Take a shot for each poet you’ve read! If you haven’t had the pleasure, then click on the cover to purchase the book missing from your collection. Remember to drive and read responsibly! To read the full list of Drunk Lit Suggestions visit The Next Best Book Club blog.
Bang Ditto by Amber Tamblyn
From “Gene Diamonds”
“She drank an entire bottle of tequila,/then ate the worm at the bottom.”
This collection is a look inside the life of a young actress. It’s smart, trite, fun, thoughtful and maybe a little immature. Basically, it’s what everyone felt like in their 20s, only with better professional connections.
Heart’s Needle by W.D. Snodgrass
From “Returned to Frisco, 1946”
“Served by women, free to get drunk or fight,/Free, if we chose, to blow in our back pay/On smart girls or trinkets, free to prowl all night/Down streets giddy with lights,/to sleep all day,”
Snodgrass is said to be the father of confessional poetry, even though he hated the label. Like most confessional poets there is some mental illness, some obsession, some drugs, and some drinking. Not always the most lighthearted read, but every night out drinking has a few downers.
Drunk by Noon by Jennifer L. Knox
Just read the entire book. Every single page. And then get every other book that Jennifer L. Knox has written. Reading Knox’s poetry is kind of like being drunk, without the calories or the hangover.
Life Studies and For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell From Life Studies
From “To Delmore Schwartz”
“ We drank and eyed/the chicken-hearted shadows of the world./Underseas fellows, nobly mad,/we talked away our friends.”
A confessional poet, like Snodgrass, you’ll find a lot of darkness in Robert’s Lowell’s most famous collection, Life Studies. “To Delmore Schwartz” is one of several poems in the double feature book, the second half being For the Union Dead, that features alcohol, but this is a more light hearted read. The two poets used to be roommates and Lowell chose to give readers a glimpse into the life they led together. “The Drinker” from For the Union Dead is a more sobering look at the effects of alcohol.
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
“Do you care for salami?/No. You’d rather not have a scotch?/No. You don’t really drink. You do/drink me.”
From “Cigarettes and Whisky and Wild, Wild Women”
“Do I not look in the mirror,/these days,/ and see a drunken rat avert her eyes?”
Probably the most difficult poet on the list, Anne Sexton wrote bluntly about mental illness, abuse and sex. She also touched on the highs and lows of drinking. This is the poet you read the day after a binge for a touch of perspective.
The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara by Frank O’Hara
“I have a drink,/it doesn’t help—far from it!/I/ feel worse. I can’t remember how/I felt, so perhaps I feel better.”
If Anne Sexton is the morning after hangover cure, Frank O’Hara is the party. Often I feel like I’m sitting in a smoky lounge, people watching, nursing a drink and enjoying live jazz when I read O’Hara’s poems.
Maggot: Poems by Paul Muldoon
From “The Rowboat”
“Every year he’d sunk/the old clinker-built rowboat/so it might again float./Every year he’d got drunk/as if he might once and for all write off/every year he’d sunk”
Paul Muldoon is experimenting with form in Maggot, and at times the rhyming lines feel like the chant you would here in a dank pub or at a futbol game.
*Poetry Drinking Game Bonus Points*
Read Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, because he got into a drunken fight with Ernest Hemingway in Key West and broke his hand on Hemingway’s jaw.
Read Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge by Delmore Schwartz because he used to hang out and drink with writers like Robert Lowell, John Barryman and Saul Bellow, and he inspired musician Lou Reed.
[Originally Run on The Next Best Book Blog]
In no particular order, read these with someone you love. Some are sexy, a little racy, while others are quiet and meditative. All of them will get you thinking a little more about that person you’ve given your heart to.
“Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois” from Harlot by Jill Alexander Essbaum
The book is called Harlot and there is a woman hugging a penis on the cover. Nothing could say Valentine’s Day more. This particular poem is full of great rhymes, word play, a killer use of form, plus, as the speaker says “we teeter on the precipice of this suggestions, the three of us.”
“to love” from Shattered Sonnets Love Cards and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities by Olena Kalytiak Davis
Davis’s “to love” reads like both a breathless declaration of love and a well thought out letter trying to convince another of love. The poem mixes progressive tense verbs and mashed together meanings with meticulous line breaks that leave many things open to interpretation. No matter how you read it though, the speaker is clearly in love.
“Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” from Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life by Barbara Louise Ungar
There is a lot of tongue in cheek humor in “Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life,” which Ungar uses to make her message of love, unrealistic expectations and loss so palatable. Instead of an over effusion of romance “Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” literally boils the whole thing down to a few simple steps, and the only ingredient is “Find the right person.”
“Rise” from Interior with Sudden Joy by Brenda Shaughnessy
Like Barbara Louise Ungar’s “Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” Shaughnessy mixes food and love in “Rise.” Instead of a simple formula this poem is laced with double or triple meanings and dark sexy word choices. Depending on your mood you either leave this poem a little turned on, or considering death.
“Love at First Sight” from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska
“Love at First Sight” is a beautiful, thoughtful, made-for-TV romance of a poem. Szymborska mediates on the loveliness of chance in life and how the most unsuspecting moments may be the ones that change your life; “Every beginning, after all,/is nothing but a sequel,/and the book of events/is always open in the middle.”
