Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Freebie: A Poetry Threebie

Congratulations to Libby Kessman, winner of last week's Friday Freebie, As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto.

This week, I've teamed up with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to give away three of the best books of poetry that you're likely to read this year: Here by Wislawa Szymborska, Master of Disguises by Charles Simic, and Anterooms by Richard Wilbur.

I like to begin each morning by reading a poem over coffee and cereal--I highly recommend this lyrical kick-start to the day--and for the past month, I've been sipping from Here, Master of Disguises, and Anterooms.  (Another way to get your daily poem is by subscribing to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac.)  I know poetry is not everyone's bag and many of you still bear the scars of having to deconstruct Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" for your high school English class, but the verse in these three books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are some of the easiest and most rewarding poems to read since Shel Silverstein reached the end of the sidewalk.  Here's just a small taste of what you'll find in Here, Master of Disguises, and Anterooms...

For the kids the first ending of the world.
For the cat a new master.
For the dog a new mistress.
For the furniture stairs, thuds, my way or the highway.
For the walls bright squares where pictures once hung.
For the neighbors new subjects, a break in the boredom.
For the car better if there were two.
For the novels, the poems--fine, take what you want.
Worse with encyclopedias and VCRs,
not to mention the guide to proper usage,
which doubtless holds pointers on two names--
are they still linked with the conjunction "and"
or does a period divide them.
       --"Divorce" by Wislawa Szymborska

That was the year the Nazis marched into Vienna,
Superman made his debut in Action Comics,
Stalin was killing off his fellow revolutionaries,
The first Dairy Queen opened in Kankakee, Ill.,
As I lay in my crib peeing in my diapers.

"You must've been a beautiful baby," Bing Crosby sang.
A pilot the newspapers called Wrong Way Corrigan
Took off from New York heading for California
And landed instead in Ireland, as I watched my mother
Take a breast out of her blue robe and come closer.

There was a hurricane that September causing a movie theater
At Westhampton Beach to be lifted out to sea.
People worried the world was about to end.
A fish believe to have been extinct for seventy million years
Came up in a fishing net off the coast of South Africa.

I lay in my crib as the days got shorter and colder,
And the first heavy snow fell in the night
Making everything very quiet in my room.
I thought I heard myself cry for a long, long time.
       --"Nineteen Thirty-eight" by Charles Simic

These trees came to stay.
Planted at intervals of
Thirty feet each way,

Each one stands alone
Where it is to live and die,
Still, when they have grown

To full size, these trees
Will blend their crowns, and hum with
Mediating bees.

Meanwhile, see how they
Rise against their rootedness
On a gusty day,

Nodding one and all
To one another, as they
Rise again and fall,

Swept by flutterings
So that they appear a great
Consort of sweet strings.
       --"Young Orchard" by Richard Wilbur

For your chance at winning all three of these slender, beautiful books, all you have to do is answer this question (I'm making it easy this week because I know you're busy running around to Black Friday sales and putting up Christmas decorations or agonizing over finding a new use for turkey leftovers):

Who is your favorite poet?

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  In order to give everyone a fair shake in the contest, please e-mail the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  The contest closes at midnight on Dec. 2, at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Dec. 3.

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