by Joshua Gray

The new year is here. We all know what that means. After we wake up with a hangover from our new year celebrating, we open up the newspaper and read the long list of what is “in” and what is “out.” We will nod at some, laugh at others, and generally be glad we have a day off work, and that the holiday season has come to an end. And then it will hit us like a wild baseball pitch: the new year resolution. Ugh. Not that again.

We have a love/hate relationship with the new year resolution, don’t we? On the one hand, we see it as an insignificant attempt to make our lives better, on the other hand, it does make our lives better.

Here is a novel idea for a new year resolution: give your friends and family books of poetry. This may seem like an odd resolution, and that’s because it is. It seems more like an idea for a Christmas present, to give someone a gift. New year resolutions were designed to make our lives better, weren’t they? “I’m going to lose weight this year,” “I’m going to stop smoking,” “I’m going to finish that novel.”

However, being a lover of poetry, how would it seem to others if I gave poetry books for Christmas? “Oh, he’s giving gifts he would like; he’s not thinking about what I might want.”

I just finished a weekend-long personal development course, and one of the ideas delivered by the instructor was that the “self” goes beyond the “individual” — the “self” and the “community” are one. This idea inspired a thought: what if the new year resolution was a resolution for the “self/community” instead of just me (the “individual”)? In other words, by giving to others, I am also giving to myself.

If you like this idea too, but don’t know what you would buy, here are a few (inexpensive) books of poetry I can recommend:

Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems— Virginia Hamilton Adair
Midnight Voices — Deborah Ager
After Oz— Michael J. Bugeja
Ballistics: Poems — Billy Collins
Complete Poems — Ernest Hemingway

Buying books of poetry for others as a new year resolution is really a gift to me, and a gift to the person I have bought them for. He or she may not like poetry–or may be only vaguely interested. But that’s okay with me. Even if it takes a year for the recipient to take that book from the bookshelf and blow the dust off the cover, if he/she reads any part of it, and even likes some of the poems inside it, that is a great gift to me, and so much more powerful than “I am going to stop drinking soda.”