April is national poetry month and if our campus library was open, I’d pick out some of my favorite books from our collection and some of new poetry books that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. I’d put them on a little tiered shelf in the front of the library with a sign that says:
Yes, you can borrow these books!
And I hope you would.
A lot of people think that poetry isn’t their thing but I usually think they probably just haven’t found a poem they really like yet.
Some of the poems that have meant the most to me have been poems that I’ve come across when I needed them, or that have helped me understand something about myself or the world. There are a few poems that I return to often. There’s a poem that I read when I’m sad and a poem for when I am nervous. There’s one I read when I can’t fall asleep. There’s this poem, by one of my former poetry teachers at Brooklyn College, which reminds me of my hometown. There’s this poem that I’ve read a million times that I love and still don’t fully understand.
There’s this video of the poet L.S. Asekoff (another former teacher of mine) reading a poem called Sparrow at a bar in Brooklyn that no longer exists that makes me think of all of the other places in New York that don’t exist.
And I usually read the Preface to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) on my birthday.
This is my favorite part:
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . .
This year instead of a display in the library, I thought I’d highlight a few online spaces where you can read and listen to poems (and watch videos of people reading). Here is also a link to a database of small presses that publish work by new and emerging writers and a link to Small Press Distribution where you can buy affordable books that support these presses.