TS Eliot famously claimed that “April is the cruelest month,” but the Academy of American Poets never got the memo. In 1996, the organization established April as National Poetry Month. Since then, the broader community of poets, librarians, booksellers, and educators have joined in.
Poetry celebrates language. Children grow up with a love of rhyme and the music of poetry, yet somewhere along the way for many this is lost. It could be the way poetry is taught. Too often poetry is presented as drudgery or impenetrable, something that you plug your nose and consume like a plate of Brussels sprouts because it is good for you. “The fear of poetry,” Muriel Ruckeyser wrote, “is an indication that we are cut off from our own reality.” Certainly, poetry makes demands of the reader, but good poems are also generous. They will meet you wherever you are at, and each time you read the poem it will give you something new.
One of the poems I have found most generous was sent to me by the author, poet Kirsten Dierking, shortly after my son was born.
On the day of my birth,
I bury my face in purple flowers
and breathe a scent so familiar,
I can’t remember a childhood house
with lilac bushes, maybe it was
my mother who held the baby up
to the dense blossoms, maybe it was
my first pleasure, my mother whispering
breathe deep, it goes so fast.
I was initially drawn to how the poem resonated with the feeling of being a new mother and wanting to immerse my child in everything good to inoculate him against a future that would inevitably become unkind in large and small ways. Now, it is the end of the poem that draws me in. Somewhere in the space between the second and third stanza, my baby turned into a six year old boy, and the poem grew with him, expanding with my heightened sense of the passage of time.
The Metro State Library kicked off National Poetry Month with a reading by Kirsten Dierking, along with Metro student Haley Guevara and recent graduate Jamie Haddox. We will continue the celebration with a haiku contest, book displays, and opportunities for you to create your own poems on the magnetic poetry boards set up on both floors of the library. Check out our Facebook page for more information. You might draw inspiration from poet Matthew Rohrer who composed haiku in collaboration with Japanese masters who are no longer living. You might even decide to submit your work to Haute Dish, Metro State’s student literary publication.
This month, consider reading a poem. Even better, pick up a collection of poems. Take Muriel Rukeyser up on her challenge and immerse yourself in life. And don’t forget to breathe deep. It goes so fast.