Sunday, March 26, 2006

Poetry: it's not just for April anymore...

Ah, yes, April is almost here, and with it come not only those vaunted showers but also National Poetry Month. That’s such a funny concept, as it leads me to believe that the rest of the year is made up of 10 National Prose Months plus one National “Stuff that Speechwriters Write” Month every November. Personally, what I do is take the 720 hours that make up the month of April and spread them around so that I have 2 hours a day every day of the year (with five days vacation, of course, as I’m a good boss). Now THAT is a good way to have a poetry month.

This isn't a slam against the Month or the awkwardly named National Young People's Poetry Week (during which my son's school and thousands of others will be on vacation this year). If those two celebrations work, great. But if you haven’t gathered from my blog, I really like “kid’s” poetry, and it's not just a sometime thang. As a writer, I’d say writing poetry is my biggest passion. But both at home and at my volunteer librarian gig, I read a ton of poetry aloud to kids, parents, teachers, and anyone else who falls into earshot. It turns out that I follow Lee Bennett Hopkins’ basic premise: read a poem and get out of the way. I don’t sit around parsing meaning or delving into meter or rhythm. I just read and let the poem BE.

It’s a blast seeing kids react… often long after the poem has passed. While I read a lot of funny/quirky stuff, the best poems of, say Shel Silverstein or Douglas Florian or Nikki Grimes, often take time to “get” for the younger set. That’s okay. They don’t need it explained. They come around to it if they want to (or in some cases when they’re able), and if not… well, they’ve heard a cool rhythm or a great rhyme or a wonderfully unique image. And that's good all 12 months of the year.


Anonymous said...

I just "discovered" Doug Florian this year, through a kid lit blog. I know, I know. What took me so long? I really liked his work. I've seen Nikki Grimes's books in the school library, where I'm a volunteer shelver or whatever else they have me doer, but have not read them yet.

Getting out of the way is a good idea--I'm going to remember that the next time I read poetry.

Did you submit this post to the 3rd carnival of children's lit? You should!

Greg Pincus said...

Susan -- Florian was below my radar for some time, too. But he's fantastic, imo, and well worth catching up on. And Nikki Grimes writes a whole bunch of different stuff that's well worth checking out.

I didn't submit this post to the Carnival. I have an interesting (I think) poetry focus in April that will "debut" the 31st. That'll be the post I send. This one, well, I'll just hope folks discover it!

Becky said...

I discovered it, and very glad I did, just a couple of hours after I posted something similar, but from the other direction, on National Poetry Month lol.

I'm very much looking to this carnival, both for the pleasure of reading everyone else's thoughts and for all the great ideas I'm sure I'll find. My kids will be thrilled.