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Being quarantined has been difficult for everyone, and people have often ventured into long classics they finally have time to read.
I’m thinking of books like Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. But what I’ve really enjoyed this quarantine is short and slim books alongside my long classics. Nothing is better for this than poetry. Poetry books are short by virtue of how poems work, unless you’re reading an epic poem like The Odyssey. These short books are really nice because they allow you to take just an hour out of your day to really enjoy the art of poetry. These poetry books have been my favorites in this time of Covid-19.
4. Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser
This poetry book is delightfully short, reminding me of the works of Billy Collins. The content he discusses in Delights and Shadows is the mundanity of everyday life made poetic. When we are struggling to find interesting things to do now that we are in quarantine, it is nice to read a book that lets you look at the world with different eyes. For me, it was nice to read poetry that looked at everyday objects and find beauty in them. It helped me find beauty in all the parts of quarantine I find mind-numbing. Subjects include a new hat someone bought, a biker, and a roller skater.
3. Horoscopes for the Dead, Billy Collins
As I mentioned before, Billy Collins and Ted Kooser’s works remind me of each other. Both have a very calm and contemplative feeling to their poems. Like Delights and Shadows, this book is short, though Horoscopes for the Dead is somewhat longer. This book, as the title implies, focuses a lot on death and grief, especially in its eponymous poem, but I think it is comforting. Many of the poems have a contemplative way of looking at death and look back on those who are gone kindly. It is nice to know that the dead live on, and that we can keep them in our memories. But the subjects are often mundane as well, including topics like sunrise on a lake or dogs and stars.
2. The Waste Land and Other Poems, T.S. Eliot
Like how we are all reading classic novels right now, T.S. Eliot’s poetry is a classic staple of the genre. The author of the poetry that inspired Cats the musical, The Waste Land is a serious and somber poem that spans maybe twenty pages. The other poems in this collection are much shorter, but all of them pack a punch. The Waste Land looks at contemporary (for his era) British society and includes many allusions to mythological figures. His poetry collection is somber and filled with musings on the passing of time. It is a must read for all those who like poetry, and The Waste Land is a classic poem, one of the best of the 20th century.
1. Deaf Republic, Ilya Kaminsky
Deaf Republic is my top pick of this list. I recently read it, and it is by a contemporary author who is deaf. It is a short, slim book that tells a heartbreaking story of a small town, Vasenka, in a country in wartime. An occupying army patrols the town, and when a member of that army shoots a deaf boy in the middle of town, the entire town protests this by pretending to be deaf.
The material is heavy, but I read it all in one sitting because it was that good. It is interspersed with signs for words like town in the private sign language made by the citizens of Vasenka. This poetry collection is one story with many different poems telling the story of townspeople. It is a story about war and religion, as well as hope in unsuspecting places. Despite its heavy and sad material, I found it gripping and in some ways comforting during this pandemic.