Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Norah Pollard, Poet

April is National Poetry Month, and I had the good fortune to meet a poet. Norah Pollard came to our western suburbs of Chicago to read some of her poetry as the final event of The Big Read . This year's book was Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, and the connection is that Norah is the jockey Red Pollard's daughter. Some of her poems are about her father. You can find a sampling at this web page about her book Leaning In.

Several of us from the eight libraries that participated in The Big Read had lunch with Norah at the Morton Arboretum the day after her poetry reading at the Lisle Public Library. We talked about topics anyone would discuss - food, travel, children, tattoos. It was not at all hard talking to a poet. We also talked about poetry and the readability of poetry. Norah said that a poet has the obligation of clarity, even when their poetry is personal. It is the personal aspect that makes it interesting and with which we identify. She thought the New Yorker and college professors lose sight of this idea, with the result (my interpretation of what she said) that the public thinks poetry has to be difficult to read.

Personal taste is important for poetry readers. I have started reading several poetry collections in the last two weeks that I just did not appeal to me. I read about 10 pages in each and returned them to the library. That is really no different from my fiction reading. I find very few novels that I like. This morning I started an old collection of Ogden Nash poems. It had sat on my bookshelf for a couple of weeks unopened, as I thought it might be a little old-fashioned. To my surprise, I found it is still amusing and relevant. Now I am enjoying myself.

Go to a poetry reading. Check out a poetry book. Take a poet to lunch. Enjoy yourself, too.

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