Thursday, April 08, 2010

Peggy Fieland on National Poetry Month

by Peggy Fieland

When was the last time you read a poem? If you're like many of us, it was when your teacher made you do it. If that's so, you're missing one of life's great pleasures. Now a days, it's easier than ever to find poetry. One place to start is the website of the Academy of American Poets. There you can find biographies of American poets, poetry, books for sale, a calendar of events, and much more. You can even search the website for a particular poet or poem.

April is National Poetry month here in the United States and we can all help celebrate it by welcoming poetry into our lives.. First celebrated in 1996, National Poetry Month was conceived by the Academy of American Poets as a way for poets, poetry publishers, booksellers, libraries, and individuals to promote poetry and its place in our lives with poetry readings, workshops, festivals and other events. Some of its goals are :

Showcase American poets, past and present
Promote the pleasures of reading poetry and encourage indivivuals to read more poetry
Find new ways to bring poets and poetry to the attention of the public
Encourage the teaching of poetry in our schools
Promote greater media coverage of poetry
Increase sales of poetry books, and widen their availability
Increase public and private monetary support for poetry and poets

So what can you do? You can buy a poetry book or magazine, or borrow one or two from your library and read them. You can memorize a poem, recite a poem, write a poem, attend a poetry festival or a poetry reading, or contribute to a poetry organization, and lots more. If you're in need of ideas, the Academy of American Poetry has a list of 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, one for each day of the month of April. Here is the link.

If you haven't read much poetry lately, you might be at a loss of where to start. One way is to check out an anthology of poetry from your local library, or pick one up at your local bookstore. Then read through it, and see which poets you enjoy reading. I usually have a stack of poetry books I'm reading, and have one or more in my briefcase. I find it's a great way to pass the time while waiting for appointments. Reading one poet leads me to another, and on and on. I generally have three or four checked out of my local library. In fact, the libraries around here have a network and a website where it's easy to search for books, request them, and have them delivered to my local library for pickup.

Want to find more poets to read? Here are a few ideas:

Since 1937 the USA has had a consultant (old title) or Poet Laureate who serves for a year (or several years). Here is a timeline, including some information about each of the poets.

You might start by reading about Kay Ryan, the current Poet Laurate.

Here is a link to the website for the Canadian Parlimentary Poet Laureate. The current Canadian Poet Laureate is Pierre DesRuisseaux.

England has had a Poet Laureate for hundreds of years. The current Poet Laureate is Carol Ann Duffy.

Did you have to memorize poetry in school? I did, and I can still recite a lot of it by heart. Consider trying to memorize a few of your favorite poems. Start by reading the poem over several time, then read it out loud. Try reading it several times a day for a week or so and you'll probably find you can recite by heart. Or you can start by copying your favorite poems into a notebook that you can carry around with you and read whenever you like.

Maybe you'll even write a few poems. I still write poems for family holidays and birthdays, whenever someone at my office is leaving, or whatever. It doesn't take much of an excuse to get me to pick up my pen and write a poem.

And here, in case you're interested in reading more about them, is an article about limericks:

Here is a poem I penned (So here, just for grins, is one for y'all):

Amusing Muse

One day while walking the dog
I happened to sit on a log.
I thought of a ditty,
though short, it was witty,
about rainy weather and fog.

I ran home to write my poem down.
When writing I started to frown.
My poem wasn't right.
My verse was quite slight.
I started messing around.

I started by making conversions.
Soon I had several more versions.
I'd nothing to loose,
I didn't choose,
I kept them all just for diversion.

If you're inspired one night,
sit up and turn on the light.
Don't be averse
to writing a verse,
you might be surprised what you'll write.

PEGGY'S BIOGRAPHY: Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Daughter of a painter, she is the mother of three grown sons and an accomplished flute and piccolo player. She is an avid science fiction fan, and selected Robert A. Heinlein's ?Farmer in the Sky? for her tenth birthday, now long past. She lives in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and seven dogs. Her poems, articles and stories have appeared in journals and anthologies such as Main Channel Voices, Echolocation, and Twisted Tongue. In spite of making her living as a computer software engineer, she turned to one of her sons to format the initial version of her website, a clear illustration of the computer generation gap. You may visit her website.

Peggy on Writing Math Poems:
Writing math poems

My undergrad major was mathematics and my grad degree is in computer science, so in a way I'm a natural to be writing poems about mathematics. However, I started writing poetry as a teenager to express the usual teen angst and went on to write poetry for family holidays and the like and when I started writing poetry for publication it was about family and personal life. I never even considered writing poetry about mathematics.

I did, however, write "Round". Round was sparked by my memory of a discussion in a college physics class about the rate at which a cup of coffee would cool and how the shape of the cup played into it. I didn't love college physics, and this was easily the most memorable thing in the whole course. The other thing was a memory from a math class about the sphere having the least surface area per unit volume of any solid figure.

So I wrote "Round" and sent it off and it was accepted. A friend read it and pronounced the finest math poem she'd ever read.

Huh? This is a math poem? She did manage to convince me, and to consider writing a series of them. When I started on the series, I went looking for books on the history of mathematics, and found mighty slim pickings. One book on the story of counting for kids and one or two fairly serious, heavy tomes for grownups. I did find a few interesting articles online, but not a book of the kind I wanted.

I had initially intended not to submit any of the poems to journals, as I intend to publish them as a collection. I did submit several to Umbrella for the special school subjects fall issue and had two accepted, and submitted five this past October to the winter issue of Cyclamens and Swords (yet to appear), as the theme, ticklish subjects, seemed another good fit. I've subbed a query to one publisher and had them reply asking for some sample poems, which I sent them, and am still waiting to hear back. I'm also working on a MG/YA novel about a girl who wants to go to Music camp, and continuing to write poetry.

There is, however, still that little voice that says I should write that non-fiction math book for kids I couldn't find.


Nancy Famolari said...

I love Peggy's poems. Thanks for sharing another one. I didn't realize it was national poetry month. I'll have to do some reading!

elysabeth said...

Thanks for stopping by Nancy. You are johnny-on-the-spot, being that you seem to always comment rather quickly on visits. We appreciate your support. Hopefully you have lots of places to go to read or you have lots of poetry books to read. Go for it. See you in the postings - E :)

Katie Hines said...

All right, maybe I can't write poetry, but I can admire it - you write a great poem for the Muse. Found it highly entertaining.

Janet Ann Collins said...

Poems are a great way to help kids remember information. I hope that math book does happen.

DarcĂ­a Helle said...

Thanks for reminding us how much fun poetry can be!

Debra Eckerling said...

Great post! Always love seeing more Poetry Month resources. Thanks!

madcapmaggie said...

Elysabeth, thanks for hosting me. It's been loads of fun.


elysabeth said...

And Peggy, the day isn't over yet - lol. Hopefully later on we will have a few more folks comment. Maybe someone may want to ask a question. Come on folks, don't be shy. I'm sure Peggy won't bite or at least she hasn't so far. Ask away - lol - E :)

Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks for sharing this information.

And, Peggy, don't procrastinate; write that math book for kids!

Accountant, Author & Freelance Writer said...

Poetry touches my heart, it's descriptive and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.