I haven’t written a National Poetry Month post in a good long time, not since 2010, though poetry is still an important part of our lives, both reading and learning by heart (the kids all recited poetry for the music festival last month, and did wonderfully). What follows is pretty much a re-run of 2010’s post, with a few changes — some bits and pieces from some of previous posts on National Poetry Month, with a few updates, and at the end links to various Farm School poetry posts (most of which you can find at the green “Poetry” tab at the very top of the blog on the right):
April, as always, brings May showers and…
brought to you as always by the Academy of American Poets. You can request your own poster, designed by Jessica Helfand and featuring the line, “Write about your sorrows, you wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful.” from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
Poetry is like peace on earth, good will toward men. It’s something we should read and enjoy year-round, not just in Spring and all, but for many of us, without the extra effort of a special day or month, it gets rather lost of the shuffle of daily living. The Academy of American Poets helpfully offers Poems for Every Occasion.
National Poetry Month is celebrated both in the US, under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets (whose page has oodles of links — some good ones are How to Read a Poem [often] and Tips for Booksellers), and in Canada, under the auspices of the League of Canadian Poets.
New for 2013:
I know I kvetch now and then about how the designation does a disservice to poetry, corralling it into one month as though April is the only month one can bother to notice and read poetry. And while I still hold to that belief, at the same time I also think that if a month-long poetry blitz in schools and libraries touches just one child (or adult) and turns her/him on to poetry and inspires her/him to become a reader of poetry, then the month is worth it.
Caroline Kennedy has a new children’s poetry book out: Poems to Learn by Heart, illustrated with paintings by Jon J. Muth. See below for CK’s other collections.
And don’t forget last year’s anthology, Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart by Mary Ann Hoberman (American children’s poet laureate from 2008-2010), illustrated by Michael Emberley.
The current Cybils children’s poetry book winner is BookSpeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. The list of all the poetry nominees is here, and Ms. Salas has a free extras for the book here.
Crayola’s activity pages for National Poetry Month 2013 include coloring pages of Langston Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe and a Poem in My Pocket craft.
Poetry Friday is celebrated in the blogosphere all year, every year, and you can read more here and here (where you can also find the current schedule). For all of the Farm School Poetry Friday posts, just type “Poetry Friday” in the search box above.
A few years ago, poet J. Patrick Lewis asked, “Can Children’s Poetry Matter?” in the journal Hunger Mountain. It’s aimed toward parents with children in school, but there’s still much that parents who home school can learn:
American children grow up in a country that poetry forgot—or that forgot poetry. The reasons are not far to seek. I have visited four hundred American elementary schools here and abroad as a latter day Pied Piper for verse, and I can confirm that too many teachers still swear allegiance to an old chestnut: the two worst words in the language when stuck side by side are “poetry” and “unit.” …
Children rarely gravitate to poetry on their own. It’s an acquired taste. They must be introduced to it early and often by their teachers and parents, the critical influences in their lives. And not in the way Billy Collins has memorably described — and vilified — by tying poems to chairs and beating them senseless until they finally give up their meaning. We do not look to poetry to find answers or absolutes. Nor do we investigate verse with calipers and a light meter, though at least one benighted school of thought has tried. …
But any genre buried in unread books is useless. Make poetry a habit with students. If children are reading poetry they find insipid or pointless, they naturally reject it for the playground. Let them choose their own verse favorites. Encourage volunteers to read them. Open a Poetry Café, no textbooks allowed. Ask students to ask their parents for their favorite poems. Then invite the parents to the classroom/café to read them.
Go to the source: Seek out the poetry lovers among teachers and discover the strategies that have worked best for them.
Read the rest of Pat’s essay here, and then go back to the list of the Cybils children poetry book nominees, write them down or print them off and head to your favorite bookseller or library. I have to say, Crayola continues to surprise the heck out of me by doing this every year.
Some of our family’s favorite poetry resources:
Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work, from Tennyson to Plath (book and three CDs), edited by Elise Paschen (2007 saw a new expanded edition)
Poetry Speaks to Children (book and CD), edited by Elise Paschen
A Child’s Introduction to Poetry: Listen While You Learn About the Magic Words That Have Moved Mountains, Won Battles, and Made Us Laugh and Cry (book and CD), edited by Michael Driscoll and illustrated by Meredith Hamilton
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, edited by Caroline Kennedy and illustrated by Jon J. Muth
The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, edited by Caroline Kennedy
Poetry Out Loud, edited by Robert Alden Rubin
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Eric Beddows
Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris
The Caedmon Poetry Collection: A Century of Poets Reading Their Work (audio CD); ignore the publisher’s sloppy labeling job and just sit back and listen
Voice of the Poet: Robert Frost (audio cd), from Random House’s “Voice of the Poet” series
Voice of the Poet: Langston Hughes (audio CD), from Random House’s “Voice of the Poet” series; search for “Voice of the Poet” at Powell’s, Amazon, B&N for the rest of the series.
Poetry for Young People series; includes volumes of poetry by Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Coleridge, Longfellow, and more. Very nicely done and perfect for strewing about the house.
Emily by Michael Bedard and illustrated by the marvelous Barbara Cooney
The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires (out of print now but well worth finding)
“The Belle of Amherst” on DVD; Julie Harris in the one-woman stage production about the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson
“The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (1934) on video or on television, starring Norma Shearer as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Frederic March as Robert Browning; a travesty that it’s not on dvd
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, illustrated by Kate Greenaway
Talking to the Sun: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People, edited by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell; another out of print gem
Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children by Kenneth Koch
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry by Kenneth Koch
Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry by Kenneth Koch
Beyond Words: Writing Poems with Children by Elizabeth McKim and Judith Steinbergh; out of print (try your library)
A Crow Doesn’t Need a Shadow: A Guide to Writing Poetry from Nature by Lorraine Ferra and Diane Boardman
Magnetic Poetry (something for everyone)
Poetry podcasts and other online audio poetry:
The Academy of American Poets “Poetcast”
The Poetry Foundation’s podcasts and audio selections
Houghton Mifflin’s “The Poetic Voice”
HarperAudio!, where you can hear Ossie Davis read Langston Hughes, Peter Ustinov read James Thurber, and Dylan Thomas read his own works
The UK Poetry Archive, which includes lots of American poetry and poets too
BBC’s “Poetry Out Loud”
Learn Out Loud’s “Intro to Poetry” podcast
Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac podcasts
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Previous National Poetry Month celebrations and other Poetry Posts at Farm School (you can also click the green “Poetry” page link up above, second from the right over the carrot leaves):
Something different, a list of poetry books and other poetic resources
A monthlong celebration of delight and glory and oddity and light (National Poetry Month 2008)
You can also use the “category” clicker on the sidebar at left to find all of the Farm School Poetry and Poetry Friday posts