Dear Poetry Lady …

I recently received this email from a friend, whose son is in grade school: 


I’ve been looking for short things to read to H. at night (a tradition we still carry out) and tried out some poetry on him. I read some selected poems from Garrison Keillor’s book Good Poetry. He seems to like the accessible ones, and if they have a humorous flair, that’s even better. I was wondering if you have any suggestions of poetry books or poets that he would like that would be appropriate for his age. He really likes Shel Silverstein but I want to expose him to poetry that makes him think about things a little differently (instead of pure humor). …. What poets do your students appreciate?


Rather than answer my friend’s email right away, I first had to sit and ponder the joy of her missive! In it I sensed the promise of a whole new genre of advice columns. Imagine: The Dear Abby of Poetry! The Miss Lonely Hearts of Verse! A trusted bibliophile everyday people could write to with their tales of poetic woe. I can see it now:

Dear Poetry Lady,

After years of searching I finally found the woman of my dreams. On her birthday, I wrote her a poem, believing that words from the heart are more valuable than any bauble I could purchase with cold cash. But rather than swoon, she frowned and asked if I was kidding! Can this relationship be saved? 

Dear Poetry Lady,

I’ve published two chapbooks of poetry, and have had a poem accepted to the New Yorker. Sounds like the life every poet dreams of, right? But I have a deep dark secret and I live in fear of having it exposed: I don’t know what iambic pentameter is and I’ve never written a sonnet in my life … What’s a fraud like me to do? 

Dear Poetry Lady,

My mother-in-law writes bawdy limericks and insists on reading them to my four-year-old whenever she baby sits. I work full-time and can’t afford to hire a nanny — but I don’t want my child to be exposed to such inappropriate nap-time reading either! What’s a working mother to do? 

In the meantime, I guess I’d better get back to my friend’s email. Once I compose a list for her, perhaps I’ll post it here. And I’ll keep waiting for those plaintive pleas for poetic advice to appear in my inbox! 

2 thoughts on “Dear Poetry Lady …

  1. You really should do it!!!
    You can even subtitle the advice column “don’tcallitpoetry”, so people don’t have to be intimidated. Really….you can sneak poetry in to lives, and to newspapers. Return to journalism with poems….

    And I love that instead of writing back to your friend right away, you “sat and pondered the joy of her missive”!!! Truly a poet.

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