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Poetry Month with Summer Tales

Are you taking classes this summer? The Summer Tales Books Club operates as a non-credit course in Canvas. Started first in the summer of 2020 in response to the changed learning environment, this fun summer program continues to promise short mental breaks from coursework through a fool-proof method of distraction: reading short stories and poems and discussing related issues with fellow students. See more in our public guide.

inviteRegister for Session 2 and enjoy an entire month of reading and discussing poems with us from June 28 to July 23, 2021. Join us for a kickoff event on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 (Zoom link is available in Canvas) and meet the author Natalie Díaz (the event is open to the public, registration is required).

Do you think it’s difficult to read poetry? Do you think it’s impossible to enjoy a poem? Start with our posts What is Poetry, and Why Read It? and How to read a poem. For more poetry-related content and advice on how to find reading material from Rutgers University Libraries, check out our guide Books We Read: Poetry.

The poems we’ve collected for the second session of the Summer Tales Books Club are all by contemporary poets, written in accessible language and touching on familiar topics like coming of age, cultural identity, and loving and losing family. We’ve chosen them because we think they will speak to students, and because they’re graceful, well-crafted, and likely to reward careful attention. We hope you’ll agree!

Part of why we chose these poems for discussion was the overlap of themes between them, and how familiar those themes might be. Everyone has some memory of being put to bed as a child, or feeling awkward in their changing body as a teenager. Many of us will also be familiar with being an immigrant or having an immigrant family, or trying to hold on to a loved one grappling with mental illness or drug addiction.

Finally, the last reason we chose these particular poems is the way they demonstrate what poets can do with language. Whether working in a strict form like the pantoum), made up of repeating lines (like Díaz and Trethewey), or with the open canvas of free verse (like Lee and Dove), these poets get us to pay close attention to words: how the same words might take on a new meaning when repeated, or how the associations that a single word calls up can generate an entire mood.

We hope you’ll enjoy these poems as much as we have!

Schedule of Poetry Month with Summer Tales

6/28/2021 -7/4/2021

7/5/2021 – 7/11/2021

7/12/2021 – 7/18/2021

7/19/2021 -7/25/2021

Rita Dove: Adolescence-II

Li-Young Lee: Persimmons

Natalie Díaz: My Brother at 3 A.M.

Natasha Trethewey: Rotation


Supplemental material

Still have doubts? Here are a few more popular blog posts from Poetry Month, April 2021, written by Books We Read members.

Register for Summer Tales


Image: Haiku by Salmon Rushdie (design: Books We Read)