Caroline Kelly Arts Editor ’13
Although many may associate poetry with a fleeting unit in English class, the poetry community gets a much deserved spot in the limelight during National Poetry Month. First started in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets National Poetry Month provides an opportunity for “schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States [to] band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.”
At the high school, this culminates mainly in the library. “We have always celebrated and acknowledged National Poetry Month since I started at the high school in 2007. We always display books, feature poets and poems,” said head librarian Deeth Ellis.
This year, the displays are particularly diverse, including packets of poems attached to the insides of study carrels. “We wanted to fill the library with poetry: books of poetry, individual favorite poems put up by students and teachers, and videos and audio of poets reading poetry,” said Ellis. The most anticipated event of the month was the open mic event during school on Friday, April 5 during Block 4 (tan block), where students had the opportunity to read their own poetry.
Some elements of the library’s preparation of National Poetry Month are also interactive. “We are putting up QR codes linking to poets reading their poetry,” said Ellis, of one of the new ideas. One such example is a code that links to a Youtube video of Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks reading her famous poem “We Real Cool.” Also, students and teachers who post a favorite poem to the already growing collection on both the glass windows up front and the far back wall of the library can expect a donut in return. “Amazingly, most people love poetry and can quickly think of a favorite poet or poem. Each time we asked students about posting a poem, they had no problem thinking of one they wanted to print out or find to share,” said Elllis.
Despite the wonderful resources offered during National Poetry Month, the events of the month as a whole provide only a taste of the great variety and depth of the genre. “Poetry is too large to recognize in a month-long increment, so I’m hesitant to say that National Poetry Month is important,” said English teacher Andrew Bennett. “There is so much amazing poetry being written today, and the tradition goes back two or three thousand years… A light appreciation can be fostered in a month, but not a deep one.” He references the fact that since “great poets are always in dialogue with each other… they are responding, with their work, to the poets they’ve read and admired,” and to truly grasp a poet’s meaning, the work of his or her predecessors must be read and understood as well- “All in a month?”
The craft of writing poetry requires time and repeated involvement, just as one’s understanding of the genre requires constant exposure. “Anyone who writes great poetry knows that it takes a regular–even daily–commitment, like excelling at a musical instrument or a sport,” said Bennett. “Is there a National Music Month, or a National Sports Month? There might be, somewhere, but I don’t think so. And I guess the reason is that we already celebrate these activities and traditions every day.” But Bennett acknowledges that students have to start somewhere, “and so, I guess the exposure that National Poetry Month offers is good because it gives students a chance to see what’s out there and, more importantly, what’s possible.”
Overall, these opportunities to explore and appreciate poetry are bound to resonate with members of the community. “There seems to be an emotional connection to poetry, whether it is from reading someone like Shel Silverstein in elementary school or discovering a poet in English class that you connect to,” said Ellis. “Most students and teachers have a favorite, and that is fun to share as a community.”