“Letter to a Lover” from Come on All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder
“Letter to a Lover,” which appears in Matthew Zapruder’s third collection, Come on All Your Ghosts, illustrates love in every life instead of grand sweeping moments. The speaker opens by saying “Today I am going to pick you up at the beige airport” and then proceeds to list the day-to-day things he is excited to share with the girl. Most love happens around the mundane things, like airport pick ups, but there is something heartwarming in the careful way Zapruder makes these moments shine.
“Ignatz in August” from Ignatz by Monica Youn
Monica Youn’s “Ignatz in August,” which is one of a series of poems inspired by the character Ignatz Mouse from the Krazy Kat cartoons, doesn’t sound like something that would initially spark romance or ove, but this short poem is surprising. Consisting of only six lines, this visceral piece begs to be read between people in love, opening with “you arch/up off me.”
“Torch Song for Ophelia” from Torch Song Tango Choir by Julie Sophia Paegle
For the reader in search of a smooth talking man, or who for the woman is just got dumped, “Torch Song for Ophelia” is a Valentine’s Day anthem. “Forget/about Hamlet./He required too much: air,/ Purgatory, his harpy/whore,/ revenge,/stories” Paegle writes, and then her speaker sweeps Ophelia off of her feet with profusions of love, sex and appreciation.
“places of happiness” from Forever Will End on Thursday by Nic Sebastian
Despite some tension between the two speakers in “places of happiness,” by Nic Sebsastian, this poem shows two people who really do care about each other. They travel together, ask about the other’s work, and in the end “on the road to Chittagong/you covered me with your jacket and held/my hand.” This simple gesture, among the unique locations and vivid details, is what makes this poem, and most of the book, special.
“The Knowing” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds
That post coitus snuggle moment, when you (hopefully) amaze at the person you are with is touchingly described in Sharon Olds “The Knowing.” This speaker is in love, in lust, and in like with the person she has just slept with and gladly shares this with the reader in heartfelt detail. At the end of the poem Olds expresses the sentiment I hope we can all share on Valentine’s day: “I am so lucky that I can know him.”
If your love is prose person, not poetry person, read the rest of our suggestions on The Next Best Book Blog in our post “Too Woo or Not to Woo – Love in Literature: Part the Third.”
For a $10 fee we will read your submission, while still considering it for publication, and we will respond back with a full set of MFA style notes and suggestions.
Right now we are predicting it will take a month or less to respond to submitters who request notes, but that time frame may change depending on volume.
I know from personal experience that it is hard, almost disenfranchising, to put so much of yourself into your poetry only to get the cold impersonal form rejection (or sometimes acceptance!) back. We send them out, I know, it’s the business sadly. I wish we could give everyone notes on every piece, but time and practicality prevent that from happening. This new option will hopefully bring some of the personal back into submitting.
And yes, there is money involved. Straight Forward has always run in the red, no way around that fact. We do it for the love of poetry, but if we could ever climb our way into solvency then we would be able to do so much more for our writers. We’ve got big dreams yo, and most of them involve you.
Submitting with a request for notes helps you get some honest feedback on your writing, it helps us pay our bills, and it helps us find bigger and better ways to promote and support those who we publish. Basically it makes everyone more awesome . And awesome is good.
Starting today you can buy Issue Eight on Etsy! That’s right, you can buy and download the PDF version our newest issue to read anywhere, at any time.
The list price is $3.99 and we are currently accepting Paypal payments. As our shop expands we will allow additional forms of payment, previous issues and hopefully some super awesome poetry merch.
You can still buy individual issues and subscriptions on LitRagger, which does have a smooth, beautiful reading experience on your iOS devices.
As we continue to grow and to learn I hope to be able provide everyone, both readers and submitters with the best experience possible. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas or just want to say hi, please contact us at straightforward email@example.com
Happy December Straight Forward Family! I realize I’ve been lapse in keeping many of you updated and for that I apologize. I do come bearing great tidings of joy however, Issue 8 has been sent to our distributor. This issue includes poets Jason Dean Arnold, April Mae Berza, Yuan Changming, Carb Deliseuwe, Darren Demaree, Colin Dodds, Karie Fugett, Mitchell Grabois, Nels Hanson, Karen Paul Holmes, Sid Orange, Madeline Schwartz, Carol Smallwood, and Amanda Tumminaro. We also have art from photographers Tamra Carraer, Symanntha Renn and Roman Sirotin.
Starting in January we will be offering a manuscript consulting service. This will launch small, providing submitters the option to pay a small fee to receive detailed notes back on their submissions. In the coming months this will be expanding to cover chapbooks and full length books of poetry. In my personal experience it is hard to get honest, intelligent, focused feedback on your poetry outside of an academic setting. I would like to help poets find that unbiased support for their writing at an extremely reasonable fee. We will share all of the details for this once they are ready.
Also in January we’ll list full PDF versions of every issue on Etsy, Initially we were going to list every issue on Amazon, but the formatting requirements for the Kindle ereaders presented many problems and forced me to compromise the nature of the magazine. By selling PDFs directly on Etsy to readers I can maintain the original formatting and heart of the magazine. I spent many hours trying to reformat and reimagine each issue when I realized that we should not try to erase or gloss over our bumps and stretch marks. Each issue has some small flaws, but it is our flaws and beauty marks that make us real and relatable.
Once the new issue is live I will share a link to LitRagger, and when it is available on Etsy the details will be listed. Congratulations to our poets, our photographers, and to everyone who was generous enough to submit. And thank you to our readers, who are kind enough to give us some of their time.