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:
“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,
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.
In honor of National Poetry Month, today’s Saturday Mornings for Kids will feature renowned children’s poet, Shel Silverstein.
My introduction to Silverstein came as a sixth grade teacher, who after seeing a review of Light in the Attic in the Houston Chronicle, asked for a copy for her birthday so she might share it with her students.
Not long after, Silverstein published Where the Sidewalk Ends, and I treated myself to a copy. This was followed by a purchase of Falling Up.
Becoming enamored more and more by Silverstein’s poetry, I took the poetry collections to school, introduced them, and read several poems aloud, sharing the illustrations like a teacher of much younger students might, holding up the book and panning around so all could see them. Afterwards, I would place the books on a side counter, encouraging students who had finished their work to go over to the counter and look at/read them. We even started a “game” where students would take a fancy bookmark left in each book and move it to one of their favorite poems. I think the students were as interested in each other’s tastes in poetry as they were in the poems themselves. I began this introduction to poetry the second or third year I taught sixth graders, and continued it the remaining four years I taught sixth grade in an elementary setting.
Silverstein has something for everyone. The Giving Tree, one of his most emotional narrative poems, appeals to all ages, and touches the hearts of the hardest-hardened adults.
On the top shelf is collectible decanter and four glasses purchased from the Franklin Mint during the American bicentennial, which celebrated America’s 200th birthday (1996).
On the second shelf is a Bulgarian stacking doll (Does anyone know the correct term for these dolls?) a friend gave me after her trip to Europe, a “Teacher” appreciation card with two hand-dipped candles attached from one of my favorite former students (She came through in 2009.) It is perched atop various collections of poetry by poets like Maya Angelou, a signed Margaret Atwood (a gift from a friend), a book on writing haiku, and other smaller poetry books. To the right are the larger books: Shel Silverstein, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and a couple of others. Standing upright at the far right, poetry anthologies from college courses and some anthologies too tall to stand up on the shelf. In the foreground are, a bronze cat, which was a gift from my mother; a blown glass cat, a gift from a friend who went to Peru, and the business card of an artist, former student Jacq.
Peeking from underneath is the backboard of my desk, decorated by a sign for my performance at a primary school for Read Across America Day, flanked by an authentic Taiwanese prayer flag display and on the far right, facing inward a student-framed- gift-copy of my teaching motto, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”(Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life.) On the far left, a play on Churchill’s poster from WWII parodied, reading “Keep Calm and Teach On.”
Who could not get good work done surrounded by such an environment?
(I saw this idea first on O.D.’s Book Reviews over a year ago and have been wanting to do one ever since.)
A “shelfie” could be a shelf of books TBR, a shelf just read, or a shelf you have read and are keeping. Challenge: SHOW US YOUR SHELFIE! Post your blog address below and let us have a look.
Today’s Friday Firstliner comes from Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again.
“Part One, Saigon
1975 Year of the Cat
Today is Tet.
the first day
of the lunar calendar.”
The entire book is written in poems! What a discovery, and what a reading treat. I will write more about this book on Saturday Mornings for Kids, and then I will pass it on to a student I have this semester who is of Vietnamese background, and whose mother’s war experiences resemble this author’s.
This is a book I have copied many poems into my Quote Notebook from, even making a poorly-executed copy of her illustrations:
Not only is Kaur a spokeswomen for young women everywhere, she is old beyond her years in advice and thought. I first heard of her in a review from Hooked on Books’ Jee Wan, who was very impressed by this poet. Jee is an excellent poet herself, so I ordered a copy to form my own opinion. Impressed is a mild word to describe my reaction to Kaur’s poems–they are spot-on, often dealing with darker things women might not want to reflect on. But there is hope as well, always hope, offered in this slender volume.
Two more poems from this collection that “spoke” to me are here:
‘you might have done
the external work
but your mind is starving
for internal attention
“not everything you do has to be self-improving
you are not a machine
you are a person
your work can never be full
without play your mind can never be nourished
In an effort to read more poetry, I plan to start January with a book of poems and continue to read at least one collection each month. As slow as I read poetry ( because I tend to slow down to digest it), it will take me all month to read each collection.
Join me in this celebration of poetry and what it can do for us in 2021 if you wish.
This little “game,”originated by The Purple Booker, asks participants to open a current read randomly and copy a sentence or two that might tease someone else into picking up the book.
Here is part of a poem/musing from Mark Nepo’s Things That Join the Sea and the Sky:
“I started writing because life took my breath away. It was how when stunned by beauty I tried to stay stunned, how when touched, I tried to keep the touch alive.”
As only a poet can, Nepo causes the reader to draw in a breath and release it slowly, savoring the feel of the words on the tongue, hearing the echo of Nepo’s thoughts in one’s mind’s ear. This book has been an on-going read since January, and as I near the end, I don’t want it to stop speaking to me. I definitely intend to experience Nepo’s other books.
In April, National Poetry Month, I read poetry daily, and like all times when I read poetry, I thought to myself, “I ought to read poetry more often.” In an effort to do just that, and to add to the 20 books recommended by fellow bloggers I set for a goal in 2020, I finished a poetry collection yesterday.
Kaur’s unusual and sometimes disquieting poetry is something a bit out of my comfort zone, but am I ever glad I bought this one to read! It certainly kept my attention as the poems connected and transitioned into each other. Also, in the middle of the book, there was a poetically worded prose section which told a story, a convicting, disturbing story.
The entire book is one the reader experiences, not just reads. The poet’s thoughts and talents are outstanding, and I will be on the lookout for other collections by her, for sure. A shout-out to blogging friend, Khyati Gautam for this recommendation.
The idea is to copy a sentence or two from a book you are reading and “tease” other readers into reading the same book. My book this Tuesday is one that was donated to my Little Free Library, The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. It tells of a mouse who lives in Emily Dickinson’s house and “helps” her write her poetry.
“I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose. There was an emptiness in my life that nothing seemed to fill.”
This may be classified as a children’s book (recommended by a local private school for ages 9+), but its delightful text and special illustrations make it a must for a lit major like me. One of the poems “inspired” by Emmaline when Emily introduces herself starts like this: