I used to hate poetry. Even when I decided to major in Creative Writing at Creighton, I was not looking forward to all the poetry I knew I would have to read.
    It all seemed pretentious, I guess. I liked the fiction of Hemingway and Carver and Wolff, that went straight to the point and took you along for the ride. Poetry, it seemed to me, was little more than wordplay. Someone had an idea, and rather than get right to it, they danced around it with words. I never understood how anyone could enjoy actually reading the stuff.
    Then I discovered William Stafford. I read “Traveling Through the Dark” in my Intro to Creative Writing class, and had something very like an epiphany. This poem was not dancing around “the point,” nor was it really getting straight to it. The poem itself, in a way, was the point. What I mean is that the reading of the poem was what it was all about. Suddenly poetry made sense to me.
    So I tried the same approach on all kinds of other poetry, and sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. What I had discovered with the Stafford poem didn’t seem to me like something that could be contained within a genre, but it turns out that it was. “Regionalism,” it’s generally called. Or at least, Stafford is generally called a Regionalist. Fair enough, he says.
    But I think the term can be misleading. Stafford’s poetry is powerful because of its roots in the land and people around him, yes. And to that extent it is regional. But to me it isn’t what he says that is important, it’s how he says it. Or more accurately, it’s how the poem says it. Poetry, in other words, is about voice.
    The one suggestion I would give for reading the poems I have posted is: pay attention to the voice. Few if any of these poems will rhyme. Nor will most of them have a recognizable rhythmic structure. But what they do have is a flow. That is where the voice of the poem lies, and from that you will get what the poem has to give.

Oh, and I am posting the work of several other poets—Stafford, O’Hara, and a few more. I know it’s illegal and all, but I doubt they’ll sue. Enjoy.