To Read or eRead: April Is Poetry Month
And to Poetry Month, your response might be: Who Cares?!
It may very well be that poetry is past its prime. A professional poet is a hard thing to come by, and I’m fairly certain that most people couldn’t name a living poet when asked to. (It’s OK. See below for a quick list!)
What it comes down to is art: the art of our ever-changing language as a means of expression. It’s shocking to come across a poem written hundreds of years ago, and then hear lyrics written by a rapper last week, and have both “poems” ring true to you, though the language is vastly different. (Looking for “Spoken Word” poetry? Search it on iTunes, where you’ll also find audio recordings of works of poetry.)
Here we encourage your exploration into poetry, which, with a little insight, makes for brain-enlivening, fun, “quick-time” reading outside of a classroom. What’s great is that now you can listen to poetry on your MP3 or iPod, download it to your Kindle or Nook, or browse online or in a bookstore* for a juicy poetical payoff. No analysis required.
Poetry for Kids
You might think the hundreds of picture books published each year qualify as poetry for children, but really, they’re mostly just rhymed stories. Today’s teaching helps kids understand the succinct nature of poetry and language, and how their limited vocabularies are still quite effectual and expressive.
One source, Poetry for Children, a blog run by Sylvia Vardell, will give you all kinds of kids’ poetry ideas and authors, and surely something will suit your kid’s individual style. Check out “Poetry TagTime”, available for 99¢ as an ebook at Amazon.com.
Jack Prelutsky, current US Children’s Poet Laureate, has a do-it-yourself poetry workshop available via Scholastic.com which can result with kids publishing their work on the web. If you’re not familiar already with Jack P.’s work, find his books at Barnes & Noble, or bn.com, or Amazon.com.
For older kids, especially the self-starter tween, young adult, and teens, Figment.com is an amazing site for reading “what everyone else is doing”, as well as an outlet to share works and receive feedback (or not!).
American Poets Laureate are determined by a consortium at the Library of Congress, and are meant to be writers whose work reflects the sentiments of their time or generation. The poets chosen tend to hold cache on the East Coast collegiate circuit; despite its diversity, the poets are worthwhile reading.
Current US Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwin’s poetry has garnered national awards. His poems reflect a mid-20th Century angst, and question war, just as we do now. Check out his tome Migration: Selected Poems 1951-2001.
Past laureates include Robert Lowell, William Carlos Williams, Billy Collins and Kay Ryan, who recently used her stature to get community college students published in a project called “Poetry for the Mind’s Joy”. Read the successful Mind’s Joy poetry on the Library of Congress website.
Modern Poetry and the New Haiku
Wonder which authors are on today’s watch list for the publishing world? Industry journal Publishers Weekly put out a list of authors in an article “Poetry Profiled 2011” in their nod to National Poetry Month. Included in this list is a poetry guide by David Orr, Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry.
There are hundreds of poetry anthologies to find on Amazon, Borders, Indiebound.org, or at Barnes & Noble, often classified by subject: Love, Nature, Classics, Sonnets, Regional, etc. Try unusual search terms and see what you find: type in “Dog Poetry” and the first selection in query results is a fun collection written by writer’s dogs.
A new, digital phenomenon is Twitter Poetry. The emergence of poems written in 140 characters (or less) was noted recently in the Establishment’s paper-of-record, The New York Times. Look up T Poet on Twitter (@TwitterPoetry) or try the blog site TwiHaiku, where you can read Twitter examples filed by subject (love, nature, the universe), or upload your own works.
The thought of haiku might bring to mind Japan. Traditional haiku is a more carefully studied art form with centuries of history. To quench your 5-7-5 syllable haiku thirst, pick up a translated collection by Matsuo Basho, Kobayashi Issa, or Yosa Buson, or compare all three in a Haiku collection with an introduction to all three authors by the illustrious Robert Hass.
Want to read more? Add some of these great poet’s works to your ipod or MP3 player by purchasing discounted gift cards from Plastic Jungle to make the downloads more affordable. Or head over to your local bookstore and peruse the shelves for your favorite authors.
Remember that most poems are copyrighted material, so think twice before you publicly publish any works that are not your own.
Enjoy the look inward, as you explore our language as it lives, changes, and even to explore its dead, fallen branches (to wax poetic!) to see how you may grow in your humanity.