Celebrating and Discovering Poetry in April: National Poetry Month

“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.

Langston Hughes poetrydecor

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.

Poetry book stack

I chose a few poems to read aloud to my children, and quite spontaneously, we wrote some Haiku together.

kids haiku

Flowering Pear

Bursts of purity

Floral clusters blooming bright

Green leaves birthed today.

flowering pear tree

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:

“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….”

~Pablo Neruda

 

2 thoughts on “Celebrating and Discovering Poetry in April: National Poetry Month

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and your and your children’s beautiful haikus. I love poetry. All of your favorite poets are mine, too…Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, etc. I also have some favorite Spanish/Hispanic poets…Yes, I had to recite poetry a few times in school, but sadly, I do not know the poems by heart anymore, (Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”; General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales; “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas). Yes, two people have written poems for me, and I was very flattered, humbled and honored to receive them.

    Like

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