My mother was so excited when I told her Unsolicited Press was publishing my book of poetry - excited and proud and just over the moon in that special motherly way. She immediately started listing everyone we needed to tell.
“Your father! Mama and Papa! Cousin Laura down in Tennessee!”
“And hey, Mom, you could even read it with your book club!” I chimed in.
Awkward silence. “Mmm, maybe . . . hey, let’s FaceTime your brother!”
Even with the most exuberant and joyful of parents behind it poetry couldn’t quite sneak into The Book Club. Perhaps it’s due to post-traumatic stress from high school english class, a fear of not understanding the work or just an unease about change. Whatever the case, poetry is not a staple of most book clubs.
To be fair, there are some dedicated poetry book clubs (including some online - do a quick search and you’ll find some fantastic choices!) but they are the exception, not the rule. So then, why and how should you add poetry into your book club?
The why is easy. It will break up the routine of novels, allowing your members to experience something different and unique. Poetry is usually a shorter read (time for reflection notwithstanding) and, in this fast-paced world where everyone has a million things to do, your members might just feel relieved to ditch those 400 pages of prose. Remember those “choose your own adventure” books? Each book club member can bring a different book of poems or single poem to the meeting, either their choice or guided around a certain theme. Putting poetry on the plate makes for a more complete dish.
How is a little trickier. The discussions you have (sprinkled in around the gossip and wine, I know) can be guided or more organic. I will use my upcoming book, Tiny Footcrunch, as a template for some possible exchanges:
You get the idea. The questions range from the standard tell your favorite poem and why to something more fun like what television show a certain poem might enjoy. All of these aim to break up the mundane and everyday - the monotony - a book club might develop.
So the next time it’s your turn to pick a book for book club, remember that a collection of poetry is out there waiting for you.
Oh, and please recommend it to my mother’s book club.