The month of April is more than halfway to a close, and I have yet to address National Poetry Month on my blog. Shame on me!
Truth be told, I’ve been wrapped up in festivities, or doings as we call them down here. Last week I entertained two classes as poet-in-residence. We celebrated their writing, launching a few balloons in the spirit of renewal. I read a few of my latest poems, and then answered rigorous questions from some of the brightest students around.
As I left, I was handed a packet of poems to judge for their poetry contest. The winner hasn’t been officially announced, but let me say, poets watch out, this crop will soon run loose and they are t-a-l-e-n-t-e-d.
Yesterday I attended Tony Abbott and David Radavich’s poetry reading and workshop. I left feeling invigorated and humbled! The “hands-on” experience emphasized how we communicate with immediacy and evoke powerful images with our word choices.
Also yesterday, though in the late afternoon, I had the pleasure to be present at an event honoring women’s history month, “Writing Our Lives.” What a joy to share occasions that as my friend Rosemary says, allows us to “be among our own kind”.
In the spirit on National Poetry Month, I’ll bare my soul: I admit I read to write better poetry and many of the poets I enjoy, I’ve stumbled upon. I’ll hear about new poets and purchase their works based on a spur-of-the-moment inspiration. For example, I discovered that Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon was a National Book Award finalist in 2009 for her work ]Open Interval[. After hearing the title, influenced by a mathematical term referring to a line that has no endpoints, I had to find her book. Not too long ago, I was listening to an interview with Billy Collins on an NPR program. I heard his poem, ‘Winter in Utah,’ and thought I’d swing by the bookstore as I was running errands and pick up his new book, Horoscopes for the Dead. While I was there, I glanced around the shelf to find Blinking with Fists by Billy Corgan. Yep, the singer/songwriter from Smashing Pumpkins. I snagged that one and walked away with The Poet Laureates Anthology in addition to Collins and Corgan’s works. Talk about impulse purchases!
However, I also enjoy ‘the classics’: Dickinson, Whitman, and Frost plus many others you’re probably already familiar with. Add in a couple of the lesser mentioned poets, such as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Amy Lowell (called the ‘demon saleswoman of poetry’ by T.S. Eliot), and James Agee. I also love translations or try to decipher original languages myself to see the depth of their beauty.
I’d have to say the most moving pieces I’ve read recently are credited to Chinua Achebe (Collected Poems) Pablo Neruda (The Captain’s Verses bilingual version is superb) and Sarojini Naidu (The Golden Threshold). Oh, and C.K. Williams, for his work Repair.
Whenever Nikki Giovanni releases a new collection, or Maya Angelou, I pick those up; to me, they are women who speak strongly into my psyche. Another strong female voice is local poet Dannye Romine Powell. Her The Ecstasy of Regret powerfully speaks of the struggle a mother has with her son’s addiction.
Perhaps a little-known tidbit about me is that I also enjoy children’s poetry. Aileen Fisher, Eve Merriam, Nikki Grimes, Kenn Nesbitt, Shel Silverstein, David L. Harrison, and David McCord all have wonderful collections that introduce children to wordplay. True inspirations for my children’s work.
There are numerous others, many which come to my mind as I try to reign in this piece: I know I can’t name them all.
I’ve mentioned many poets I relish, but let me flip the tables and ask…Whose prose do you enjoy? And where would you say was the oddest place you discovered a poet’s work?