April is National Poetry month and it seems only right that we celebrate it in a posting. In my last post, I touched on why poetry matters to me. I thought I might share a few things that are keeping poetry alive for me.
First, I buy books. I can often be found in my local bookstore scanning the shelves for titles that interest me. I will pull a book from the shelf, spend some time with it, and if it speaks to me, I have a new book to read in the tub. Poetry on cd or tape is good too. I have many anthologies that come with a book so I may read and listen at the same time. I also subscribe to a few poetry podcasts. The Poetry Foundation is a great resource. There are many to choose from that may suit most tastes. The podcasts run from about 20 to 40 minutes each. They are always a great mix of poetry, interpretation, and interviews. I love thinking how the birth of the internet has, in some ways, brought poetry back to the people. For awhile, if you wanted to hear a poet reading their works, you needed to catch a local reading, or an occasional broadcast. But now we have it here at the click of a button. And although more of a solitary event, it still brings the richness of intent and intonation into the poet’s own voice and to their work.
The Poetry in Motion campaign has also done a lot for bringing poetry back to the people. At one point, they were in over 30 cities on busses and in subways. In a fairly recent podcast of Poetry Off the Shelf, Curtis Fox talks with Alice Quinn about the New York subway poetry. He asks her if, when choosing the work to be posted, they deliberately rejected things that were obscure or a little bit difficult. She responded that they, in fact, seek a certain mystery. I love this idea of bringing art, as a whole, to the people. This way, we can experience it in our own way. We can be surrounded by words of which we may make our own meaning. It reminds me a bit of my recent (and first) trip to Paris. I was amazed at all of the beautiful art that was on the street, accessible to everyone!
The idea that sparked this blog was a series of poetry books I have just aquired from Bloodaxe Books. Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, Being Alive, and Being Human are wonderful anthologies containing hundreds of poems each that really illustrate what it is to be human. They include an impressive list of writers old and new. In the introduction to Being Human, Neil Astly explains, “Staying Alive was my attempt to show all those people who love literature, traditional poetry and other arts that contemporary poetry is relevant to their own lives; and that much of it is lively, imaginative and accessible to intelligent readers who might not have given it much of a chance before. And that didn’t involve ‘dumbing down’ but choosing lucid poems to entice new readers. There’s no conflict here between public ‘access’ and artistic excellence.” I recommend all three of them. They have sent me off to exploring new territory in poetry. Happy National Poetry month, and happy reading!