It’s NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.
This is cause for celebration.
In my exuberance about National Poetry Month let me just explain to you why this is a cause for a giant party, that probably involves a lot of whiskey if we’re going to invite those fiction writers that DON’T stick their heads in ovens, coat themselves in blood from tuberculosis, jump from fifth floor buildings or straight off steamships after being beaten for making homosexual advances at a male crew member (because the world is not always tolerant or accepting), or lock themselves in the car in a two-door garage and die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Ah, poetry. What a beautiful blooming thing.
It caused Anais Nin to allow women the opportunity to have flaws, jobs, and multiple partners. Sylvia Plath successfully compared a man to a Nazi and put real measure behind the phrase, “Off with her head.” Not only that, but she wrote a poem that remains forefront in my mind when I hear the name “Ariel” instead of that awful Disney movie. Beware. Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ and eat men like air. (Sylvia Plath). Billy Collins got named America’s most well known poet, for the seven hundredth time. Joseph Bathanti convinced locked up criminals to fashion knuckle ink. The proper study of mankind if man. (Alexander Pope). Poetry took Dr. Seuss from WWII cartoon artist to Mulberry Street, the Zoo, and Hopping on Pop. The sidewalk never ended for Shel Silverstein although I didn’t want to play hopscotch anymore after I listened to his adult poetry. Tupac wrote a collection of roses growing from concrete that cause the thorns in my students to wither away. O Romeo, O Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo (Shakespeare) To this day, everyone is still confused about Shakespeare, and Hamlet doesn’t know whether to be, or not to be. That really is the question though, isn’t it?
Without poetry, Emily Dickinson would have never gotten out of the attic. The time has come/ the Walrus said,/ to talk of many things (Lewis Carroll). Zelda Fitzgerald might have actually saved herself from F. Scott. Robert Frost might have taken the wrong road, and Gertrude Stein would not have any tender buttons, just cloth covered homemade buttons. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold (Yeats). Milton wouldn’t have journeyed to hell, so we wouldn’t have either. What you say, a frozen hell? Not with a bang but a whimper (Eliot). Doesn’t that just open our minds. Anis Mojgani wouldn’t have told us to shake the dust, stopping millions of teenagers from slicing their wrists open only to watch them drip. There would be no petals on a wet black bough. None. Just people on a subway looking forlornly at the lights that alert them to the next coming train. I would be searching for love in all the wrong places if I didn’t know that men would turn down immortality to be with mortal women, especially ones named Penelope. That blind seer could tell a good story.
Poor Pablo, no odes. Those lemons, those old, mismatched socks. No women like cherry trees. Those odes hanging on my giant peach wall in my classroom made by students, one about their cat, gone. Middle school love letters would be empty with just those simple boxes asking for simple check marks – no mystery, no guile, no Cummings. I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart). Dinner parties full of white people in smart dresses would have no American dreams if it weren’t for Langston Hughes. We might not even have jazz, and holy shit, that’s a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to ask Oscar Wilde to my dinner of dead people. Longfellow would not look cheeky down on me from his above the bookcase post, Cisneros would not teach my students how to write about their homes, themselves, their language that is different from the world because it is their own. Smith wouldn’t have snapped her fingers and TOLD BUSH about his Katrina stain. Sir Walter Raleigh might not have become interested in one of the queen’s ladies in waiting and survived to run his now ranked city instead of losing his head over a woman. He is a poet though, after all. And Sappho. What history museum would be complete without your sculpted head.
Poetry has given so much to the world. It is not prose, it is a whole other animal. Poetry gives voice to the concise, the words you can fit in your pocket that can kill just as easily as the final fight scene in Moby Dick, or that time that George kills Lennie in Of Mice and Men. People have been trying to make the claim (for years) that poetry is dead, or dying.
See these traitors here:
*Salon fought back, thus why they have Megan Mayhew Bergman as a feature writer.
*Flavorwire bringing the spice with a list, as per usual. They’re the magazine at the grocery store that has to call their editor to figure out which kind of turkey to buy.
It’s very much alive. Today, I gave my students 15 words from Jamaica Kincaid’s poem, “Girl.” They claim it’s prose, but let’s be honest here, it’s written in one very complete sentence, only a poet could do that. The day before yesterday, I gave them 15 words from “Exile,” by Julia Alvarez. This lead to poems about deception, the country lifestyle of clotheslines and calloused hands, NYC, and the Domincan Republic. Through poetry, I can show my students the world at large. How it feels to be lost and how it feels to be found again. Because somewhere in a stanza, the paragraph of the poem, as I teach it, there is a little white picket fence that speaks only to the things that they want to plant there. Without metaphors (from epic poems told as stories in arenas) our brains would not work. Our whole function as people comes from making comparisons. An apple is an apple because it isn’t an orange. A friend is a friend because they don’t act like __________. My heart beats, small pebbles thrown at a window.
When children are learning to read, science has proven that rhyming works the best, especially for learning disabled children. It is the gateway to vocabulary, to phonemes, and phonics. Unlike novels, you can collect poems, you can memorize their ticks, where it’s best to pronounce words with deliberation, and where it’s best to shout. You can own them. You can take them in your month and bite down. Poems, those little monsters inside of our head, the words we write on foggy windows, the napkin stories in small diners, the inside jokes, the graffiti artist’s last words, the small print inside our tennis shoes, the beginning of rap music, the way Vietnam passes on storytelling, the coming together of words without all the useless bullshit.
Welcome to National Poetry Month at Books & Bowel Movements, it’s going to be a
a. happy union
b. complete ruin
c. production from a curly-headed human
d. something to make you loosen (your pants)
e. a magic illusion
f. a tiny nuisance
(See, what I did there).
It will be: Poetry everyday.