How to Recognize Spring – by Nancy Ling

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read the published version of Nancy Ling’s column in the April 12, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Yes, it’s official! Spring is here. The daffodils are peeking out from the soil. The robins are flying in the heavy way that they do. Even the neighbors are lingering longer outside to talk about the Red Sox or the garden they are beginning to plot.

Of course you may recognize spring by another sign—the abundance of poetry. April is the official National Month of Poetry, as establish in 1996 by The Academy of American Poets. It is also Jazz Appreciation Month, Confederate History Month and Distracted Driving Awareness Month (who knew?). While I could spend time pondering how to celebrate the distracted driver, i.e. don’t text him—that would be a bad idea, I digress. Needless to say, the AAP wanted to establish a memorable way to celebrate poetry month. Thus, the idea of a Poem in Your Pocket Day came about. This year April 18th is the designated day when you can “select a poem you love, carry it with you, and share it with others throughout the day.” (However, do not toss your poems out the window of your car. This would confuse the distracted drivers).

As the Academy recommends, there are other ways to remember your favorite bards, and anyone can take part.

For example:

Hand out poems in your school or workplace
Add a poem to your email footer
Mail a poem to a friend
Check out a poetry book from your library

At the Morrill Memorial Library, we take this poetry celebration thing seriously. We have books and events lined up for your enjoyment throughout the month. Upstairs, near the Reference Desk, there are poetry books for your perusal. They range from:

Garrison Keillors’ Good Poems: American Places. This collection reflects poets who were “carried away by a particular place in America.” It could be “a snowy gravel road, a shopping mall, a town in Kansas, or Ed’s New York apartment,” but the reader comes away with a strong sense of place. The poems are as diverse as the poets who wrote them.

Having led a teenage poetry workshop for several summers at the library, I know their voices can be as powerful as that of any adult poet. Getting a teenager interested in poetry can be an interesting challenge, however. Poetry doesn’t rank high on the list like Twilight and The Hunger Games. Author June Cotner took up this very challenge with her book entitled Teen Sunshine Reflections: Words for the Heart and Soul. An interfaith collection of poems, prayers, and reflections, this work addresses difficulties that teens face, and it includes words from Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, as well as teenaged authors.
Sometimes people are afraid to read poetry because they feel it is too heavy, deep and real for their taste. Certainly, we all need a bit of humor now and then. In Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptions. Judith Viorst writes with a light-hearted wisdom about life as an octogenarian.

Here is an example:

Seeing is Disbelieving
We just got the photos
Of our family vacation,
Three generations at play,
Looking happy and tan.
But who, I ask my husband,
Is that old lady?
And who, my husband asks me,
Is that old man?

If these titles don’t appeal to you, you may browse our 811 section (adult and children’s) for more poetry choices. From Chaucer to Mary Oliver, someone is sure to catch your eye. Feel free to grab a bookmark as well. You might discover a favorite new poem on the back of it.

Better yet, how about creating your own poem? On April 6th, we did this very thing. Taking an idea as old as Plato and Socrates, we created poems from paintings, and paintings from poems. Entitled Conversations: Painting and Poetry, this Ekphrastic workshop was taught by author/illustrator Nancy Poydar (First Day Hooray, Zip, Zip Homework, and Fish School) and me, Nancy Tupper Ling (Coming Unfrozen, My Sister, Alicia May and Character), as a way to emerge from those winter doldrums. If you missed it, this same class will be held at the Wayland Public Library on April 19th, at 2 pm.

Or, if you put on your brave shoes, you can come read one or two of your poems for our Inter-generational Poetry Night. Back by popular demand, the event will take place on Monday, the 29th, from 7-9 pm. As always, please sign up at the Information or Reference Desk to attend or to take part. Each poet may read up to two pages of poetry.

And should you need a little more inspiration before we part, this year the Academy of American Poets has chosen to feature a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, from his book Letters to a Young Poet. As Rilke penned, “Write about your sorrows, your wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful.” After all, poetry is everyday life, captured in a new way.

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