The Poetry Project, Day 1

Happy April! T. S. Eliot called this “the cruellest month.” It’s also National Poetry Month, a time when those who love poetry celebrate it, and those who don’t continue to blithely ignore it.

Which is a shame, really.

So many people are traumatized in high school English classes, when required curriculum forces John Donne and Shakespeare and e. e. cummings down their throats. The unintended result, I think, is a culturally pervasive idea that poetry is opaque and inaccessible.

I love Donne and cummings and Shakespeare. But my favorite poems are crystalline and discrete. They lodge in your chest like arrows, clean and quick. When you read it or hear it read, you know what it’s trying to say, not just through the words but from the feel of the words, the way they slide against one another, and the silences between them.

Poetry is the love-child of music and prose, and as such, it can go places that neither of these art forms can separately go. It can express complicated things simply, and without the stricture of rules to which prose is beholden. It can help us to feel the world more acutely.

In the spirit of National Poetry Month, and to promote the idea that poetry really is for everyone, I’m going to read a poem each day and post it online.

Here is the first one, “Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967” from On the Bus with Rosa Parks, by Rita Dove.

 

 

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