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Postcard From Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In February, we read the work of Billy Collins in our monthly Poetry & Meditation Group. Though he was the United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, I had not been introduced to his body of work (with the exception of his popular poem about mothers and sons, “The Lanyard“). But after reading “Japan” and “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” out loud, and listening in silence while others read his poetry, I became a big fan. 

As is our custom, at the end of the night, the founder of our Poetry Group passed around a card for us to sign, a token of our gratitude to the poet. Each month, she addresses, seals and stamps the envelope, then mails our card off to the poet the next day. We don’t have expectations; it’s enough to share their poetry.

But once in a while, the Universe responds in kind. When we arrived at the March Poetry & Meditation Group, here is what we found:


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Liu Yung By Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To the Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group!


Liu Yung

This poet of the Sung dynasty is so miserable.
The wind sighs around the trees,
a single swan passes overhead,
and he is alone on the water in his skiff.

If only he appreciated life
in eleventh-century China as much as I do —
no loud cartoons on television,
no music from the ice cream truck,

just the calls of elated birds
and the steady flow of the water clock.


Billy Collins


Poem reprinted with permission of the author,
Copyright 2006 Billy Collins.


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Billy Collins describes poetry as “the only surviving history we have of human emotion.” We were thrilled and honored to hear from him. And it seems like a great way to kick off National Poetry Month on red Ravine. I am continually surprised by the generosity of famous writers to give back to those of us who find ourselves at humble beginnings. Maybe it’s a lesson to pay attention to — that no matter our status, we are all at the beginning. Every poem, short story, essay, and blog post takes us back to Beginner’s Mind.


National Poetry Month at The Academy of American Poets

We hope you will join in the celebration during National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and is a month-long national celebration of poetry.

According to poets.org, the concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media — to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. The hope is to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.


The goals of National Poetry Month are to:

  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
  • Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
  • Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
  • Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry


On April 16th our Poetry & Meditation Group will be reading the poems of Yusef Komunyakaa. Maybe you’ll want to start your own poetry group. Or purchase “Ballistics,” the latest from Billy Collins. Poem In Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 30th. And here are 30 more ways to honor poets and poems. Whatever you choose to do, celebrate poetry!


To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  USA 42 --- ALASKA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

-related posts and links: NPR: Reading List & Interview with Billy Collins, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), Billy Collins Reads “The Lanyard” on YouTube , PBS Online NewsHour: Billy Collins Interview, December 10th, 2001 — the week following his inaugural reading at the Library of Congress after becoming U.S. Poet Laureate, Poetry 180 — a poem a day for american high schools

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“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight…” Lines made famous by poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).

It’s National Poetry Month. We’re celebrating poetry this week on red Ravine. Are you carrying your pocket poetry? Read all the details at Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day). Revel in the reactions of family, coworkers, and friends when you read your pocket poem. Share lines of poetry by business card, email, or voicemail.

Looking for more ways to celebrate poetry? Check out ybonesy’s poem and doodle, Sunday. Write a haiku and drop it into our haiku (one-a-day) post. Or read about Ted Kooser’s American Life In Poetry Project

In honor of National Poetry Month and National Poem In Your Pocket Day, red Ravine is posting two columns (over the course of the day) that we received by email as part of the American Life In Poetry Project.

And please, don’t stop the poetry train after National Poetry Month. The best way to celebrate poetry is to read the work of poets and writers every day.



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American Life in Poetry: Column 159

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006


Bad news all too often arrives with a ringing telephone, all too early in the morning. But sometimes it comes with less emphasis, by regular mail. Here Allan Peterson of Florida gets at the feelings of receiving bad news by letter, not by directly stating how he feels but by suddenly noticing the world that surrounds the moment when that news arrives.




The Inevitable

by Allan Peterson


To have that letter arrive
was like the mist that took a meadow
and revealed hundreds
of small webs once invisible
The inevitable often
stands by plainly but unnoticed
till it hands you a letter
that says death and you notice
the weed field had been
readying its many damp handkerchiefs
all along




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American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Allan Peterson, whose most recent book of poetry is “All the Lavish in Common,” U. of Mass. Pr., 2005, winner of the Juniper Prize. Reprinted from “The Chattahoochee Review,” Winter 2007, V. 27, no. 2, by permission of the author.

Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.

There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication at http://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 17th, 2007, in honor of National Poetry Month and National Poem In Your Pocket Day

 

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