Take Your Poetry On A Picnic

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S. Zainab Williams

Executive Director, Content

S. Zainab would like to think she bleeds ink but the very idea makes her feel faint. She writes fantasy and horror, and is currently clutching a manuscript while groping in the dark. Find her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.

While, at the moment, many of us look forward to going outdoors like flowers ache to wilt, ’tis the season to embrace the sunny world outside that window. I’m talking about picnics. That’s right, grab the picnic basket–the one with the Peter Rabbit plate set–and pick up a few books for your blanket. What do you mean you don’t have anything you can bookmark at the drop of a dime when the sun inevitably turns on anyone crazy enough to venture outside? I don’t enjoy interruptions during my romps through storyland either, but there’s a simple solution to your dilemma. Poetry!

I’ve never been much of a poetry reader, but I recently got my hands on a collection and it opened up a world of one-sitting reads. It usually takes me ages to get from beginning to end of most stories because I’m a slow (let’s say deliberate) reader, but I opened this book of poetry and BLAM! I had time warped to the end. It was the most satisfying bookish discovery I’ve made in a while. Like short stories, poetry is a winning option if you’re seeking a satisfying read and speedy closure. While you have your Queen Mab and your Paradise Lost, plenty of poems make getting to the end that much easier.

The collections I’m recommending have everything I would want at a picnic: laughter, nature, beauty, and opportunities for cloud-gazing contemplation (none of them have deviled eggs and champagne, but we’ll let that slide).

Life-On-Mars-Tracy-Smith-Book-CoverYou’re not alone in making wide-eyed comparisons between the tiny struggles of ants and those of mankind, wondering when the shoe will drop, grinding us all into the verdant landscape. If you need something to bring you down from your existential crisis without losing that sense of tininess and wonder, might I recommend Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith? With spacey imagery and sci-fi sensibilities grounded by humanity and the familiar detritus of the known world, Smith’s collection of poems is perfect for an evening picnic of stargazing and deep thought.

leaves-grass-death-bed-edition-walt-whitman-paperback-coverSing the body electric and give your picnic a uniquely American flavor with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. This classic collection may not contain the shortest poems you’ll ever read, but prepare to be held captive by Grandpa Whitman’s joyfully naughty proclamations. Raw and pure, Leaves of Grass will high-five you for being a sweaty, itchy park mass. Go ahead; get a lungful of the great outdoors and beat your chest in celebration of yourself and the world around you.

Portable-Dorothy-Parker-Book-CoverDress up in your jazziest frock, have some cucumber sandwiches and some laughs with a cup of spiked iced tea and your smartest friend, Dorothy Parker. The Portable Dorothy Parker gives you all you need in a tidy package you can slip between your Tupperware of egg salad and the charcuterie board. It may not be lunch at the Algonquin Hotel with Parker and her early 20th century contemporaries, but a picnic with Parker is sure to sharpen anyone’s tongue.

If it’s just too hot out and there’s nothing short enough to convince you to have even a five minute layabout on a soft bed of grass, here’s a pick for the cooler season. This is the book that made me see the light. Brisk and breathtaking, Donika Kelly’s Bestiary will break your heart and turn you inside out. Kelly’s poems are perfect for autumnal reflection with nature practically growing out of the pages. These poems are crisp, cool, and infinitely powerful. The collection comes out on November 4, so mark your calendar if this sounds like your kind of picnic.