This month is National Poetry Month. What I'll be doing to celebrate is featuring one of my favorite poetry how-to books. Mind you, as a poet myself I'm biased, but I agree with Neruda's assessment that when dictators take over, one of the first groups they come after is the poets. Why? Better writers than I have put to paper their thoughts. Let me share them with you.
“...Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.” — Robert Frost, American poet, 1874-1963
“Peace goes into the making of a poem as flour goes into the making of bread.” — Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize Winner for literature, 1904-1973
“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” — Plato, 428 BC-348 BC
“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” — Thomas Gray, English Poet, 1716-1771
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” — Robert Frost, 1874-1963
“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” — Rita Dove, Former U. S. Poet Laureate, born 1958
Words to think about, I hope. Now, take a look at Poetry Everywhere: Teaching Poetry Writing in School and in the Community and you'll see why I love this book.
In 1972, Jack Collum left factory work to become a poet. His co-author, Sheryl Noethe, taught poetry to the deaf. Both of them are NEA Poetry Fellowships recipients and together they've written a book on their favorite subject - the teaching of poetry-writing to young people. The following excerpt is a summary of their philosophy:
- ...writing is the better world, a refuge and solace where imagination is king. We can offer this sustenance, this self-creation to children, making their lives richer and happier, giving them more alternatives. Writing is a grip on existence and empowerment, and a way to listen to the inner truth of the self. The poet enters a previous dialogue with all previous poets, singers and writers. You keep great company.
This passage illustrates the ways in which the poet becomes a kind of modern shaman, a bridge to the past, linking this world and its inhabitants with that of our ancestors. I've personally experienced the power and transformation in the process of writing, of naming, of coaxing out out one's own truth from those places in yourself that are used to silence, to secrecy. I know the synergy that happens in writing. You open yourself, and whatever story is in the universe and in your own body gets catalyzed and the process of writing then catalyzes you further.