“I don’t read contemporary poetry.” That’s what I told Alison Luterman at a recent conference, right before I asked her if I could have a copy of the poem she had just read to the group. That poem spoke to me, and so I decided to get a copy of one of her books, See How We Almost Fly.
I don’t read contemporary poetry because contemporary poets are self-absorbed and impressed with their own post-somethingism. Alison Luterman is neither. Instead, she does what a poet should do – she tells a complete feeling and a complete story in a tiny block of space. Her words do not dance across the page, nor do they stomp. Instead, they press themselves into place, each with its own deliberate space in time.
Her poems are about small things that are huge: the death of a friend, a word in a poetry class in women’s prison, women with bags of rice. Luterman makes those deeply personal moments ours, so that even as we see the specifics of the incident, we can burrow within and find the moment a part of our own lives.
I read one poem before bed every night for almost two months. Now I’m faced with a decision: get a new book of her poetry or start over. I guess I now read contemporary poetry.