The Month for Poetry

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour….

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

 Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Ferries

It all started in 1995 when the Academy of American Poets brought together a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets and teachers.  This was no ordinary conference!  The participants had one objective, to organize a month-long commemoration of poetry.   They designated April 1996 as the inaugural celebration of National Poetry Month.     Geoffrey Chaucer would be proud!  After all, April is the time for pilgrimages.  In my experience, this embodies the essence of poetry.  Poems thrust us into a remarkable journey that demands are complete involvement.

Last year, OTR Poetry Reading Program 2013 selected, “The Voice of the Poet – Five American Women” which brings together the brilliant voices of Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bogan and Muriel Rukeyser.   To celebrate this month of poetry, I want to highlight these five American Women who used poetry to define their lives and challenged us to do the same.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a free spirit known for her bohemian lifestyle.  Her background in theatre added a dramatic flare to her poetry readings.  Recuerdo, which in Spanish means memory, is a testament to living generously, without reservation, without regret.

Reading poetry speaks to the heart.  Listening to poetry sings to the soul.

Recuerdo

Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.

It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—

But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,

We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;

And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

 ***

We were very tired, we were very merry—

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;

And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,

From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;

And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,

And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

 ***

We were very tired, we were very merry,

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.

We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,

And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;

And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,

And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

 

22 thoughts on “The Month for Poetry

    • How wonderful to have you back! You have been missed.

      My next post is on Gertrude Stein – a woman of great talent and vision. But I know very little about her – just skimmed the surface. I’m learning as I go along…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Rebecca: Welcome back! Missed your post! Nice reading. Like your voice! I was writing a long comment to you but it was lost in the cyber space. I want to join the fun celebrating the month of poetry.

    I also met the poet that I admire in a conference few years ago: Maya Angelou. We all fell in love with her ! Just found out that yesterday April 4 was her birthday and she is 86!
    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
    ― Maya Angelou

    Another poet that I love is Pablo Neruda. A friend gave me a book recently: Essential Neruda Selected poems. I want to highlight a short quote in the beginning of the book: “Before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.”
    ― Pablo Neruda

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  2. My mother, who had a Masters degree in English, used to walk around the house reciting Chaucer. Perhaps it was especially in the spring, and she was girding herself for all the spring cleaning–taking out and beating the rugs, washing and hanging winter blankets, clearing out closets…

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    • Geoffrey Chaucer has a way of girding us for the pilgrimage ahead, whether we are heading down the road, or spring cleaning. Your comments remind me that our mothers are our first introduction to literature. I remember my mother helping me memorize my first poem when I was 5 years old. It was years later that I found out that I had been reciting Robert Louis Stevenson. Even now, I catch myself saying the words…

      How do you like to go up in a swing,
      Up in the air so blue?
      Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
      Ever a child can do!

      Up in the air and over the wall,
      Till I can see so wide,
      Rivers and trees and cattle and all
      Over the countryside—

      Till I look down on the garden green,
      Down on the roof so brown—
      Up in the air I go flying again,
      Up in the air and down!

      Robert Louis Stevenson

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April is such a fine time to celebrate poetry – with nature re-awakening, we seem to search for words and ways of expressing the new natural year and beginnings. Let’s hear it for poetry!

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    • How very well said!! By the way, I am in the middle of reading “Savage Beauty” by Nancy Milford (who also wrote Zelda) which is a biography of the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I am only a few chapters into the book, but I am finding it a page turner. Edna St. Vincent Millay lived a dazzling life!

      “My candle burns at both ends;
      It will not last the night;
      But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
      It gives a lovely light!”

      ― Edna St. Vincent Millay, A Few Figs from Thistles

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Letizia – I have so many books on my “biography” list that I can’t decided which to read first. It is like being in a candy store – everything is tempting! AGHHH!!!! One thing is certain – there are a lot of interesting people to read about. What I like about blogging is that we are creating our personal biographies….

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I find that when I recite poetry, I feel the rhythm more clearly, distinctly. It is as if the poet is speaking directly to me. Poetry reading, I have discovered, is rather complex. I am learning as I go along. :)

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  4. So nice to see you back, and so feisty, judging from your voice. ;) That Olde English is so mysterious! I admit that I’m uncomfortable with poetry – both reading and writing it. I feel like I don’t get it. So, I learn a lot from your posts. Thank you.

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    • It is so good to be back and “feisty” (love that word)! Several years ago, I attended a Mental Health Conference. David Whyte, a well known poet, was the guest speaker. He suggested that poetry had the power to “speak to something universal yet personal.” That was when I decided to look more closely at poetry. My first step was to listen to audio-recordings of the poets reciting their poetry. When I heard Louise Bogan reading her poem “Song for the Last Act” something “clicked.” I’m including the link to David Whyte’s website which has a short biography and a brief video, which I think you will enjoy. He has had many adventures!!

      http://www.davidwhyte.com/biography.html

      http://www.davidwhyte.com/

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a feeling you are a poet! I have never really understood poetry, nor do I think even the “experts” have complete clarity. I just listened to a discussion on the poetry of Gertrude Stein. Very informative, but I kept on wondering what Gertrude Stein would think!

        “Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.” Plato

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  5. YAY!! You are here! I have missed you. Now I know another reason why I like you so much!
    I can recite the entire prologue to the Cantebury Tales in Old English. The product of an irrevelant education. When I do this (usually wine is involved) people say, “what language are you speaking?”
    Laughing.

    WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1
    The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote,
    And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
    Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
    Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 5
    Inspired hath in every holt 4 and heeth
    The tendre croppes, 5 and the yonge sonne
    Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6
    And smale fowles maken melodye,
    That slepen al the night with open ye, 10
    (So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7
    Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
    And palmers for to seken straunge strondes, 8
    To ferne halwes, 9 couthe 10 in sondry londes;
    And specially, from every shires ende 15
    Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
    The holy blisful martir for to seke,
    That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke. 11
    This is as far as I can go my memory…….
    And then of course you speak of brilliant Edna! The savage beauty,
    You rock my friend. So good to read another post~

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is wonderful to be back! I would love to here you recite the entire prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Old English. (Soundcloud is user friendly) This year, I decided that I would learn to read poetry aloud. It is more difficult than I thought it would be, but it adds a deeper understanding to the words, ideas, meanings. My next project it to read Gertrude Stein. Oh my! When I listen to her voice, the words slip easily from her lips. BUT when I try to read her poetry, I find that I scramble the words. Gertrude Stein is amazing.

      “There were two of them, they were sisters, they were large women, they were rich, they were very different one from the other one…” She is writing about the Cone sisters – it goes on for pages and pages.

      Thank you for adding so much to the dialogue!!

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