The Wellspring – Sharon Olds. Uses raw language and startling images to convey truths about domestic and political violence and family relationships.

Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson – Emily Dickenson – Dickenson’s poems reflect her “early and lifelong fascination” with illness, dying and death.


Poets often have interesting lives and make interesting subjects for biography.

Byron in Love – Edna O’Brien. Byron always seemed to be in love and on the run, traversing Europe from Spain to Albania. His travels and loves inspired Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan.

The Voice is All – The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac – Joyce Johnson. The Beat Generation revised a culture’s thinking about living life passionately. Kerouac became an underground celebrity covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, promiscuity, Buddhism, poverty, and travel.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou.


In a similar vein, poets often make a good subject for movies.

Dead Poets Society, while fictional, uses the inspiration poetry provides to tell a story about a teacher’s dedication to his class at a highly traditional prep school.

The Raven is a fictionalized account of Edger Allen Poe’s life, in which he tracks down a serial killer using his works as inspiration.

Il Postino is a biography of Pablo Neruda, escaped Chilean President Videla by hiding in the basements of friends, eventually exiled to Argentina.


Sylvia Plath, a confessional poet who famously wrote about her authoritarian father. In Sylvia Plath, from the voice of the poet series, she reads some of her most famous poems. If you search for_ voice of the poet_, you will find other poets, including T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden.

Leonard Cohen’s lyrics have been collected as a book of Poetry in Leonard Cohen: Poems and Songs. But we have several collections of his beautiful lyrics and performances, including The Essential Leonard Cohen

You can find a list of titles with links to our catalog at: Ferocious Poetry