DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Poetry

npm2013_logoSo tax day came and went and I hadn’t even given a thought to the fact that April (in addition to being National freakout about W2s Month) is also National Poetry Month. I’ve written more seriously about NPM before (here and here), but this year I wanted to loosen up a bit and share a few fun/funny experiments with you.

A coworker sent me a link to Times Haiku, a site which collects serendipitous poetry from The New York Times. As you may remember from gradeschool, the basic definition of a haiku is 5/7/5. Syllables, that is (though if you want to get all technical, the Japanese have other requirements, and the syllable count isn’t exactly accurate nor that important in modern day haikus). Anyway, the website finds sentences in The New York Times that conform to this 5/7/5 structure and posts them. Some are even surprisingly poetic:

Optimism fills
their lives, though there are degrees
of optimism.

If you’re interested in learning and reading more about haikus, check out this slim volume of traditional Japanese haikus: Cricket Songs. Here’s one I like from that book.

Broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends.
—Chosu

Speaking of serendipitous poems, Pentametron is a website that generates sonnets taken from random Twitter feeds. It uses a computer algorithm to find tweets that conform to the iambic pentameter line. Then it lines up 14 of these tweets in a row so that they rhyme. The result is often quite nonsensical, interesting, and every once in a while, even poetic. See for yourself:

Selena Gomez has a pretty face
Another day, Another paper chase!
Just seen the biggest fattest bumble bee ☺
Ya allah, ada ada aja si (˘̩̩̩⌣˘̩̩̩)

Did you appreciate yourself today?
replay replay replay replay replay
Pray always, lazy never ever do.. :P
Another day, another interview!

@Fly_kidd_11 kindly follow back
Another sleepless night! #Insomniac
I couldn’t even stand a while ago. “/
I’m not a very social person though.

Im salter then a Lays potato ship
I’m itching for another Cali trip…..

Hmm… not Shakespeare, but I guess it will do. If you’re in the mood for poetry in April, check out these poetry events at the library.

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Mar 28 2011

Roses are red…

by Greg H

I always had a guilty secret during my years as a college English major:  I was never a big fan of poetry. I always felt that too many poems were top-heavy with personal imagery and minute, intimate details that must have meant everything to the poet; I, however, was frequently thwarted.  I also believe, however, that there is a poem out there for everyone.  I myself have stumbled onto poems whose meaning simply opened up for me and then I felt as though I’d just been given a small treasure. But how do we find our treasure of a poem if we don’t regularly read poetry? Well, the month of April is National Poetry Month and a perfect time for us to read outside of our comfort zones.  The following titles, available through the DeKalb County Public Library, may help even the most infrequent poetry reader find his or her special poem.

Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Anthology, edited by Robert Pinsky.

An Invitation to Poetry: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology, edited by Robert Pinsky

Good Poems/Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor

By the way, my favorite poem is Anthony Hecht’s The End of the Weekend. What’s yours?

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Mar 23 2011

A poem for your pocket

by Dea Anne M

April 1st will mark the beginning of National Poetry Month. Past celebrations have included The Free Verse Project and the National Poetry Map (check out Georgia!). The celebration for 2011 will include a national Poem In Your Pocket day.  The idea is that on April 14th, you will carry a poem that you love with you all day to share with friends, co-workers, and others.

What are your favorite poems. Who is your favorite poet? I’ve known people who have told me that they don’t read poetry because they think it’s “too serious,” but poetry can actually be quite entertaining. Not only that, poetry is written on a variety of unusual topics and themes.

Do you like oysters? Check out “Oysters” by Seamus Haney in Selected Poems, 1966-1987. Of course, you won’t soon forget about the giddy young oysters in “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll which is included in The Annotated Alice: Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Are you a horse lover? Don’t miss “The Name of Horses” by Donald Hall included in Old and New Poems, or any of the poems about horses included in Herds of Thunder, Manes of Gold compiled by Bruce Coville.

Do you experience the occasional sleepless night? Next time that happens, try reading “Insomnia” by Elizabeth Bishop which is included in The Complete Poems, 1927-1979. For the younger set (and those of us who think that way) , don’t miss “I’m Tortured by Insomnia” which is part of Jack Prelutsky’s fun collection It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles.

And finally there are poems about…pockets! These include “Pockets” by Howard Nemerov included in The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov and “A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes” by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon included in her collection by that same title.

So do something different, and fun, next month and pick up some poetry at DCPL!

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Apr 30 2010

Book Spine Poetry

by Jesse M

April is National Poetry Month, and so for today’s post, I thought it would be appropriate to feature something poetry related: book spine poetry! I first encountered this idea a couple of years ago on the website of artist Nina Katchadourian, who had dubbed her titular wordplay The Sorted Books Project. The idea was the same though. Take a group of books, pull out select titles and place them in sequence so that a sentence or phrase is formed when the titles are read from top to bottom (or from left to right, if left standing vertically on a bookshelf). And voila! You’re a poet! The result range from silly to seemingly profound, but the process is always entertaining.

