What’s better than a good book to make living worthwhile?
The pandemic has been a tough period, and the lockdown unbearable. Many of us are experiencing a term that has become a global lingo – lockdown depression. While there isn’t only one way to handle this period of heightened anxiety, I realised reading poetry has certainly helped me lift my mood by notches.
And why is that?
Because poetry has the power to soothe and enrich the mind, by giving much fodder for thought. It coaxes us to look at things in a different light, to open ourselves to newer perspectives. And that’s why I disagree with those who say Poetry isn’t one to entertain minds. It very much is. In fact, some writers, are more poets than authors, and have created wonders writing the short-hand literature than full-blown novels.
Essentially, poetry is a different ball-game. One needs a certain acumen to be able to convey thoughts and feelings in just a few words, and almost always restrict oneself to a certain style of crafting. Thus, it is a difficult art form, and very few poets get real close to creating something that lasts in the minds of readers, something that’s moving, that’s life-changing, perhaps!
In recent period of lockdown melancholy, I revisited some poets and their works, with a hope to shed some of the anxiety. And God, did that help! Every day, I am entertaining my distressed mind with poems on topics ranging from nature, happiness, grief, freedom, love, revolution, life, spirituality, etc. from famous poets and lesser-known too.
Since these poetry books have greatly benefitted me, I want you to reap benefits too. That is why I have put together a list of some really engaging poetry books I’ve read over the years. Hope these life-changing books empower you too to beat the lockdown depression!
The Pleasures of the Damned is a selection of the best works from Bukowski’s long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. Celebrating the full range of the poet’s extraordinary and surprising sensibility, and his uncompromising linguistic brilliance, these poems cover a rich lifetime of experiences and speak to Bukowski’s “immense intelligence, the caring heart that saw through the sham of our pretenses and had pity on our human condition” (New York Quarterly). The Pleasures of the Damned is an astonishing poetic treasure trove, essential reading for both longtime fans and those just discovering this unique and legendary American voice.
One of the most highly regarded novels of 1986, Vikram Seth’s story in verse made him a literary household name in both the United States and India.
John Brown, a successful yuppie living in 1980s San Francisco meets a romantic interest in Liz, after placing a personal ad in the newspaper. From this interaction, John meets a variety of characters, each with their own values and ideas of “self-actualization.” However, Liz begins to fall in love with John’s best friend, and John realizes his journey of self-discovery has only just begun.
Written in verse, this was Vikram Seth’s first novel. Set in the 1980s, in the affluence and sunshine of California’s silicon valley, it is the story of twenty-somethings looking for love, pleasure and the meaning of life.
For the past eighty years, the beautiful words of the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran have graced everything from greeting cards and wedding invitations to inspirational wall hangings and corporate motivational literature. By one account, Gibran is the third bestselling poet of all time, after Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.
In this beautiful gift book, we discover the essential wisdom about what it means to be alive. For Gibran life is the energy that saturates all we see and feel–as well as what we can only imagine. Here are over 100 fables, aphorisms, parables, stories, and poems from the author of The Prophet.
In this remarkable selection of Faiz’s most memorable poems and ghazals, readers will be able to experience a new dimension of the great poet’s genius. Along with popular favourites like ‘Subh-e Azadi’, with its anguished evocation of the horror and pain of the Partition, The Colours of My Heart also introduces readers to little-known gems that display Faiz’s extraordinary flair for tender hope and quiet longing.
A rich cornucopia of delights, The Colours of My Heart celebrates Faiz’s greatest work. Baran Farooqi’s superb translation is accompanied by an illuminating introduction to Faiz’s incredible life and enduring legacy.
The one hundred and fifty-six poems here, arranged in twelve sections and introduced by E. E. Cummings’s biographer, include his most popular poems, spanning his earliest creations, his vivacious linguistic acrobatics, up to his last valedictory sonnets. Also featured are thirteen drawings, oils, and watercolors by Cummings, most of them never before published.
The selection includes most of the favorites plus many fresh and surprising examples of Cummings’s several poetic styles.
Written in Gulzar’s inimitable style, the poems in his newest volume of poetry reflect and comment, sometimes elliptically through a visual image, sometimes with breathtaking immediacy and directness, on the political reality in the country today. Powerful, poignant and impossible to ignore or gloss over, the fifty-two threads that make up Suspected Poems unfold across the entire political spectrum—from the disturbed climate in the country and the culture of intolerance to the plight of the aam aadmi, from the continued oppression of Dalits and minority communities to fluctuating Indo–Pak relations.
Written with Gulzar’s characteristic incisiveness and his unique perspective and translated marvelously into English by Pavan K. Varma, Suspected Poems, made available in a special keepsake bilingual edition, will delight every reader of poetry and Gulzar’s many fans.
In this new edition of Mappings , Vikram Seth’s first book of poems and one that has long been out of print, the reader is introduced to work written in the author’s twenties, when he was a student in England and later, California. More immediate if less polished than his later work, these poems enchant and impress with their classical learning, wit, perceptiveness and lyricism—all facets of Vikram Seth’s now celebrated poetic achievement.
The only comprehensive gathering of Frost’s published poetry, this affordable volume offers the entire contents of his eleven books of verse, from A Boy’s Will (1913) to In the Clearing (1962). Frost scholar Lathem, who was also a close friend of the four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, scrupulously annotated the 350-plus poems in this collection, which has been the standard edition of Frost’s work since it first appeared in 1969
A short, powerful, illustrated book written by Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone.
These are some of my most favorite collections. I have found them immensely engaging, no matter when and how many times, I’ve read them. Especially in present times, they do fill me with renewed hope and positivity.
For the love of poetry, do read them!
Name your favorite poetry book or poet.
Happy reading till we meet next.
Until then, carpe diem! 🙂
© Asha Seth