02 April 2008

National Poetry Month

Every year during April I receive a daily email from our friendly local bookstore Village Books. These emails present a poem a day in honor of national poetry month. Last year at this time I was nestled into my classroom at Burlington Edison high school teaching freshman the importance of reading, writing and sometimes poetry. This year I am quietly receiving my poems of the month via yahoo. I was pleasantly reminded, however, when this year's first poem of the month was by Billy Collins. Billy Collins is an extremely talented and funny poet and he is also a former poet laureate of the US (wikipedia that-what a cool job). When I decided along with some of my colleagues last year to introduce my students to poetry on a daily basis, Billy Collins was there. He has an excellent website and program called Poetry 180. Just Google it and you'll go to his website. This program presents a poem a day for each of the 180 school days in the year. This program is awesome because it emphasizes the use of poetry in our daily lives. It doesn't pretend that each poem is amazing or that we need to overanalyze each poem that we read. It simply posits that if we are exposed to poetry on a daily basis, it won't seem so foreign or distant from us.

I absolutely agree. So, to help all of you out, I am going to attempt to post a poem a day for the month of April. Sometimes they may be a few at a time and sometimes a few of my own may be sprinkled in but nevertheless, a poem a day will be there for you. Feel free to email questions or comments if you like. To start us off, Billy Collins' poem will introduce you.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
Permissions information.

Copyright 1988 by Billy Collins.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission.

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