Once Upon a Time, There Was World Poetry Day

Today, everyone in the world, with their hair slung back, ten-gallon hats or a nice comb-over can enjoy – and should enjoy the centuries long tradition of poetry.  It’s WORLD POETRY DAY, can’t say it’s my favorite holiday because then I would be lying, but it is a holiday that I’d like to shout from the roof tops for – a Fiddler on the Roof if you will…a word fiddler…I could go on with this metaphor, but I’ll spare you.  However, anyone who crosses my path today may, or may not get a poem right out of my secret-wallet-stash. (This means you, people of the Wake County Public Library System).

Not only have I fallen in love with the poignant and deep-stabbing lines of poetry in books all over the shelves of local libraries, but for the past 8ish years I’ve been writing poetry.  I’ll admit, I’m horrible at reading my own poetry (I sound like a girl from “The Hills,” and probably the skinniest, most annoying one) but poetry is a tradition for any type of reader.  If you prefer to hear your books on tape when you drive to work and spill your coffee from the ignorant cutter-offers in traffic then maybe you should listen to poetry like this poem that I’m obsessed with called “Shake the Dust.”  Maybe, if you enjoy this poem then you can further search on youtube for the various Poetry Slams and listen to the ball-busting women and the heart-pouring men who share their poetry in a backyard, tent-revival preacher sort of way.  I personally am into the red-face yelling technique and the perfect circles of underarm sweat, but that’s just me.

“This is for the nighttime cereal eaters…” and you know that’s you, (insert name here), Shake the Dust.

Then there’s the twitter poet – who writes these devastating 140-count lines that will make you look at a Pinafore on a doll, at the flea market (her eyes blinking if you turn her upside down) and just start weeping because you remember the line about the girl in a pinafore and shackles that just stood out to you so you’ll never forget it.  Even when you’re reading Alice in Wonderland to your babies, and you see her with her white smock on and you still remember, that line, when you were twenty.  These are the people that World Poetry Day is for (people like my friend Holly who the pinafore memory comes with).

And then, the people who write because they’re grieving, because they lost a mother without her actually dying.  The abused, the forgotten, the ones who read in the quiet spot between the floor of their bathroom and the start of their shelving unit, where usually a hamper goes.  The ones who read in a dry bathtub, wrapped in a snuggly and cry.  The ones who pray to people, who have died instead of God, because they just haven’t forgiven him yet.  And do you see how all of this goes back to “shaking the dust” and then all of it goes back to poetry, all the way back to carvings on caves in the middle of somewhere no one can point on a map.  THIS IS POETRY.

I know a lot of people that have heard Shakespeare in high school, or Chaucer before they could decipher how naughty he was, and then gave up on poetry because it’s too “snobby,” too “hard to understand,” it makes you, “think too hard.”  Well to those people I say, pick up some Larry Levis, pick up a Dickman twin, pick up a copy of The Raleigh Review (http://www.raleighreview.org/Subscriptions__Print_.html) and just sit in the middle of your unused “other” living room, with the recliner cocked back and a cup of tea and just read for an hour.  Just give yourself a chance to love a rhyme, or a choice of word, or a line about dancing that makes you want to turn the music up later.

For World Poetry day, I’m just asking, as one starving artist to any other person…starving in any other way, to just read a poem and let it sink in.

Now, I’m going to put up a few of my favorite poems (that can be found online) as links so that if I have moved you or convinced you in anyway (and we all know I’m no lawyer) that you can click on and give poetry ten minutes today.  Just ten, just one trip to the bathroom with a trashy magazine.  One walk to the mailbox.  One relaxing break from work and you’ll still have five more minutes to smoke your cigarette.  Just give me ten minutes.


This is Michael Dickman…he’s one of the most awkward readers I’ve ever seen.   He teaches at Princeton.  The fly dreams came after his older brother committed suicide (he doesn’t tell you that here, but I’ve seen him read at NCSU and it was …. it was wordless.  If you’re awkward, or you need glasses, or you like Entomology, or you wish that you had eyes like kaleidoscopes, pick this poem for the ten minutes.


This is for the kids who went to Catholic school, or who once thought (just once when they watched a nun cross the street on their way to school, or in the grocery store) that they could be a nun, or at least see what was under that habit, if her hair was a giant mass of locks.  (who knows really, they could all be rapunzel’s living in cells and no one would know).   It’s for the at-all-religious, or the ones who question their religion, or the ones who never believed at all and chose science, even though (I think) you can have either really.  You can cure cancer and believe in the “yellow hand of God” (a line of my own).


This poem is just for those of you who sleep better when it rains.


This is three poems brought to you by death himself.  I love the last one most, but the middle one gets me everytime.  Any poem that has hair in it, I usually succumb to and then worship.


These poems made me want to go back to college (amongst the other poems by professors at UNCW and UNCG).


This has been my favorite poem for about three years now.  I still wonder whether the girl has written, I think I’ve asked my poetry professor (who knows Forche personally) quite a few times.

If none of these work for you, go to the local library and pick up a book by Billy Collins and have a laughing session with yourself.

If at this point, I have convinced you to do none of the above, then I need to a. really work on my advertising skill (possibly go sit at a used car lot for about an hour and just watch the salesman move his hands around a lot to the skinny high-schooler and his parents.  b. learn to network with people in real life rather than write this blog and hope it inspires someone.  c. anyone who reads this and loves a particular poem, or has written a stellar poem they want to share – leave it in the comment box.  I will promise to share it with the world of my blog as it comes in.


8 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time, There Was World Poetry Day

  1. Meg Waite Clayton says:

    “If you read this poem, write to me.”

    Oh, that is gorgeous and heartbreaking. So glad I took a moment from a busy day to read this post and then some of the poems. My favorite poem since I heard it read aloud a couple years ago now is Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come,” – now tied with “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop, which has been my favorite for many, many years.

  2. Cari says:

    Good to see you’re still awesome, Cassie ; ) Thanks for bringing these poems back into my mind. Oh, BTW, have I asked you yet: if you could read only one collection of poems, which would it be? Andrew and I are road-tripping to California (and Oregon) and I’m reading a book a day aloud to him for poetry month (might as well since we’re trippin’ in April) and since he’s not really read anything yet. I’m looking forward to the few hours we’ll spend in Sharon Olds’ words, personally.

    • cassiemannes says:

      It’s funny you ask that Cari because I would definitely know the answer to this if you asked me about novels or short story collections, but poetry collections – I’m lost as to an answer. I think I’d have to tell you to get the Larry Levis selected because I think I have that quoted more in my notebook than any other collection I’ve ever read. That is a STELLAR idea, you guys are going to have a blast! Please send me pictures along the way so I can live vicariously through you and I’m so glad I’m back on twitter so that I can keep in touch with you. I have a few collections I can give you guys if you need any, just let me know!!


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