Now that Will and I are done staying up crazy late binge-watching Blacklist, I’ve been reclaiming the 5:00 a.m. hour. I’ve been acquainted with the pre-dawn hours regularly throughout my life, but not much in the past six months. These past two weeks I’ve been rediscovering just how much I can get done in the wee hours (thanks to the two-hour jump on my kids) before it feels like the day’s truly begun.
As much as I love my morning shot of productivity, there’s a big drawback to getting up at 5:00 a.m.: I need to go to bed early. (Sleep is not an area where I can afford to be low-maintenance.) My bedtime is now uncomfortably close to my children’s.
I have a well-established routine of reading before bed to decompress, but if I need to fall asleep fast I can’t read just anything. (Especially not the crime novel I’m currently racing through.) To wind down quickly at the end of a long day, I’ve been relying on a little trick a friend gave me years ago: turn to poetry.
Poetry forces me to slow down. I’m a fast reader, but I cannot read a poem quickly. Poetry forces me to attend to every word; it requires me to think, carefully, about what’s happening, and what it means. Good poetry isn’t too demanding to read when I’m tired, but it’s demanding enough to make me realize how tired I am—and that makes it excellent bedtime reading.
My friend Dave Harrity has a new poetry book out with Cascade Books, as part of their highly regarded Poiema series. It’s called These Intricacies, and it’s what I’ve been reading before bed this week. It’s a diverse, interesting, and challenging collection. (Favorites include The Hole, Confession, At Pleasant Hill to Visit Shakertown.)
Dave’s new book has revived my enthusiasm for poetry as a genre. I’m not a rabid reader of poetry (although I might become one if this turns into a nightly ritual), but These Intricacies has me thinking about a few of my favorite collections. Another plus for bedtime reading: I usually dip in and out of them instead of reading straight through.
Do you have favorite poets, poems, or collections? I’d love to find your favorites: tell us about them in comments.