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National Poetry Month Blog Tour: Chasing Utopia

April 3, 2014

Chasing Utopia

I will freely admit that I’m intimidated by poetry so I tend to avoid it.  I always try to make an effort to appreciate it during National Poetry Month but usually stick with poetry aimed at children or a novel written in verse since I find them more accessible.  This year, I decided to stretch myself a little bit so I tackled Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni.  This book is a collection of poetry and essays and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I found it so compelling, I read it in a day.  I did mark many passages to go back and revisit.

Giovanni is a professor at Virginia Tech so many of the things and places she writes about are familiar to me.  I’m sure that added to my enjoyment but I think I would have enjoyed it even without that connection because she writes of everyday, familiar things, like killing a spider, and she writes with a lot of heart.  Both her poems and her essays spoke to me, but this passage in one of the essays really made me reflect:

A poem is not so much read as navigated.  We go from point to point discovering a new horizon, a shift of light or laughter, an exhilaration of newness that we had missed before.  Even familiar, or perhaps especially familiar, poems bring the excitement of first nighters, first encounters, first love . . . when viewed and reviewed.

I’ve read this poem several times because it’s one I can really relate to.  Of course, in my head, I’ve been substituting Hokies for Redskins.


I am at that point
In life
When I reread
Old books
Bake my mother’s favorite recipes
Snuggle with a sneezy quilt
Listen to my old rock and roll records
Feel comfortable
And comforted in my old nearly ragged bathrobe
I am keeping my house shoes
With the hole in the bottom
Though I no longer wear them
And yes the smell is long gone
From that bottle of Joy
Which still sits on my bathroom dresser
Embracing the old things
Is a good new thing
Like kissing you again
And not really paying attention
To whether or not
The Redskins score

I’m really glad I was motivated to give Chasing Utopia a try.  I thought it was terrific and recommend it to anyone interested in poetry – from novices on up.

National Poetry MonthThe 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon Blog Tour has been organized by Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit.  Be sure to check her blog for links to other posts.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2014 7:27 am

    Nikki Giovani’s poems are so beautiful and hard to resist. There is a lot of emotion and connection with them. That’s usually the one thing I struggle with when it comes to poetry. I will have to make time for this collection.

  2. April 3, 2014 8:02 am

    I Am At That Point – so true! It’s wonderful the way poetry can capture how things are in so few words!

  3. April 3, 2014 9:53 am

    I am not into poetry at all. However, our poet laureate from Los Gatos, Erica Goss, is having a poetry workshop at VHOB next Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd she gets. Details to follow.

  4. April 3, 2014 10:35 am

    I loved this poem…and this book. It was so well done and so accessible for everyone. i find a lot of her poetry is like that.

  5. Beth Hoffman permalink
    April 3, 2014 10:51 am

    What a wonderful poem. I totally relate to the nostalgia. I really need to add this book to my collection.

  6. April 3, 2014 11:21 am

    I love what she says about navigating a poem–that’s how I read, too. Skipping from one point I like or understand to another that looks attractive from a distance and then seeing if I can make anything of it once I’m there.

  7. Patty permalink
    April 3, 2014 12:12 pm

    I love when you stretch…it makes me stretch, too!

  8. April 3, 2014 1:57 pm

    Lovely post, Kathy! I think you found the perfect book to explore poetry with, on many levels. I hope to participate as well, although I have a busy blogging schedule this month!

  9. April 3, 2014 2:40 pm

    I think I am a wee bit of a philistine when it comes to poetry, I tend to only enjoy the ones that rhyme 🙂

  10. April 3, 2014 8:47 pm

    I prefer verse novels to poetry too, but it sounds like this collection is very accessible. I Am At That Point is a great poem- lovely and nostalgic.

  11. April 3, 2014 9:56 pm

    I really like that poem; I’m adding her to my to-read list.

  12. April 4, 2014 5:58 am

    I love that you decided to stretch yourself and found something that you liked! My parents met while they were going to VT, btw 🙂

  13. Beth F permalink
    April 4, 2014 8:00 am

    Wow. I can so relate to that poem!

  14. talesofwhimsy permalink
    April 4, 2014 4:06 pm

    I’ve looooved Nikki for years. I reallly should look up her latest stuff. This sounds great.

  15. April 4, 2014 10:55 pm

    I am intimidated by poetry too, Kathy, butt he poem you shared is so wonderful. I think for me poetry is slow (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) and I rarely let myself slow down these days.

  16. April 5, 2014 8:04 am

    I ordered this for the library collection, but I didn’t realize there were also essays in it. It sounds like it might make a good Weekend Cooking post, as well as a post for National Poetry Month!

  17. April 5, 2014 1:55 pm

    I’m really going to have to read Giovanni. Serena’s said nothing but great things about her work, and now your review really makes me what to pick up this collection.

  18. bookingmama permalink
    April 7, 2014 3:10 pm

    Like you, I’m intimidated by poetry. That you were able to read this one in a day really says something!

  19. April 7, 2014 8:54 pm

    I really like that poem! I am not at such a point in my life myself. I like to listen to the music that I loved in high school, but other than that I don’t really find myself yearning for familiarity or traditions. Perhaps it is my age (34) or my personality. I’m constantly looking to bust out of everything familiar and wrap myself in the unexpected. Hey, that kinda sounded poetic itself! lol

    Great review, I think I will look this one up. I like the way she writes.

  20. readerbuzz permalink
    April 18, 2014 1:56 pm

    I love poetry, though I’d have to qualify that by adding that I rarely understand it. I don’t want to understand it. I just want to love it.

    Hope you will stop by Readerbuzz and take a look at my contribution to Poetry Month, The Official Readerbuzz Guide to All Things Children Poetry-ish.

  21. May 1, 2014 11:08 am

    What a beautiful poem to pick. I like the “sneezy quilt.”

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