Friday, February 25, 2011

A Poet to Know: Linda Pastan

Every so often as a reader, I come across a new poet that I know I should know already. They're just too good for me not to have read before. But, alas, it happens. Often.

One such poet is Linda Pastan. Her poem "The Bookstall" was one of the first I read in the anthology Poetry After Lunch edited by Joyce A. Carroll. I love it for its similes (a poetry move that I definitely need to write about in the future)...

Just looking at them
I grow, greedy, as if they were
freshly baked loaves
waiting on their shelves
to be broken open--that one
and that--and I make my choice
in a mood of exalted luck,
browsing among them
like a cow in the sweetest pasture.

(I couldn't find this poem reprinted anywhere with permission except in the Amazon "Look Inside" feature for this book. So you'll have find the rest there if you'd like to read it.)

Also featuring some great comparisons is the poem "A New Poet," which in addition to being brilliant is also perfectly suited to this particular post:

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day - the odor of truth
and of lying.

Read the rest here.

In addition to wonderful similes and metaphors, I find Pastan's poems to have vivid imagery. She paints a picture with each one. Her word choice appeals to me, too. Each poem seems to be exquisitely and painstakingly crafted. You can tell that she has poured her soul into each and every one.

Why Are Your Poems So Dark?

Isn't the moon dark too,   
most of the time?   

And doesn't the white page   
seem unfinished   

without the dark stain   
of alphabets?   

When God demanded light,   
he didn't banish darkness.   

Instead he invented   
ebony and crows   

and that small mole   
on your left cheekbone.   

Read the conclusion of "Why Are Your Poems So Dark?" here.

If you want to explore more of Pastan's poems, I recommend her page at the Poetry Foundation, which features many of her best works. Garrison Keilor obviously likes her, too, because she's been featured countless times at the Writer's Almanac. You will also definitely enjoy this post on How a Poem Happens about another excellent poem of hers "Rereading Frost."

Linda Pastan is definitely a poet to know and follow. If she's new to you, I hope you enjoy her as much as I do (and remember this post when she becomes Poet Laureate someday). If you're a previous fan, you have great taste.

Please check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup, hosted at Read Write Believe. And be sure to check back next Friday when Poetry Friday will be hosted here at The Small Nouns!


  1. Linda Pastan is new to me, but some folks were just telling me yesterday about how much they like her work! Thanks for reinforcing the message :-) She is coming to a literary festival in my town this spring. I will have to check her out.

  2. And now you've introduced her to all of us---thank you.

    See you next Friday!

  3. Thanks for the Linda Pastan sampler! You've definitely whetted my appetite for more of her poems. :)

  4. Mmmm...I like those! Thanks. I feel like there are so many poets I don't know that I am easily surprised but the feeling never gets old. :)

  5. I have loved Linda Pastan since my college years oh-so-long ago! Thanks for reminding me to come back to her!