Poetry Summer Reading List Book #1: The Octopus Game

Book: The Octopus Game

Poet: Nicky Beer

Publisher/Date: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2015

Why I bought the book: I met Nicky Beer while I was working on my MFA at Murray State University. In fact, if I remember correctly, I think she shared a poem or two from this manuscript during one of the residencies I attended toward the end of my degree. Nicky is brilliant and kind and she was also at AWP this year, so I got to see her again, which was delightful.

What I admire about this collection: There is so much to admire in Octopus Game, but I think what I like best about all of these poems is they way Nicky uses language to craft thick, layered images that feel like paintings. When I read these poems I feel like I’m reading art. The poems are ornate, weighty and beautiful. I’m not ashamed to say that I had to look up many words while reading these poems. Just a sample: polygot, mesalliance, chromaphores, epicenes, penury, labella, petioles, diastoles, cicatrix & guywires. So I should also thank Nicky for inadvertently making me smarter. I also appreciate that while Nicky’s poetry is meticulously executed and extremely intelligent, it is also accessible and humorous. It may seem somewhaunnamedt limited, but when I read poetry collections I often wonder if there are poems I could share with my students and these are poems they would love to read.

Favorite lines: “Today, love will be like starlight:/when it arrives, whatever it comes from will have already collapsed,” “Black Hole Itinerary” & “A poem like being born/behind a dead bird’s heart,/eating your way into the light,” Oblation.”

I could just list the entire book, but that’s silly, so just take my word for it and buy it so you can immerse yourself in all the gorgeousness.

Favorite poems: ” Octopus Vulgaris,” “Boys in Dresses,”Pescados De Pesadillas,”Nature Film, Directed by Martin Scorsese,” & “Harvard Med Field Trip.”

Again, I loved the whole book. See above.

Links: When I read Octopus Game I was reminded of the poem “Cephalata” by Anna George Meeks in her chapbook Engraved. I’m also a big fan of nature documentaries. I have been since I was five years old sitting on my grandfather’s lap and watching Nature on PBS. Recently, I’ve revisited two of my favorite nature documentary series Life & Planet Earth, and while reading Octopus Game I was reminded of this clip:

As a new mother, I’d also mention watching this clip while feeding a screaming newborn gives it a whole new meaning.

Next: Confluence by Sandra Marchetti

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