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National Poetry Month

 

By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  A few weeks ago, I mentioned in this column that April is National Poetry Month. I’m an optimist at heart, so I’ll assume a few readers found that intriguing, though my more realistic mind concedes that a fair number of you read that line and thought, “Ho hum, nap time.”

For those of you in the second category, I have a little challenge. If you think poetry is dry and boring, think back to when you were a child. What were your first books? Your favorite read-alouds? Even beyond the pages of books, what did you learn by heart? Odds are, you’re thinking of nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss books, counting rhymes, jump rope jingles, hand-clap rhymes and choosing games like “One potato, two potato…” All of these can be described with a single word: poetry.

  See? You used to like poetry. Poetry is the natural language of childhood, so interwoven with childhood experience that you loved it and learned it without even realizing it was poetry. What happened? My guess is at some point in your education you were made to analyze it, dissect it, evaluate it and look for meanings hidden in symbolic language.

  Don’t get me wrong; such exercises have a place in formal education. But, a lot of students become permanently stuck at that point, forever thinking of poetry as an academic chore. Worse, many come away from a study of poetry believing they don’t understand it, that it’s the exclusive territory of those with a mystic understanding of symbolism.

  The good news is it’s never too late to recapture your early love of poetry. Granted, many poems do contain symbolic language and deeper meanings, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed for their basic content. Robert Frost provides a perfect example. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” may be the most analyzed poem in the history of high school literature lessons. Yes, you may interpret it as a man in conflict pausing to analyze major life decisions. But, you can also read it simply as a lovely moment in time when a traveler pauses to watch a snowfall. Frost’s rhythms, rhymes and meticulous word choices are enjoyable for just what they are, whether or not you choose to look for deeper meanings.

  So go ahead. Remember those favorite rhymes and jingles from your childhood and teach them to your children and grandchildren. Read poetry for fun, read it for the way the words roll off your tongue or make you laugh or cry. Read it for its surface meaning; I won’t tell. There’s no “wrong way” to enjoy a poem.

  Established by the American Academy of Poets in 1996, the goals of National Poetry Month are to highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievements of American po ets and to introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry. Visit www.po ets.org for more information.

  Trivia of the week: Georgians have an extra reason to celebrate this National Poetry Month. The current Poet Laureate of the U.S. is Natasha Trethewey, Professor of Eng-lish and Creative Writing at Emory University. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her collection “Native Guard.”

 

 

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