Holiday Poetry Picks for Those Special Times You Need to be Alone With a Book
Happy holidays! Everyone’s doing lists and talking of shopping and getting together with family, they brave the crowds and wait in sweaty lines. I myself avoid it like the plague (and flu shots). For the past few years since the divorce, I’ve spent Christmas alone. My daughter goes to her dad’s since he’s Catholic and I’m Jewish. Well, Pagan really. I happily celebrate Yule and light the Mickey Menorah when the occasion arises.
My New York family has long since departed for their separate territories and conquests, and frankly, the thought of coming together for the holidays, trekking to the sibling’s in-laws and taking my spot at the table as the lone single gal is just not my cup of egg-nog. Who drinks that stuff, anyway? I’m naturally uncomfortable and my only desire is alcohol and I have to drive miles and miles over bridges in traffic and did I say I all I want is to drink…
Then there’s flying to Arizona for the holidays – it’s wonderful and warm to hang out with the fam at Glendale Glitters but certainly not affordable, and much less so now that the student loans have come in and the parent-plus loans are just beginning.
So, I bring in the days around Christmas blissfully alone with my books. I drink wine, daydream and form word pictures in my head. Sometimes I even write! Now, please don’t think I’m sad- little-Lizzie-all-alone-at-home. No way! I enjoy the holidays. I head out to parties, poetry readings and other assorted cocktail-dress wearing get-togethers. My boyfriend and I ring in the New Year with champagne and lobster tails. Yes. I do have a holiday life, but without my books to curl up with, the lights and tinsel would feel tarnished and unplugged.
To help get your holidays moving and to provide relief when you need it, here’s a few unconditionally wonderful books of poems, old and new, that will ease you through the season.
These are in no particular order. Just the sheer fact of picking was daunting enough:
Anne Carson – Glass Irony & God: When I question the universe and the width of my hips I re-read her passages on “God’s Women,” “God Stiff,” “TV Men,” and “The Fall of Rome:”
With the holy days
lit in a row
Frank O’Hara – Lunch Poems: A staple. The good stuff on fine crusty whole grain bread with a touch of Marilyn and a taste of Billie Holiday. For lounging, sleeping late and mostly for my all time favorite go-to lines from “Steps:”
oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many ciggarettes
and love you so much
Claudia Rankine – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: When nothing makes sense and all I want to do is watch TV but I can’t find anything on the 800 channels and staring blankly into the Christmas lights is more fun anyway, I open up this wonderful piece of poetic art-prose and flip through the pictures while living vicariously and feeling smart after leafing through the index to figure out the phenomenal references from movies like Magnolia and Boogie Nights to Emily Dickinson’s “Hope Is The Thing With Feathers.”
Pablo Neruda – Love Poems: I’ve opened the second bottle of wine, the house is rich with the scent of vanilla Christmas cookies (yes, I bake and decorate, just for the hell of it), I’m sitting on the couch and this pretty pink book is keeping me grounded and helping me float. Oh! The toes. Oh!The sea. Oh!The sand. Oh!The “Ode and Burgeonings!”
Kenneth Koch – A possible World: I need crazy sometimes. We all need crazy sometimes. And our crazy should be amplified by brilliance and fateful connections like in “Bel Canto.” I need to ponder the past and future, and drink sweet stuff while reading lines like finally you can do anything except not die, and then wake my intellect in “Mondo,”“Vox Pop,” and“Variations at Home and Abroad.” Then I can thrive vicariously in the lively and rousing wish-I-could-be-there of “A Memoir” and its tales of tasting, drinking, and invention with Ashbery, O’Hara and other dangerous friends.
Catherine Wagner – Nervous Device: So it’s been a few days, my boyfriend is still out west with his family, I’ve cleaned the house and watched It’s A Wonderful Life, and I’m starting go a teeny bit stir-crazy, so I pick up this sexy little book, steel myself and re-read “Versus:”
In this poem all artifice
is stripped away
but you are held under water
In this poem you enter a mirrored dressing room
Lit so you look more beautiful than you have ever looked
I recognize you with surprise
In this poem you are by yourself
In the end, during the holidays, even with our friends and family all around, we are still by ourselves. So if you happen to be alone for a bit during the hectic season, read. Write. Relax and open yourself up to the wonders on the page. At the very least you’ll save the hassle of traffic, stave off the crowds of tourists, and find an even more satisfying fantasy than you could possibly find at the malls or under the mistletoe – unless of course you find some of these books under your tree. *Wink Wink*
Enjoy the Holly Days (but be careful, those pretty green leaves have sharp pricks, and the red berries are poison).