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Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 29, 2013

There’s still time to celebrate National Poetry Month, which is April. Dash off a haiku, recite a poem for friends, leave copies of your favorite poem somewhere in secret.

Or check out poetry from the library—we got old, we got new, we got whatever you need. Hawking poetry has always been a challenge, and yet there’s no end of trying. Many small presses exist solely for this purpose.

I just checked out eighteen new volumes of poetry from a variety of publishers. I saw the pile of new books awaiting covers, and I’m always looking for a good poem. I took them home with a pleasant anticipation.

I started reading, flipping through them, sampling, trying. Within a couple of hours, I was spent. After a night’s sleep, I started again, and in the end, I’d found one poet I liked. I wondered, How was this possible? Of course it’s possible, but I suspected my method.

The next day, as a test, I went back to a new book of poems I’d enjoyed last month, “Large White House Speaking” by Mark Irwin, a part-time Salida resident and a teacher in the graduate program at University of Southern California. I enjoyed it again.

So, I began sipping from the other books, one at a time, leisurely, instead of gorging at the buffet, and this was more pleasant. I enjoyed more of the poems, more of the books. This might be a lesson for life, too.

For the sake of comparison, I then checked out “The Best of the Best American Poetry,” which celebrates 25 years of the annual publication of “Best American Poetry.” Surely I would enjoy a higher percentage of these. But no.

There were good poems, of course, but the longing to be delighted went largely unsatisfied. However, “Best American Poetry” has a different editor each year, and then the “Best of Best …” had yet another editor, whose tastes I don’t much share.

We each have our own tastes, but beyond that filter, I find a great many poems seem to have no reader in mind. They are personal puzzles of language and experience, more private recordings or even one-sided monologues as when someone wants to speak and your function is merely to hear it.

A good poem comes off as an invitation to a conversation, even if you could never express yourself in quite those words, because your part is to understand, to expand the meaning through your own experience. The delight can come in encountering exactly those words you didn’t use on your own.

I come away with two important things. One, thank goodness there are many kinds of poetry so we can each find our own kind. And two, a good poem is a treasure. Keep it.

We have many poets here (although quilters may outnumber them). For a while, we had two poetry festivals in town. And if you haven’t been paying attention, we have the Shavano Poets Society, which at the end of last year published “Parade of Poets: Celebrating 20 Years 1992-2012,” available at The Book Haven.

Congratulations are in order both for twenty years of society and for publishing a well-done book. As society members discovered, it takes a lot of work and attention to produce a clean, attractive publication. Yes, punctuation matters.

Final notices: The deadline is May 1st for registering for the library challenge show “Letters, Unfettered.” Application and text must be submitted by then, artwork to be delivered May 11th .

And the Spring book sale is this Saturday, May 4th , 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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