Official Poetry Month logo on
By Public Services Librarian Jessica T.
Held every April since 1996, National Poetry Month is a time when publishers, booksellers, libraries, schools and poets celebrate the importance of poetry in American culture. The goals of National Poetry Month are to highlight the legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets, and to encourage people to enjoy the pleasures of reading this unique literary form.
That's important because poetry can be intimidating for many readers. They sometimes fear that they won't understand or appreciate what the poet is saying. It's often best to start by simply enjoying the language itself, including the rhythm and flow of the lines as well as the words. Even when a poem has no characters or plot, it has things (nouns) and actions (verbs). The things interact in some way, so that by the end of the poem, something has changed. Once you understand a poem on that level, it's easier to look for deeper levels of meaning, and to see how the poet might be making an observation about love, loneliness, sorrow, joy and other human conditions.
When I asked staff at the Capital Area District Library to recommend their favorite poetry, the response was overwhelming. Their picks ranged from popular poets like Billy Collins to beloved Shakespeare classics to collections for children, such as Shel Siverstein's “Where the Sidewalk Ends”. Here are just a few of their recommended titles:
o Neil Gaiman's “Instructions” is a picture book for all ages, referencing both classic and modern mythology and fairy tales. Charles Vess's illustrations are magical and include wonderful detail.
o Caroline Kennedy's editing of “She Walks in Beauty” makes a wide variety of poems accessible. She arranges them in 13 sections, following common stages of life. Selections include both beloved classics and works by lesser known poets.
o Pull up a chair and take some time to reflect on the poignant, yet humorous, observations made by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins in “Horoscopes for the Dead”. He has a gift for looking at ordinary moments with a careful eye.
o “Things to Say to a Dead Man” by Jane Yolen is a compilation of poems written in the five years after her husband of 44 years died. They help move the reader through passages of grief and on to acceptance.
We encourage you to take time this month to check out these and other poetry works by visiting cadl.org/catalog. Find more library staff recommendations on our blog at cadl.org (click on the Blog icon and type “poetry” in the search box). Another good resource is poets.org, where you can sign up to get a poem a day in your e-mail, or download a poem flow app for your iPod or iPod Touch.
The Capital Area District Library Reference Department is located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue in Lansing. Contact them at (517)367-6346 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
This was printed in the April 22, 2012 - May 5, 2012 Edition