WSIRN Ep 75: What to read if Google wrecked your brain

Today’s guest is Dave Harrity, a writer and college professor here in Louisville. The Harritys are also real life friends, as in, his wife and I were drinking wine on my front porch Saturday night. There’s a reason this episode is airing in April … and I’m afraid you might hit that delete key when you find out why.

It’s National Poetry Month, and Dave is a published poet. I know a lot of readers think they’re just not into poetry… and after this episode if you’re still not convinced, that’s fine. Really. Mostly. But I personally came away from our conversation thinking that 2017 is a great time for me to read more poems, and I’d be surprised if a whole lot of readers don’t agree. Poetry isn’t broccoli or the equivalent, and it would sure do us all a disservice to say “Read it, it’s GOOD for you!” But if our conversation about reading without consuming doesn’t convince you don’t need more poetry in your life, either you’re a much, much better internet citizen than I am, or you’re just not paying attention.

So have a little faith in me, and in Dave, give today’s episode a listen, and join the discussion in the comments!

Ready to hit play? Dave kicks us off with his poetry origin story, a high school story about… a girl. 😉

What Should I Read Next #75: What to read if Google wrecked your brain with Dave Harrity

You can connect with Dave on his website (be sure to check out his books) and on Instagram.

Are you following @whatshouldireadnext on Instagram yet? We’re going to give away two of Dave’s poetry collections there later this week…. so give it a follow and keep your eyes peeled. 

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

• poet Wendell Berry
• poet Mary Oliver
• poet Billy Collins
• Dog Songs, Mary Oliver
• poet E.E. Cummings
• These Intricacies, by Dave Harrity
• Our Father in the Year of the Wolf, Dave Harrity
• American Chew, by Matthew Lippman
• Sand Opera, by Philip Metres
• Blessing the Boats, by Lucille Clifton
• poet William Stafford
• poet Lucille Clifton
• poet Seamus Heaney
• Mausoleum of Lovers: Journals 1976-1991, by Hervé Guibert
• Dawn, Elie Wiesel
• This is Where You Belong, Melody Warnick

Also mentioned:
• Voxer app
• Poetry Off The Shelf podcast
• National Book Award for poetry
Cooking Makes it Feel Like Home at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Dave’s 3 poems that won’t bore you: 

• William Stafford, “A Message from the Wanderer
• Li Young Lee, “The Hammock
• Amy McCann “Icharian
• Mel Nichols, “I Google Myself


Leave A Comment
  1. Brandyn says:

    Interesting episode. I agreed with most of what you and Dave discussed, but I’m probably never going to seek out poetry on my own. I usually do the Bookriot Read Harder Challenge and so far every year has had one/two poetry prompts. This year I read Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. It’s a children’s book, but I found the poetry beautiful (and probably about at my level).

    Two years ago (first poetry since HS) I read Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. I realized while reading it that the poet was from my hometown.

    Not exactly the same thing, but I LOVED Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

  2. I used to fall into the category of people who swore off poetry, loathing it. I didn’t think it had any business in the 21st century. Last semester, I took a creative writing course where over half of the term focused solely on poetry. I groaned through the first week and a half. Then BOOM. Completely fell in love. Now I’m a huge advocate of having everyone at least give it a shot. I’ve found so much healing in poetry.

  3. Sommer Roller says:

    I LOVED today’s episode. One of my favorite episodes to date. I’m a long time poetry lover and amateur poet, but I don’t read poetry nearly as much as I “should” these days. In the episode you mentioned in passing some poetry podcasts Dave had recommended to you; I would love to know what they are!

    • Dave says:

      So glad you enjoyed the episode, and thanks for the kind words! Here are a few great poetry podcasts…

      For hearing poems and poets:

      Poem Talk

      Slate’s Poetry Podcast

      Essential American Poets

      Poetry Magazine Podcast

      For the technicals and geeky stuff:

      Poetry Lectures

      Poetry Off the Shelf

      That should get you started!

    • Dave says:

      Oh! And you should get back in the poetry writing habit! 🙂 Sit down with hat journal and lower your standards–just allow what comes to be itself.

