Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Not Poetry Month

Well, it’s May 1 today and that means April, National Poetry Month, is over. I’ve enjoyed posting daily for April and hope you’ve found some useful ideas and examples. But I also have mixed feelings about moving on, as if every other month of the year we can just ignore poetry. Although I may not be able to post daily, I will continue rolling with my efforts at promoting poetry for young people. I also welcome any suggestions for new poetry-related topics to consider. But for today, I thought I would share this cranky nugget from an essay by Charles Bernstein.

"As an alternative to National Poetry Month, I propose that we have an International Anti-Poetry month. As part of the activities, all verse in public places will be covered over—from the Statue of Liberty to the friezes on many of our government buildings. Poetry will be removed from radio and TV (just as it is during the other eleven months of the year). Parents will be asked not to read Mother Goose and other rimes to their children but only ... fiction. Religious institutions will have to forego reading verse passages from the liturgy and only prose translations of the Bible will recited, with hymns strictly banned. Ministers in the Black churches will be kindly requested to stop preaching. [The musical] "Cats" will be closed for the month by order of the Anti-Poetry Commission. Poetry readings will be replaced by self-help lectures. Love letters will have to be written only in expository paragraphs. Baseball will have to start its spring training in May. No vocal music will be played on the radio or sung in the concert halls. Children will have to stop playing all slapping and counting and singing games and stick to board games and football.”

What a great point about how poetry is both something special and something ordinary. I love the subversive notion of “banning” poetry as a way of making it an irresistible temptation. I also like the idea that poetry is an intrinsic part of language and life. Here’s one of my favorite poems to illustrate this very point.

You Enter A Poem. . .
By Robin Hirsch

You enter a poem
Just like you enter a room.
You open the door
And what do you see?
A sink, for example,
A bathtub, a toilet
(Does a toilet belong in a poem?)
And you say to yourself, "Aha!
It's a bathroom."

The next time you enter
You know it's a bathroom
And you notice
The towels on the rack
And their color,
The mirror, the tiles, the sofa
(What? There's a sofa? In the bathroom?)
And you say: "Aha!
It's that kind of a bathroom."

The third time you enter
You realize
One of the towels is frayed
There are streaks on the mirror
And the person who did the grouting
Messed up in that corner.
You open the drawers and the cabinets.
You empty them,
You take an inventory:
Toothbrushes, toothpaste, cotton balls, cleanser,
Toilet paper
(Does toilet paper belong in a poem?)
Not to mention
The child-proof bottles of pills--
Which you know of course how to open--
And you say to yourself: "Aha!
It's that kind of a
This is how you enter a
I'm beginning to know this

Also in: Hirsch, Robin. 2002. FEG: Ridiculous Stupid Poems for Intelligent Children. New York: Little, Brown.

Picture credit: www.faucets-plus.com

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