NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, 3 Days left

April is National Poetry Month. I have been observing it for about five years now. My Advanced Writing classes have observed it with me.

One of my reading goals for 2021 was to read more poetry. Thanks to Dewey’s 24 Hr. Readathon and a gift book from a friend, I have been able to do just that. One of the books I finished during Dewey’s last Saturday was Margaret Atwood’s Dearly. I have always had great respect for Atwood as a novelist, but now I am looking at her as a poet. (Later I intend to read her essays and short stories because the book I “look into” this versatile author, the more impressed I am.)

Her latest poetry collection

This collection is divided into five sections, each section untitled, but definitely grouped. Since many of her poems are lengthy and do not lend themselves to typing them, you will have to take my word that they are striking. Some are dark, something Atwood never shies away from, and some are about environmental concerns. This is not a collection to be taken lightly, but pondered upon and throughly digested, seeking the aftertaste of each poem. Often in the days between finishing the poems and today, a line, a phrase would surface in my mind, and I would wonder…and wonder.

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CELEBRATES ITS 25TH YEAR

Today I received my newsletter from The Academy of American Poets in the mail. Some of the more interesting points were as follows:

“Twenty-five years ago in April of 1996, it was Academy of American Poets members who provided the initial seed money for us to announce and carry out National Poetry Month for the first time…

Over the years, our annual celebration of poets and poetry has been recognized in The New York Times, USA Today, Time, The Washington Post, People magazine , and thousands of other publications…

…the month of April has become by far the most important time of year for the release of new poetry…and sales of poetry by recognized authors and new poets alike [increase].

…events numbering in the hundreds of thousands have taken place–no exaggeration–at libraries, community centers, places of worship, at parks, town squares…all aimed at bringing poetry into the lives of local citizens and fostering a greater appreciation for beloved poets of the past as well as today’s new voices.”

The organization sent me a National Poetry Month poster, and they will be sending weekly lesson plans to 35,000 teachers nationwide. Other online programs, readings, and celebrations will be held as well.

I plan to celebrate National Poetry month with a poetry contest in my Advanced Writing class and to personally read a new poem each day of the month. Let me share today’s with you. This is from Margaret Atwood’s Dearly, her latest collection of poems:

“Ghost Cat”

“Cats suffer from dementia too. Did you know that?

Ours did. Not the black one, smart enough

to be neurotic and evade the vet.

The other one, the furrier’s muff, the piece of fluff.

She’d writhe around on the sidewalk

for chance pedestrians , whisker

their trousers, though not enough when she started losing

what might have been her mind. She’d prowl the night

kitchen, taking a bite

from a tomato, a ripe peach there,

a crumpet, a softening pear.

Is this what I’m supposed to eat?

Guess not, but where?

Then up the stairs she’d come, moth-footed,

owl-eyed, wailing

like a tiny, fuzzy steam train: Ar-woo! Ar-woo!

So witless and erased. O who?

Clawing at the bedroom door

shut tight against her. Let me in,

enclose me, tell me who I was.

No good. No purring. No contentment, Out

into the darkened dining room,

then in, then out forlorn.

And when I go that way, grow fur, start howling,

scratch at your airwaves:

no matter who I claim I am

or how I love you,

turn the key. Bar the window.”

Margaret Atwood’s voice is a strong one in her poems. Often her “messages” or thoughts are not what we expect, but she is always unique, a voice to be heard. Thanks to my friend, Mary Allen, who gave me a signed copy of this 2020 collection of Atwood poems. I hope to read the entire collection this month to celebrate National Poetry Month, 2021.

THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood

This book is downright bizarro-funny! It takes place in the future, but it is not the stately, lit-quality of THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE, a classic in Freshman College Anthologies.  Think Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, sexbots, and The Green Men Group, an ecologically-correct parody of The Blue Men Group. Put all these in a nursing home, a casino, and in the middle of a rescue-kindapping, and you have a furiously fast-paced, laugh-out-loud (even if you shouldn’t!) read.

Charmaine and Stan, her husband are living out of their car when they hear of the too-good-to-be-true offer from the gigantic Positron conglomerate/company to give people a better life.  What the offer involves is living in a wonderful, idyllic, retro-fifties home and lifestyle for six months of the year, then living in prison for the next six.  A couple is not to have any contact with the “other couple” who occupies their home the six months they are in prison…and there’s where the fun begins.

This is Margaret Atwood having fun, yet making points about conformity, corruption of money and/or power on individuals, and the evils of mega-corporations who strive to take over the world.

It was a quick read and made me want to go back and see if Atwood had any short stories in my (paper) back issues of The New Yorker, tucked into my book closet with magic marker notations on the cover, “Have read all but the Fiction section.”