Reading as a Writer

In the December 2011 edition of her newsletter, The Practicing Writer, Erika Dreifus continues her customary list of reading recommendations from fellow authors. Dreifus instructs recommending authors to choose a book from any genre and to include a comment about their choice.

Not that Dreifus, or any one that I actually know, asked for my two cents, but there is something enchanting about polite but-ins. So please excuse me as I proceed to recommend a book with a note about why another practicing writer might appreciate it just as Ms. Dreifus did not instruct me to do.

Big-Eyed Afraid, by Erica Dawson (The Waywiser Press 2007).  A poet with a formalist background showcases the rigor of disciplined diction, syllabics, etc. that makes non-free-verse poetry so beloved and bemoaned. Thematically, Dawson’s poems are sometimes as concrete and confessional as self-portraits and other times they are as abstract and lyrical as a song about eternity. What I love most is the book’s paradoxical doors and hinges: self-adoration and self-mortification in general. Specifically, this dichotomy branches into ideas of ego, memory, disease, sex, drugs and identity. Dawson’s extensive references and allusions to canonical poets and poems, her linguistic and formal diversity and her Victorian-like interest in a woman’s image make her the most intelligent 21st Century poet I have read in addition to Susan Somers-Willet.