  4. Christine says:

    I’m a college professor, and every semester in my lit survey class, I include some poetry. I am always looking for poems that will not bore the students (as Dave said) and will push them to see themselves and their world in a new way. I already use Oliver, Berry, and Collins (along with many other writers, both classic and contemporary), but I am so excited to read some of the authors Dave suggested (including Dave’s work) and include them in my class.
    I also appreciate his comment about how to read poetry “without consuming” but instead “with contemplation.” The first poem we read in class is Billy Collin’s poem, “Introduction to Poetry” where he says to “drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out” instead of “beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.” This lets students relax and just listen to words and reflect on the emotions triggered by the poem.
    P.S. I love the Cash Mob you mentioned. I think that is an amazing idea!
    Thanks for all the work you do on this podcast, Anne! I always look forward to Tuesdays.

  5. Susan Powell says:

    I am an elementary school teacher. I found this site several years ago. It has made poetry approachable to me and in turn to my students. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares her poems and how she uses experiences past and present to write them. It is a great resources for teachers.

  6. I loved this episode so much. Poetry has always intimidated me or made me feel like maybe I am not smart enough to enjoy it as sometimes the spareness of the writing makes it harder for me to grasp what is happening. But I loved the poems that Dave shared and he has inspired me to go to my local book store and purchase a collection of poetry. I loved what he said about consumption v. contemplation. Honestly, I’m always running around at a mile a minute – especially these days as I am getting married a month from today!!!! So I could benefit from something that forces me to slow down and consider the word choice. That makes me think of the scene from the chick flick, “In her shoes” where the sister works at a nursing home and learns how to interpret the poem “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop (which is such a beautiful poem, by the way – Lastly, this episode inspired me to include a poem in my wedding speech. We are going to have so many speeches between my dad, fiances mom, matrons of honor, best men, etc, so having something succinct is important and poetry is perfect for that. So I will be reading “These I Can Promise” by Mark Twain. The theme of our wedding is books and reading so it will be perfect to include a written work in my speech!

    Lastly, I wish I could come and join you guys for a glass of wine on the porch. I’m such a book/reading nerd so would love to partake if your bookish conversations!!! Too bad I live in Minneapolis (although it’s probably a littel creepy to think about a stranger crashing your porch wine sessions – ha).

  7. Karisa says:

    Currently listening to this episode and I love how I feel like I’m back in my literature and writing classes. My favorite professors made me appreciate pieces of literature that I honestly didn’t like or feel comfortable with and Dave did that with poetry. I have to be reminded of the magic of poetry often unfortunately. Now I need to continue listening.

  8. Laura says:

    This was a fantastic episode! I recently lost a loved one and have had a hard time focusing on reading (which is very unusual for me). A return to poetry has been the antidote, with its mystery, cadence, and presence that you both mentioned.

  9. Gloria says:

    Great Show! I am now looking forward to adding some poetry into my life (and of course foisting it on my children too). Seriously Dave, you had me at the whole contemplation vs consumption thing. We strive to live a simple, slow life and yet BOOKS – so hard to slow down and savour when there are so many.

  10. Lora says:

    I love poetry and one of the many wonderful things about April is that there are several poetry events a week around town (Santa Barbara). I don’t write it, but love being able to bring folks along to the events where they discover that poetry is not the drag they remember from high school, but the rich stories of lives distilled and presented in the rhythm of the poet’s heart. One of my local favorites is Melinda Palacio and her book “How Fire is a Story Waiting” is worth seeking out.

  11. Jennifer I. Walker says:

    I love, love this podcast. I look forward to my commute to work on Tuesday because of it! And I hate driving!
    But this week…poetry is not my thing — which is fine. I’ve not ever really loved it. I really like quotes and words, but poetry eludes me. Still. At 42. Occasionally, I’m motivated to try and I’ll pick something up and sometimes I enjoy it. I like Pablo Neruda and TS Eliot, for example. But mostly it’s just meh for me. But that’s all fine.
    What I really wanted to tell you was that the sound quality was really bad. I know nothing about recording, sound, etc., but it really bad. Your voice was ok…but Dave sounded like he was talking through a Jack in the Box drive through speaker. It was really echo-y, and there was lots of background noise. Almost like he was in a cave and was shuffling papers. For the entire hour.
    This will certainly not put me off listening. But I wanted to let you know — in case you didn’t already.
    Consider this the podcast equivalent of “you’ve got something in your teeth” that only a real (virtual) friend would give you. 🙂
    Thanks for the podcast and blog. I think you’re the bee’s knees!

