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.