April 10th, 2010

April is Poetry Month

But you knew that, I’m sure, and are probably well into a much-more-organized-than-mine celebration. But nevertheless, I am enjoying the poetic focus right now, reading the John Smith tribute issue of CNQ and Paul Vermeersch’s Between the Walls (ok, so I read that at the end of March, but I’m still going to count it). Right now I’m in the middle of Skim by Mariko Tamaki, which is not poetry but a graphic novel, and also absolutely captivating (and funny!) so far (I knew it would be–not sure what took me so long to get to actually reading it!) But after that, it’s back to poetry with The Laundromat Essay by Kyle Buckley, another book everyone but me has already read and loved.

Also this week, I’m thinking I’ll do a poetry class with the teens. The teacher recommended it, and if I weren’t such a chicken it should have already been on the slate. But I’m actually really worried about this, because I am not a poet. I’ve studied loads poetry, mind, but I very much doubt what the kids want is help with scansion. They would like to know how to write the stuff–or really, since they are teens, they are probably already writing it and just want to get better. But I don’t know that I know about that.

I think the easiest way into poetry is the Imagists. It was for me anyway–I think The Red Wheelbarrow was the first poem I really really *felt*–it didn’t feel like an inept teen half-guessing at an erudite writer’s goals, but like the poem was there to paint a picture in my head and it did that. Anyway, it’s a happy memory for me, so I’m gonna try out some of that stuff on them, and use it as an opportunity to talk about finding the single *right* word, not 17 close-enough, out-of-the-thesaurus words (a problem my students are having. Let me know if you have any recommendations, even if they’re not from that particular movement–my students aren’t too fussy that way, and neither am I.

And one more bit of poetic news is that I received an absolutely lovely illustrated copy of Hillaire Belloc’s *Cautionary Tales* as a gift this week, from someone who likely has no idea that it’s Poetry Month, but it does nicely suit. I haven’t read the whole of it yet, but as soon as I saw the title in the table of contents, of course I read this one (the poet’s been dead more than 50 years, so I’m not violating copyright by sharing this, am I?) It’s best read *aloud*!

Who slammed Doors for Fun
and Perished Miserably

A trick that everyone abhors
In Little Girls is slamming Doors.
A Wealthy Banker’s Little Daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater
(By name Rebecca Offendort),
Was given to this Furious Sport.

She would deliberately go
And Slam the door like Billy-Ho!
To make her Uncle Jacob start.
She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild:
She was an aggravating child…

It happened that a Marble Bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the Door this little Lamb
Had carefully prepared to Slam,
And Down it cam! It knocked her flat!
It laid her out! She looked like that.
Her funeral Sermon (which was long
And followed by a Sacred Song)
Mentioned her Virtues, it is true,
But dwelt upon her Vices too,
And showed the Dreadful End of One
Who goes and slams the door for Fun.
The children who were brought to hear
The awful Tale from far and near
Were much impressed, and inly swore
They never more would slam the Door.
–As often they had done before.


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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