Many individuals, institutions, and websites have tried their hands at producing book spine poetry this year. One of the largest collections can be found at the website 100scopenotes.

Another good place to view book spine poetry is the image hosting/sharing website Flickr.  Several libraries (such as Somers Library and Thomas Memorial Library) have set up Flickr accounts where you can view their submissions.  Still want more?  A  simple search for “book spine poetry” reveals the creative efforts of a multitude of individual poets.

Try crafting your own!

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Dec 28 2009

Poem for a Winter’s Day

by Patricia D

I have a dear friend who loves poetry and can quote huge chunks of it anytime you ask.  I envy her that because most of the time poetry doesn’t work for me.  I had a brief flirtation with John Donne in college but that light burned bright and then died quietly and though I’ve tried, I  haven’t been able to work up the will to take another ride on the Poetry Appreciation Train.  I want to ride but I  just don’t get most poetry.  I’ve often wondered if this disability is tied up with my inability to appreciate jazz or the Three Stooges–it’s something that works for some but not all.  I had grown accustomed to thinking that poetry, much like pro football, was never going to be for me.   However, I stumbled across a collection of sijo poems in the children’s collection a while back and finally found a crack in my poetry defenses.  My favorite from the book is called Wish and it so perfectly conveys how poetry should work on a person’s heart  that it almost makes me weep (almost.)  Thanks to this Korean form of poetry, which looks so innocent and non-threatening,  I’ve been tempted into the poetry section–that’s 811 to the Dewey Decimal users among us.  It’s still rocky going but I’ve now realized that  Edna St. Vincent Millay is not as twee and ladylike as I thought and that has been a marvelous discovery for me.  Maybe I’ll give John Donne a call.

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Apr 2 2009

Poetry Myth Buster

by Jimmy L

npm_poster_2009_550April is the month of fools and poetry.  Now, most people would rather be a fool than read poetry, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be afraid!  You may be one of the many poor souls who were inundated at a young age by English teachers who made you analyze the MEANING of a poem (as if there were just one single meaning).  No wonder it is sometimes so hard to just enjoy poetry for what it is, and what it means to you.

So this month I’m going to try to shed some light on why I like poetry so much by busting open a few of the myths surrounding it.

MYTH #1: There is one correct meaning for every poem.

I’ll admit: it is true that most poems mean something, otherwise why bother to read it, right?  But is there ONE correct interpretation that acts as a sort of “answer” to a poem?  Many poems have a lot of built in ambiguity, in order to make many meanings possible.  Could it mean this?  Could it mean that?  Maybe it can mean both or all of the above at the same time!  It is fun to think about these multiple meanings and sometimes one interpretation affects another interpretation in interesting ways.

In fact, there are many poets who intentionally play with meaning and nonsense.  James Tate’s Selected Poems is a good place to start for the adventurous among you who like to straddle the line between sense and nonsense.  In addition his poems are often lighthearted, but with a sometimes dark center.  Charles Simic is also a good poet of the surreal.  His poems are odd, strange, and fun, and make just enough sense to keep you reading.

Of course, you may also enjoy a poem for its sound.  There are two main aspects of poetry: sound and sense.  So the sound of a poem is just as important as what it means (not to imply that they are in competition; in fact they usually complement each other).  All poets concern themselves with sound, but Dylan Thomas is a good place to start.  Try reading his poems aloud without thinking about what they mean.  You’d be surprised that you’ll understand the meaning without even trying—the general jist of it will come through the  sounds!  There are also many spoken word and slam poets who put an extra emphasis on the performance and sound aspect.  Check out this DVD if this is what interests you.

Lastly, just as important as the meaning of a poem is the way a poem looks on the page.  e.e. cummings famously played with typography and layout of his poems to great effect.  Check out some of his fun and still innovative poems.

A COROLLARY: Poems can make perfect sense!  Just because some poems don’t have to make complete sense doesn’t mean other poems can’t be very straight forward in their sense-making.  There are many poets who write in a more direct style, but a good place to start is William Carlos Williams.  Many people try to eke out a meaning from his poems, but sometimes a wheelbarrow is just a wheelbarrow.  Perhaps Williams just wanted to paint an image, so that the reader can be as absorbed in this rain-soaked scene as he is.

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Dec 18 2008

Nite B 4 Xmas

by Lesley B

The man in the picture is Clement C. Moore, author of the famous holiday poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, and one of the founding fathers of the American Christmas. The poem is better known as “The Night Before Christmas”; and before it became popular, St. Nicholas was a stern man wearing a red archbishop’s robe. He travelled on a white horse or in a wagon pulled by goats, handing out coal and switches to the naughty. Mr. Moore gave him a sleigh and some reindeer with funny names and turned St. Nicholas into the fat and jolly old St. Nick everyone loves today.

