It’s official, April is National Poetry Month and April 2021 is the 25th anniversary. So pull out that old, tattered book of poetry and read a poem. It’s good for your soul. Even better, if you get a chance to listen to a poet read then please do so. Here’s why I love listening to poets read their poems.
The poetry section of English class was one of my favorites. I liked learning about the different poets and their poems. I had an early love of Robert Frost and his poem Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, thanks in no small part to one of those kitschy posters of the 1970’s of a horse in a snowy field.
Then, in middle school there was Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Who didn’t have fun saying it?
’Twas brillig, and the slithy tovesLewis Carroll
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
But, maybe my original love of poetry started with the book Forevermore by Ione Rehm Hertweck. It was a small press printing and I was mad about the book. Probably because she also wrote a poem about my dad and it hung on our dining room wall for years. I wish I had it, but it went missing over the years.
Ione signed a copy of Forevermore to my mother but as far as I was concerned, that book was mine. I destroyed it with my love. Lines, arrows, circles, notes of poems I loved. Words were underlined, some for unknown reasons.
Unlike my sister Joni, whose love of books was shown with a reverence that touched upon near-obsession with no broken spines or dog-eared pages, my love was messy and slobbery.
My favorite poem? One about a child’s death, called Party Day. I even had my brother draw a picture of the poem which hung in my room for years. I think I needed it originally for a book report.
There’ll be no party, little boy doll,Ione Rehm Hertweck
So I guess you’ll have to care,
For the wooly dog and the soldier men,
And the big brown teddy bear.
There’s a new little grave on the hill tonight,
Beneath that cold, bright star,
And the years ahead are long and dark,
Because of a speeding car.
I was such a morbid child, but the perfect age for that sort of fascination with death.
Some time after that I fell for the schmaltzy love poems of Rod McKuen. What 1970’s teenage girl didn’t? Luckily, that phase didn’t last long.
Then came high school and an English teacher who was not a fan of my “in your face,” attitude that I had back then. He assigned poets for our research papers. While others got poets we actually studied in class, like Keats and Shelley, I was given Dylan Thomas.
Not only had I never heard of him but he wasn’t in our English book, our school library, or our city library. How do you pull off a research paper like that without access to the books in a pre-internet age? Older brother to the rescue! He brought me to his college library where I was able to get 2 books. Just 2 on Dylan Thomas.
One book was a biography. The other, a book of poems. And oh, what poems they were. It is where I was first introduced to The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.
The force that through the green fuse drives the flowerDylan Thomas
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintery fever.
A poet who was obsessed with the birth, life, and death cycle. He even had the best-ever title of a poem, A Refusal to Mourn the Death, By Fire, of a Child in London. Who names a poem like that? (Maybe there are others, but I’m not aware.) I became obsessed.
And then in the early years of computer shopping, I found out about the BBC’s recordings of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry and I had to have them all. And I became obsessed once again. His voice, while reading his own poems, is poetry in itself. Give a listen.
That is why I love listening to poets read their poems. You can feel their emotion. More than the best actor in the world reading a poem that was written before recordings. A poet reads it with the emotions of when they wrote it. Someone else can only give us a copy of that. A cover, much like a cover band can sing and play your favorite band’s songs, but they never quite live up to that original feeling.
Through the years, poetry has come in and out of my life. While studying yoga, I came across the poems of Danna Faulds and she reached in and found my soul. I often read one of her poems when I taught yoga.
It Doesn’t Always Smell Like Roses
This body is not flowing
with liquid energy, no
and this mind is not
awash with peace. I
fight myself in every
posture, muscles shriek,
fear freezes bone and a
sure sense of failure grows.
This too is practice,Danna Faulds
this ground where grief
gains the upper hand,
and anger casts dark
shadows. This, the flip
side of delight is as much
the point as any pleasure–
this is breathing into life
And then this year, a poet burst into the national spotlight and she stunned me with her eloquence. People thought she was too young at 22 but Dylan Thomas wrote The Force that Through the Green Fuse when he was just 19. No, she wasn’t too young, she was the perfect person, at the right age, with the perfect poem to fit into these trying times.
Amanda has a book The Hill We Climb and Other Stories, coming out in September. I can’t wait for the Audible version!
If you want to know more about National Poetry Month check out 30 Ways to Celebrate the 25th Annual National Poetry Month at Home or Online.