Poetry in springtime: A celebration of National Poetry Month
A: April. April is a poem – sudden, with flowering branches and changing winds. With its beauty and cruelty, and its sense of awakening, the month of April calls for attention to poetry. The call continues in May, with its new greening and feathered singing. This April is on the wing: fleeting, fleeing, flying. I invite you to celebrate poetry in the coming weeks – to enjoy some poetry in a way that works for you. If you would like to explore poetry a bit, perhaps trying something new to you, consider the following ideas. The items mentioned here are worth discovering, and there’s something listed for every age.
P: Print. Print a favorite poem to carry with you. In different moments and places, read it over or share it with somebody else. In the picture book, A Poem in Your Pocket, Elinor struggles to write a poem to read aloud when her school celebrates Poem in Your Pocket Day. Only when she lets go of her fear and perfectionism does she create and share a lovely poem. It’s a sweet story, and a gentle introduction to poetry and creativity.
R: Read. Read a poem in an unfamiliar book – be it light or intense, silly or dense. I recently enjoyed reading William Nicholson’s Amherst, a novel that incorporates many lines of Emily Dickinson’s poetry into a narrative about the events of two love affairs. I liked having Nicholson help me puzzle over Dickinson’s lines as I also was being carried along by the swift flow of a good story. In recent days, I’ve also taken pleasure in the combination of poetry and pictures in several books of poetry for kids, including Jack Prelutsky’s funny work in My Dog May Be a Genius. Sometimes, a poem needs an actual page; concrete poetry in particular needs to be seen, rather than heard. I liked the humorous poems in Blue Lipstick, a clever volume of concrete poetry written by teens.
I: Investigate. Investigate poetry via documentary films. Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine, a 2008 documentary, examines how poetry is being used to promote healing in a teaching hospital. The 2012 documentary, to be heard, follows three South Bronx teens over five years, as they participate in a radical poetry class and struggle to change their lives for the better.
L: Listen. Listen to some poetry, by means of a recording, or by reading it aloud. By their nature, many poems need to be heard. The audio book, Essential Emerson, is a collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poetry, read by Archibald Macleish (who was a poet himself, as well as a dramatist, lawyer, and statesman). Emerson’s poetry is less widely known than his prose, and this recording can be a good way to try some unfamiliar material. Or if you would like to try reading some poetry using your own voice, I recommend Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud, edited by Robert Pinsky. Pinsky is a distinguished poet who has stressed the importance of sound and voice throughout his career. In this anthology, Pinsky introduces traditional poems and organizes them into sections in ways that again emphasize sound and voice. The volume makes a strong case for the need for poetry to be heard, and it’s a fine resource for anyone seeking to read some poetry aloud.
Sometimes, spring seems to celebrate itself. In this season, you’re invited to celebrate poetry. Will you join in the celebration?