REMINDER: Counting down to the cutoff for April’s Word of the Month Challenge. Here’s a reminder of the schedule.
April 23 — Cutoff for posting April poems: 10:00 p.m. CST.
April 24 — Voting begins for April Hall of Fame Poets.
April 29 — Voting ends at 10:00 p.m. CST.
April 30 — April winners declared and May word announced.
I told you that I would post an article about National Poetry Month so here it is. This is for a general reading audience, published in the Springfield News-Leader.
April is National Poetry Month. If you haven’t read much poetry lately, you’re in for a surprise. In Grandfathers’ time, poetry went formal or foppish, depending on who held the pen. It favored frock coats and wandering the hills counting daffodils.
Poetry in our parents’ day loosened up a bit, learned how to smile on occasion and make eye contact with the common man. Today’s poetry still keeps fancy duds in the closet but it usually dresses in the same mirror we all use so it leans toward T-shirts and jeans. Billy Collins is a past United States Poet Laureate. Collins is nearly rock star popular for his poetry that slouches in a doorway to chat while you sip your morning coffee. Does that sound like Grandfather’s poetry? Or even Father’s? I don’t think so.
Some men shudder at the thought of reading a book of poetry. In a survey of 8,000 English children, girls chose cookbooks over poetry. Boys preferred almost anything else. Two of the top five reading preferences among both genders were text messaging and websites.
But things aren’t always what they seem in surveys. Poet J. Patrick Lewis points out that children may not gravitate to poetry on their own. For many it may be an acquired taste that must be introduced and nurtured by parents and teachers who love poetry themselves and pass on their passion to the next generation.
Steven Withrow remembers how he first fell for poetry or, more precisely, how poetry fell for him. Eight-year-old Steven picked up a book on the floor in his school library. Luckily for him, the book was Dogs & Dragons, Trees & Dreams, a collection of poems by Karla Kuskin. Steven read one poem and was hooked. He went on to study writing and literature and today, twenty-eight years after he accidentally stooped to read a poem, Steven is a teacher, poet, storyteller, author, and documentary producer. I bet Steven is celebrating National Poetry Month.
Where is the line between big kids’ poetry and little kids’ poetry? For sure there are plenty of adult poems too dense or sophisticated for young readers. But in many cases it’s hard to say where or whether a line exists. When I read selected poems by Collins and Ted Kooser (another former U.S. Poet Laureate) to students in fourth grade, they like what they hear. Good poems have the knack of bringing people together. That alone seems worth celebrating.
Each month on my blog I announce a single word. For April the word is spring. Poets from nine into their seventies respond by writing poems inspired by that word. They come from across the United States, England, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Australia . . . They come to celebrate poetry, not just in April but all year. What are you waiting for? Write your own poem. Enjoy someone else’s. Come on! Celebrate!