    • Jennifer I. Walker says:

      ugh…”but it *was* really..” duh. Why are mistakes so easy to spot after I hit send/publish/post? And virtually undetectable before?

    • Dave says:

      Well, if you can love Neruda and Eliot, you’re doing better than you think.

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the podcast. Can’t win em all.

  12. Nancy Conger says:

    I was a fiction writer in an experimental-poetry focused MFA program, and I have tried mightily to get into poetry, with various successes over the years. It was interesting to hear a new perspective on the podcast, although I found myself struggling to stay focused– the very same thing that happens when I read poetry, oddly enough! Still, just the other day I was browsing poetry collections at the book store, thinking maybe it was time to dip a toe back in, and I liked the advice to check out recent award winners. Then, right at the end, a fun surprise! Amongst your list of recommended poems was my old babysitter’s name, Amy McCann. She’s part of the reason I went to writing school, so that was exciting! Thank you!

  13. Loved this episode (and thanks to my friend Dayna for recommending it)! Y’all were singing my song about why poetry matters, especially for writers. That’s an idea I explored in my memoir, The Joy of Poetry. Also, I liked your thoughts, Dave, on how reading poetry gets you out of reading for consumption. Hmmm.

    Thanks so much, Anne, for hosting this discussion. I hope you make poetry a regular part of podcast lineup, even if you only do it in April.

  14. Kathy says:

    Great show! A few years ago I took an online (free!) course called ModPo through the University of Pennsylvania and loved it. The website is I highly recommend it (I also took a class reading through the Odessey, which was terrific). Another “beginner” poet is William Carlos Williams for those looking for something short and thought provoking.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Great episode, per usual ??
    I have never gravitated towards poetry because I find I simply don’t get it. I am a very literal reader… I generally need additional hints at the purpose behind the thoughts. My best friend adores poetry and constantly tries to get me on her same page, but then when I stare at her with my “what?”, she sighs and gives up (for now). Ideas for someone in my predicament?

  16. Marie says:

    Loved this episode! I’ve been writing poetry since I was very young, and this was the push I needed to pick back up after a few-year hiatus. I read the most poetry when the world seems loudest, like during this past election season. Some of my recent favorites are Marie Howe, Mary Karr, Naomi Shihab Nye, Gwendolyn Brooks, TS Eliot (always! mostly for his rhythm), Lillian Yvonne-Beetrum and Kevin Young.
    I loved David’s recommendations as well!

  17. Sarah K says:

    This is truly the best podcast episode I have ever listened to. I listened to it during a morning run on a gorgeous spring day and felt like I was in a literature class at the same time–which is basically my idea of heaven! It was meaningful and refreshing and I am still thinking about it. I’m so, so glad that you took the leap of doing a poetry episode, Anne!

    Dave, one thing I love about poetry is that, although I don’t read it as often as I mean to, every time I circle back to poems I read in the past I find they have acquired new layers of meaning for me and they touch me in ways they couldn’t have years before. Sometimes a line from a poem I read in a college class has echoed in my mind for years until one day I realize I now have an experience that connects to it, and I go back and read the poem again and am stunned at what I missed before. This happens with books, too, but somehow the experience is more distilled and powerful with poems, and they’re more accessible to re-read. Poems by Milosz and Hopkins have especially lingered and grown in my life like that. But I definitely don’t often look for books by living poets (probably mainly because I was lacking ideas of where to begin) so I’m so glad to have some names to start with–including yours, of course. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and words!

  18. Caitlin Mallery says:

    When I told my mom I wanted to learn poetry as a high school elective (I was homeschooled) she gave me a blank look, found me a curriculum, ans set me loose at the library. My ventures into poetry have been completely self driven ever since. I think that many people assume poetry has deep layers, when sometimes it is quite straightforward. I love Wendell Berry, Edgar Guest, Rudyard Kipling, A A Milne. Someday I hope to publish my poems, if just for myself. Thanks for the lovely readings.

  19. Elke Brandl says:

    Just started reading more poetry and writing down some that stuck with me. Last one was from Emily Dickinson: A word is dead/when it is said/some say/I say it just/begins to live/that day
    I put the quotes in my bullet journal

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