Thursday, December 9, 2010

Return of the Poetry Gift Guide


(first published in Outlook

One of the most talked about columns I wrote last year was the one in which I recommended several collections of poetry as best gift selections for the poetry lover on everyone’s list. Of course, some of that talk was by poets who resented the fact that I hadn’t included their book in the column. Despite those dissatisfied readers, I think a column suggesting books of poetry that might please the discerning poetry reader is useful at this pre-holiday time of year.

It would be somewhat disingenuous, not to mention foolish, of me to not begin my recommendations with at least a reminder that I had two new books of poetry published this year myself: Paternity and The Nature of Attraction, both from Main Street Rag ( or “orderable” from me at As quick summary, I would say Paternity is a book of poems about the joys and struggles of parenting while The Nature of Attraction is a narrative sequence of somewhat risqué poems about a relationship. You’ll have to decide which would be more appropriate for your gift designee.

Among the many books of poetry released this year by people not named Scott Owens, the one I think consists of the best poetry is The Real Warnings (Anhinga Press) by Greensboro poet Rhett Iseman Trull. Apparently, I’m not alone in that judgment as that book won two of the state’s three poetry book awards. Another strong collection is Lessons in Forgetting (Main Street Rag) by Pinehurst poet Malaika King Albrecht. These poems about living with a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s would be particularly appropriate for anyone in that situation.

For some reason, 2010 seems to have been the year for the poetry anthology and the selected works. Two strong and interesting anthologies published this year are The Sound of Poets Cooking (Jacar Press), which features poems about food and recipes from poets across the state, and Echoes Across the Blue Ridge (Winding Path), which features poems from and about the southern Appalachian Mountains, both topics which seem ideal for gift-giving.

Several established poets had their “greatest hits” collections, books which gather selected poems from their previous books, published this year. Such collections are, of course, always of high quality and give new readers the opportunity to experience poems that might have fallen out of print. Chief among those in NC this year were Davidson poet Tony Abbott’s New & Selected Poems (Lorimer), Stephen Smith’s A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworth’s (Main Street Rag), and David Rigsbee’s The Red Tower (NewSouth).

Finally, for local readers who enjoy a trip down local history lane, Tim Peeler’s impressive collection Checking Out (Hub City) recounts in poetry his seven years’ experience as manager of Mull’s Motel here in Hickory. Of course there are dozens of other collections of poetry I would mention if given the space, but visiting the websites of the publishers listed for these ten selections will give the poetry shopper all the variety they might need. Most collections of poetry can also be ordered from the poet, which has the advantage of giving the shopper the opportunity to get the collection signed. Happy shopping!


  1. I own both of your latest books which I recommend as great gifts, but I would also recommend Living Above the Frost Line by Nancy Simpson. Thank you for mentioning Echoes across the Blue Ridge - it is a terrific book and makes a fine gift.
    I recently ordered Lessons in Forgetting (Main Street Rag) by Pinehurst poet Malaika King Albrecht. Those poems hit hard and two of them brought tears. Malaika presented the dark and the light in this painful journey of losing her mother to this dread disease and I am recommending this book to everyone I know.

  2. Thanks to Scott Owens for listing Echoes Across the Blue Ridge as a gift book. I agree it would make a great gift. I've read it at least one hundred times. True. Money from the sales of this book will go to North Carolina Writers Network West for programs, workshops, and expenses. Thank you all who buy it.You are promoting writing in the far west mountains of North Carolina where writers sometimes feel forgotten. NCWN West is a professional organization for writers. The book itself is filled with the best writing. Some contributors are Kathryn Stripling Byer, Bettie M. Sellers, Janice Townley Moore, Steven Harvey, Tomas Rain Crowe, Lanna Hendershott, Nancy Percell, and many more, with and a two page introduction written by Robert Morgan. Thanks for thinking of us.