Some of my friends were nice enough to send me their own lists of books that matter.
The Tantalizing Tara Betts:
Books That Influenced My Poetry (I’ll just name 10)
1. 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda
2. Imagine the Angels of Bread by Martin Espada
3. Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks
4. Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa
5. Homegirls & Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez
6. The Collected Poems of Anne Sexton
7. The Book of Light by Lucille Clifton
8. The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz
9. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
10. The Gold Cell by Sharon Olds
To Understand My Writing Understand These Books
1. Some of Us Did Not Die by June Jordan
2. Deep Sightings & Rescue Missions by Toni Cade Bambara
3. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
4. On Being Female, Black and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker
5. The Black Poets edited by Dudley Randall
6. Interracialism by Werner Sollors
7. bell hooks (too many titles by her, but definitely “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center”, “Where We Stand: Class Matters”, “Teaching to Transgress”, “Ain’t I A Woman”, “Sisters of the Yam” and “Homegrown”)
8. A Formal Feeling Comes edited by Annie Finch
9. Patricia Smith (esp. her first three books, but all of her stuff) and Marilyn Nelson (esp. “Carver”, “A Wreath for Emmett Till” and “Homecoming”)
10. Live from Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal
11. Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
The Quotable John Owen:
Spring and All -William Carlos Williams
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind
Dancing in Odessa -Ilya Kaminsky
October: grapes hung like the fists of a girl
gassed in her prayer. Memory,
I whisper, stay awake.
Heaven and Earth -Albert Goldbarth
Too much isn’t the felled tree, or the company’s
eight-car train of trees in the mill lot, it’s
one palomino-colored shaving spiraling as delicate
as a pubic curl from the whittler’s stick;
Plus Shipping -Bob Hicok
What she likes about the word Bolivia
beside the sexual things it does to the tongue
is her feeling that anything you do there
might cause people to dance.
Names Above Houses -Oliver de la Paz
So you want to levitate, to float in the sky the way the tops of trees jut out? Wind-stunned sparrows will nibble your earlobe. Bees will make a hive of your your hair. In rain you’ll be so high no roof can cover your head. You will fear music from brassy instruments because their notes sit in your brain with no one to sing along.
Rose -Li-Young Lee
Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: Chiu Chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
Elegy -Larry Levis
Someone always interrupting. My head ached
And I would walk home in the blackness of winter.
I still had two friends, but they were trees.
Transformations -Anne Sexton
No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhone,
One Train -Kenneth Koch
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
Meditations in an Emergency -Frank O’Hara
In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.
1. Lies by CK Williams
2. First Course in Turbulence (and everything else) by Dean Young
3. Sleeping with the Dictionary by Haryette Mullen
4. Hinge & Sign by Heather McHugh
5. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
6. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch
7. Collected Poems by Kenneth Patchen
8. The Body Mutinies by Lucia Perillo
9. My Twentieth Century by David Kirby
10. Between Angels by Stephen Dunn
The Jubilant Jesus Valles:
1. Teahouse of the Almighty by Patricia Smith (every single page of this book is incredible to me)
2. Como Agua Para Chocolate/Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (I read it in elementary school because I saw the movie first. It made me want to cook and fall in love so hard)
3. I am not myself these days by Josh Kilmer Purcell
4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
5. Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence by Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo
6. Voices In The Kitchen: Views of Food and The World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican-American Women by Meredith Abarca.
7. Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa by Rigoberto Gonzalez
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
9. Chicana Falsa by Michelle Serros
10. The Glory Box by Tim Miller
11. Besame Mucho: New Gay Latino Fiction – an anthlogy edited by Jaime Manrique (If you ever get your hands on this, read “The Two Miracles of The Gringo’s Virgin” and “Mara’s Marvelous Match”!)
12. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
13. The Dirty Girl’s Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
14. Bang Crunch: Stories by Neil Smith
15. Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters – Wally Lamb and The Women of York Correctional Institution
16. Doin’ Time: Through The Visiting Glass by Ashley Lucas
17. Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks
18. Harmless Medicine by Justin Chin
19. Selected Poems / Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks
20. Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry edited by Maria Mazzioli Gillan and Jennifer Gillan (Elena by Pat Mora is the bomb)
21. Borders, Agua Santa, My Own Name, Aunt Carmen’s Book of Practical Saints, and The Desert is my Mother – all by Pat Mora.
22. As Bees In Honey Drown by Douglas Carter Beene
23. Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore