You are invited to join in the celebration by writing and submitting a poem about the Library or the community. Poem submissions must be entered by email to email@example.com between April 1st-22nd with a limit of 500 words. The winner will receive a poetry memento and the poem will be published on the RRPL website. Winner will be announced Friday, April 29th. (Ages 18 and older.)
It’s true! I was one of the lucky attendees at this year’s Anisfield-Wolf award ceremony -and it was incredible. The opener? A young man in the fifth grade read his winning, original poem “Am I Invisible” with such energy and style; he was rewarded with a standing ovation! And of course, the adult winners brought their A game as well -both Jericho Brown and Marilyn Chin performed their poetry, Marlon James read from his fictional story, and Richard S. Dunn talked about history of two plantations. David Brion Davis wasn’t at the awards in person but accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award in a recorded message. Library Journal’s coverage of the event pretty much says it all… in style!
I do admit my ignorance when I say that I’m not very knowledgeable about poetry, though certain poems do sing to me. Perhaps I’m too literal. In How to Read a Poem from the Academy of American Poets, they stress that you should not expect to understand a poem on first reading it, but should re-encounter it more than once, adding your experience. Ultimately, it takes practice and work.
Since April is National Poetry Month, it is the ideal time to make the effort. There are events around town and on the web to get you started and activities for adults and children. You can check out a poetry book from the library, listen to poets read their own work or create and share a poem in your pocket.
I myself will take the time to find a couple of new ones that strike my fancy, like this one I just heard the poet reading:
My Philosophy of Life by John Ashbery
Just when I thought there wasn’t room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea–
call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones?
That was the hardest part, I admit, but I had a
kind of dark foreknowledge of what it would be like.
Everything, from eating watermelon or going to the bathroom
or just standing on a subway platform, lost in thought
for a few minutes, or worrying about rain forests,
would be affected, or more precisely, inflected
by my new attitude. I wouldn’t be preachy,
or worry about children and old people, except
in the general way prescribed by our clockwork universe.
Instead I’d sort of let things be what they are
while injecting them with the serum of the new moral climate
I thought I’d stumbled into, as a stranger
accidentally presses against a panel and a bookcase slides back,
revealing a winding staircase with greenish light
somewhere down below, and he automatically steps inside
and the bookcase slides shut, as is customary on such occasions.
At once a fragrance overwhelms him–not saffron, not lavender,
but something in between. He thinks of cushions, like the one
his uncle’s Boston bull terrier used to lie on watching him
quizzically, pointed ear-tips folded over. And then the great rush
is on. Not a single idea emerges from it. It’s enough
to disgust you with thought. But then you remember something
wrote in some book of his you never read–it was fine, it had the
the powder of life dusted over it, by chance, of course, yet
for evidence of fingerprints. Someone had handled it
even before he formulated it, though the thought was his and
It’s fine, in summer, to visit the seashore.
There are lots of little trips to be made.
A grove of fledgling aspens welcomes the traveler. Nearby
are the public toilets where weary pilgrims have carved
their names and addresses, and perhaps messages as well,
messages to the world, as they sat
and thought about what they’d do after using the toilet
and washing their hands at the sink, prior to stepping out
into the open again. Had they been coaxed in by principles,
and were their words philosophy, of however crude a sort?
I confess I can move no farther along this train of thought–
something’s blocking it. Something I’m
not big enough to see over. Or maybe I’m frankly scared.
What was the matter with how I acted before?
But maybe I can come up with a compromise–I’ll let
things be what they are, sort of. In the autumn I’ll put up jellies
and preserves, against the winter cold and futility,
and that will be a human thing, and intelligent as well.
I won’t be embarrassed by my friends’ dumb remarks,
or even my own, though admittedly that’s the hardest part,
as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say
riles the spectator in front of you, who doesn’t even like the idea
of two people near him talking together. Well he’s
got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him–
this thing works both ways, you know. You can’t always
be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself
at the same time. That would be abusive, and about as much fun
as attending the wedding of two people you don’t know.
Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That’s what they’re made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don’t come along every day. Look out! There’s a big one…
I was reading a review of a new CD, A Wonder Working Stone, we are adding to the collection and a quote from one of the songs struck me: “Get over your tiny self/Because all days will end in joy.” The artist is Alasdair Roberts and although he started out recording traditional Scottish folk music, this is a album of mainly original compositions.
I haven’t even listened to the music yet, but already love his poetry.
As I was flipping through the lyrics to find the song the review quote was from, again I was struck by his words in “Song Composed in December,” especially with recent events in Boston and other evils perpetrated by human beings against humanity.
Song Composed in December
This song’s made in anger, this song’s made in love
Where the croak of the hawk meets the coo of the dove
Where minstrelsy’s slander and rhyme turns to rage
To make a song about the renovation of the age
Woe to those who celebrate the taking up of violence
And woe to those who perpetrate delusions of their sirelands
Who’d fight for no reason with sword or with firebrand
Be they reiver in the border or raider in the highland
And joy to those who celebrate the breaking up of weapons
Who take a stand to raise a hand against oncoming slaughter
And joy to those who strive to give a voice to those with none
The fosterer of errant son and sire of wild daughter
And joy to those who’d use their songs as clues to find their clan
But woe to those who’d use them to enslave their fellow man
From open moor where kestrels soar on wings of beauty
To cloisters where vestals bear their palms of beauty
To waterfall tumbling, cascading and purling
To the flowery machair where the echo mocks the yellow yorlin
From forest deep where numens peep from every oaken bole
To city streets where people seek completion of the soul
For everyone with double bond of suffering to thole
I will sow a seed of honesty upon the bluebell knoll
There’s a little more to the song (including some Welsh rap!) than I am including in this post, but I will leave you to discover more of his words – and music- on your own.
In case you haven’t heard, April is National Poetry Month! National Poetry Month is a national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. The goal is to widen attention to the art of poetry. The hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.
You can help celebrate National Poetry Month by reading your favorite poems, learning more about the craft, or exploring new poems and poets at www.poets.org.
While I’ll be sure to choose another for that day, I’ll leave one of my very favorite springtime poems here for you to enjoy!
By E. E. Cummings1894–1962
I read an article by Connie Schultz in The Plain Dealer the other day reminding me that it’s National Poetry Month and then saw another about where to go see the daffodils in Cleveland. Thus, the inspiration for sharing the lovely poem”Daffodils” by William Wordsworth:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.