“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” ~Plato
Since its official declaration in 1996, poetry has been celebrated nationally during the month of April. Though I cannot recall how old I was when I first fell hard for the words of poetry, I do know that my affinity for reading poems began at a young age. My parents’ copy of The Best Loved Poems of All Time adorned our worn, wooden bookshelf that conveniently stood in the hallway just outside my bedroom door. I must have read that volume hundreds of times. Many bored summer days and winter nights, I would search through the haphazard collection of books on those ever-dusty stack of shelves and pull out that beige covered beauty situated between the various, random titles on display—among them a complete set of the Lives of the Saints with their bumpy, black leather covers, intricate artwork, and red lettering on the inside; the black-and-white checkered cover of The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright; my father’s beloved copy of Schlesinger’s Robert Kennedy and His Times; the yellowed-with-age handwritten class notes from my dad’s favorite college course nestled inside a burnt-orange binder; and my mom’s 1969 high school yearbook. Time and time again, I would read the poetry. Soon, I began to write my own.
When my former teachers would read verse aloud in class, and an assignment instructing us on how to write our own poetry would follow, I was elated, justified, excited, and inspired. Langston Hughes became a favorite when a junior high class project sparked an interest for me in his writing. Years later, I found myself enamored by Mr. Hughes’ craft, once again, when I studied the Harlem Renaissance as an English major.
The appreciation I hold for poetry never wanes. As I continue to explore new poems and revisit the classics, my gratitude for the craft and the brave writers who create for us increases in scope and depth. Still, my favorite poets remain (in no particular order): Maya Angelou, William Blake, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Mary Oliver, Christina Rosetti, Rumi, William Shakespeare, Shel Silverstein, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and William Wordsworth.
I believe children naturally understand poetry. Their creative minds and open hearts are vessels for truth, beauty, astonishment, glory, humor, feelings, and imagination. It seems as we grow older, we lose our natural reception for loveliness, the effervescence of our youth, and simply, time to be captivated by the verse and musings of poets. Every so often, I like to revisit some of my favorite poets, feel the familiar verse roll off my tongue, close my eyes and hold tight to the lyrics, remembering the way the poets have always made me feel understood.
Today, I gathered about some of my poetry books, piled them together, and delighted in the reading that ensued.
I chose a few poems to read aloud to my children, and quite spontaneously, we wrote some Haiku together.
Bursts of purity
Floral clusters blooming bright
Green leaves birthed today.
Our current times are so serious and uncertain. Allow me to encourage you to read poetry as a welcome distraction from the unpleasantness of life right now, to give you a reprieve from the melancholy news, and as a remedy to the stress you may be feeling. Words won’t take away the dire situations, no. Though, the poets just may become for you an antithesis to the weight of the world, and a soothing balm for your weary soul.
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” ~Robert Frost
Here are a few ways to experience more poetry in your life today:
- Read poems on literally any topic of interest or need.
- Sign-up to receive a poem every day.
- Enjoy hearing a unique and new poem once a day, via podcast.
- Listen to poetry audiobooks.
- Try writing your own poems.
- While listening to your favorite songs, pay extra-special attention to the the lyrics. Can you hear how they are essentially, poetry, and their many songwriters, true poets?
“I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” ~Bob Dylan
A whole list of suggestions on how to infuse your life with poetry can be found here and here. My hope is that you will join me in celebrating poetry this month, and that you discover at least one poem or poet to encourage, inspire, console, or fill you with delight during these strange and uncertain times.
We’d love to hear from you! Please comment: Do you enjoy reading poetry? Do you remember reciting poetry in school, and can you still recall the verse? Have you ever written your own poetry, or has someone penned a poem for you?
“… Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when….”