Now the Library has many beautifully illustrated copies of Moore’s poem on the shelves at J 811.2 Moo in the non-fiction section or at E Moo and J E Moo in the childrens’ picture book area. Ask your librarian to help you find them. But just as St. Nick changed his name to Santa Claus and learned to work with central heating instead of fireplaces, the poem itself has been updated and parodied many times. Maybe The Soldiers’ Night Before Christmas would suit your holiday better (starring a buff and beardless Sergeant McClaus). Your family might prefer Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version or Prairie Night Before Christmas. One of my fellow library staffers recommends Cajun Night Before Christmas, where Santa comes in a skiff pulled by 8 alligators. He says his father reads it to them every year:

“An’ I hear him shout loud

As a splashin’ he go

“Merry Christmas to all

‘Til I saw you some mo’!”

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Sep 24 2008

Children and Poetry

by Ginny C

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of including nursery rhymes when reading to young children.  Along those same lines, introducing children to poetry at a young age can help foster a life-long love, not only of poetry, but also of words and reading.  Incorporating poetry into your regular reading habits isn’t as daunting as it may sound.  Many picture books are already written in rhyming verse, so chances are, your child already has some experience with it.  Quite a few well-known poems have even been adapted into a picture book format.  The Owl and the Pussycat and Casey at the Bat are two famous ones.  Other popular adaptations include The Spider and the Fly, Wynken, Blynken and Nod and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

If you’re still unsure where to start, Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are perennial favorites.  They’re smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and usually pretty short.  Other well known authors and poets have books that have been written specifically for, or adapted for, children, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou.

Reading poetry should be fun and enjoyable for both you and your child.  Browse the poetry section of your library for more books.  Remember, the goal isn’t to analyze it.  Listen to and enjoy the words and imagery.  Then, if you or child wants to, discuss it as you would any story you’ve just read.

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Apr 24 2008

Interview with Poet Aaron Zaritzky

by Jimmy L

Aaron_sm
Aaron Zaritzky was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He graduated from the Creative Writing Workshop at Oberlin College (2000) and completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Arizona (2004). The Pulitzer Prize winning press BOA Editions published his book-length translation of Felipe Benítez Reyes’ Probable Lives as part of the Lannan Series. One of these poems, “Fears,” was chosen to represent a day in National Poetry Month. Nobel Prize finalist Miguel Mendez, the Kennedy Center, and others have commissioned him to translate work. He is currently ghostwriting a book for his father and lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife, Yosálida, their daughter, Sofía, and their cat, Humo.

Aaron, can you tell me how you became a poet? It seems like an odd thing to be!

It does seem like an odd thing to be. And how does someone become a poet? And what is a poet, anyway? Is everyone who writes poems a poet? If so, that means most everyone has been a poet at some time in their lives. Or is a poet someone who has poems published?

There are a whole lot of people out there who spend much more time making a living at something other than writing poems who are still called poets. I would venture to say that almost every poet, at least in this country, finds him or herself having to “write poems on the side.” That’s just the nature of the thing, I guess. So, to answer your question, I first became interested in writing poems when I was in middle school. One day, for no real reason, I decided to try to write a poem about spilling Cheerios all over the kitchen counter. I realized, as I was doing this, that there were so many interesting ways to put words together and that interesting language often has more to do with the words you choose than with the “meaning” or “story” behind the thing you are writing. After that, I just kept writing on my own.

You’ve translated poems before, including the book Probable Lives by Felipe Benítez Reyes. What made you translate this book? Did you pick it, or did it pick you? Did you work closely with the original author?

[read the rest of this post…]

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Johnespinoza_resized
John Olivares Espinoza was raised in southern California where he worked as a landscaper for his father. He is the author of two previous chapbooks and holds an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University. He currently teaches writing, literature, and ethnic studies at the National Hispanic University. His first full-length collection of poetry, The Date Fruit Elegies, will be out this year from the Bilingual Press.

John has a website at john-olivares-espinoza.com

John, what draws you to poetry? Why did you choose it? What can you achieve in poetry that you can’t achieve through other mediums?

After twenty years of being repelled by poetry, I was drawn to it because of the emotional experience I received reading it. Isn’t that why we read books, go to the movies, or concert performances—so we can get blown away by the drama and visceral experience? Poetry does all this in 50, 25, 12, or 2 lines. This is some power. But unlike a movie or rock concert that takes hours to get to that point of experience, or books that take weeks, a poem takes two minutes to read. I chose this medium because it can make the reader gasp, sigh, laugh, and relate in just one short shot.

I noticed that your unique background as a landscaper for your father often factors into your poems. Can you tell me a little bit more about this?

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