While I am often hesitant to feature books of poetry, I wanted to mention a novel that’s about poetry. This is The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, an author best known for his novels Vox and The Fermata, and a very famous or infamous book among librarians called Double Fold. This book is one of the best books on the appreciation of poetry I’ve ever seen, and perhaps the reason it’s so good is that it’s not a traditional study of poetry, at all. The main character is named Paul Chowder, a moderately successful poet who is in the midst of writing an introduction to a new anthology of poetry. The problem is he simply cannot write. The frustration and intense writer’s block he’s suffereing has cost him his girlfriend as well as any sense of stability. This is one of those beautiful novels that isn’t about following a plot, so to speak, but the unveiling of a character and his place in his world. It also helps that it’s a brilliant look at poetry in its many styles and creators, and the way in which the lives of those poets are often of more interest and use than their actual poetry! I also read a wonderful review that made a point for how this is a perfect Nicholson Baker book. Baker is famous for the diversity of his work, never really repeating the subject matter or even genre of his previous books, but there is one consistent thread through all of his work, and it’s that he structures his main story very loosely, so he can veer off into any digression he chooses. He’s an incredibly intelligent and opinionated man, so his favorite style of writing seems one where he can show off his knowledge, humor, and incredibly skilled writing ability to best effect. In one instance, his choice of an egg salad sandwich for lunch launches him into thoughts of Tennyson – naturally – then he goes down to the creek behind his house to think about the nature of rhyme. This shifts into a section on how babies learn to use their tongue to suck milk, then make sounds, and then speak, all the while making sounds that rhyme with each other, or mimicking the sounds the baby hears from the people around it. And before you know it, you’ve learned some fundamental issues about rhyme and the familiarity of sound while he hasn’t really stated anything about poetry, specifically. But he’s made his case, nonetheless. It’s a remarkable way to tell a story, and a remarkable way to discover the art and craft of poetry without any of the tedium some people unfortunately associate with poetry. Baker’s work has always garnered great acclaim, and this title is no different. It’s a brief, lovely little diversion, and I really think you’ll enjoy it.