Poetry

National Poetry Month

There was a time – many, many years ago, before radio and television – that people found entertainment through reading. Not just silently to themselves, but aloud, for everyone. And not just popular novels of the day. People were hungry for education as well as entertainment. They also read the newspaper – and poetry. Almost everyone remembers learning some poems in school, and many of us probably have favorites that we can recite. Poems that touched us in a way that made us want to remember that moment, so we learned them by heart. Poems that were, in fact, made to be read aloud.

Bards of the West

April is (among other things) National Poetry Month. And I am glad to say that cowboys and poetry have a long association together. Cowboys have often been known to carry books in their saddlebags and more than a few have tried their hand at writing, in both prose and poetry. Long before the phenomenon of Country Music there were cowboys experiementing with the craft of versification. If you would like to read some of the cowboy poetry that has been and is still being written today, check out some of these titles from our catalog.

National Poetry Month: Eliot Didn't Call April the Cruelest One for Nothing

Paragraph One: In which the Author Discusses That Unpleasant After Taste. Personally, I'd opt for a National Take-A-Poet-To-Lunch Day over a whole month of funereal "celebrations” of the art.

Ai (1947-2010)

Portrait of Ai: Courtesy of the Poetry FoundationOne can get a pretty good idea of where the poet Ai was coming from by scanning the titles in her bibliography: Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate, Greed, Vice, and Dread. To say she was a poet who carried a rather dark view of human character, or to say she was an in-your-face provocateur, or that she was a feminist, or a voice for the ethnic hybrid who is so often cast as Other--who is allowed to belong nowhere, is to diminish her art. Yes, she was all of those things and would, I think, unapologetically tell you so, but those labels do not touch her verbal dexterity, her skill with the rhythms of speech, nor her inventiveness.

Dulce et decorum est: War and Anti-War Poetry

Cover Art: Blue-Tail Fly by Vievee FrancisSoldiers have been writing poetry glorifying or abhorring war for as long as there have been soldiers and wars. Others have written poems lamenting war's inhumanity and its wastes every bit as long. I guess the best we can do is work toward the day when neither will be necessary.

Below you will find poetry occasioned by war from the Harris County Public Library Catalog.

 

 

Irish Poetry for Saint Patrick's Day

Cover Art: The Secret of the Rose: The Love Poems of W. B. YeatsSorry I'm late--took a wrong turn at Sligo and ended up in Tipperary (a long, long way, indeed).
Ba-dum-tish.

Since so many Americans become Irish for the day on the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, I figure it is the least we can do to acquaint ourselves with some of the country's culture beyond our annual chats with Misters Jameson, Bushmill and Guiness, and the odd bowl of Lucky Charms®.

Dealing with the Devil and Other Ill-Advised Undertakings

Cover Art: The Doré Illustrations for Dante's Divine ComedyFrom the Department of No One Asked Me, But...
I was re-reading parts of Dante's Divine Comedy last week and remembered why I had always felt so uneasy about the experience my first time through. Here's the thing: Hell is...well, How should I put this?...a heck of a lot more fun (to read, at least) than Purgatory and Paradise. The Inferno is fairly brimming with pleasingly sadistic little set pieces

Notes on Amphigouri*: Slithy Toves, Granfalloons**, and Cromulentishness***

Illustration of the Jabberwock by Sir John Tenniel

Human language ranks even above the much-vaunted opposable thumb in my book. Sure, thumbs came in handy for our ancestors when it came to throwing spears at bison and such, but I think we can all agee that it was when humans developed the ability to order a mastodon sirloin rare with a side of sloth that things really started to take off progress-wise.

"A Writer First, A Woman After" --Katherine Mansfield

Honestly, I do not know what possessed me to attempt to tackle this topic, but here it is: there is no essential difference between male and female poets. In fact, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that in a blind taste test, it would be nearly impossible to accurately guess the gender of any given poet by the poem alone.*** The range of approaches and poetic concerns within each gender grouping are just too vast; in other words the category "women poets" is so broad as to be nearly meaningless.

Lucille Clifton 1936-2010

Cover Art: Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton by Hilary HolladayLucille Clifton wrote as close to the bone as a poet can. She cut away much punctuation, all ornament and everything else that was superfluous to the task at hand. Her poems often had the rhythm of speech, but it was speech as one wishes speech could be. 

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