May 19, 2015

Poetry Month 2015 at the RSSAA Lower School

by Librarian Karen Totten with contributions from teammates A. Basso & E. Ho and various young Steiner Poets

"A poem is an imaginary garden with real toads in it." 
–Marianne Moore (Pulitzer Prize winning, American Modernist poet, 1887-1972) Poet Tree 2015 Photo Album
Click to see the poems in our Poet Tree photo album!

So Many Poems, So Little Time
The great Marianne Moore is just one of many thousands of poets honored by celebrations during Poetry Month each year. From Shel Silverstein to Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson to Mary Oliver and Naomi Shihab Nye, poets and their poems are read, shared, recited, and otherwise enjoyed during the month of April.
The Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month in 1996 as a way to honor the importance of poetry in our culture and in our lives. The event is observed around the world—millions read poetry at dinner, recite poems at gatherings and slams, post poems on social media, create new works, attend exhibits and release parties, publish new work, or otherwise show their love for written and spoken verse.

Visit the Poet Tree
Click to see the wonderful Poems!
At the Ellie Klopp Memorial Library at the RSSAA Lower School, students participated in a poem swap, exchanging one poem, original or copied from an established writer, and in return could choose to receive either a book or a small token of appreciation. Our student poets responded with great enthusiasm, as mentioned in our previous post. Poems were then hung on the Poet Tree, brimming with brightly colored butterflies. 

The Library’s goal in celebrating Poetry Month is to engage students with verse, with its many ways of expressing feelings, thoughts, facts, whimsy. Poetry is often assumed as limited to topics of Love or Melancholy, or to writing that is difficult to follow. Bringing poetry into the classroom helps students see that a poet can write about any topic of interest, from dogs, to rain, to hula hoops, to basketball, and that any person can be a poet and write a poem. Also, poems do not need to rhyme or be metered – they can flow onto paper directly from the concentrated imagination of the poet.

Verse in History
As an art form, poetry may pre-date literacy itself, since, in prehistoric and ancient societies, oral poetry was used a means of storytelling, and a way to preserve historical events, cultural wisdom, genealogy and law, among other things, which were not available in written form. The history of King Gilgamesh, recorded in “Epic of Gilgamesh,” studied at RSSAA in the fifth grade, is one of the oldest surviving poems, written around 3000 BC in Sumer, Mesopotamia in cuneiform on clay tablets.

The use of verse to transmit cultural information is still used today, in the classroom and in our homes. Many of us have learned one version or another of the alphabet song, or the verses that teach the lengths and names of the months (such as “30 days hath September...”) according to the Gregorian calendar. The rhythm of the words and repetition, two key elements of poetic language, help reinforce the information; I for one have recalled this verse hundred of times over the years.

Poetry is also closely identified with sacred liturgy in many societies, and most of the world’s sacred scriptures are comprised of poetry, not prose. Think of the Ramayana or the Upanishads or the verses in the Bible.

Support Your Local Homer!
A month devoted to verse in its various forms also helps support those individuals who make a living writing and publishing poems. Ann Arbor and surrounding communities are fortunate to have access to a myriad of poetry events and materials. The presence of smaller and larger universities provide a milieu of art appreciation — in any given week there is a reading at a bookstore, library, or coffeehouse.

If possible, take in a reading or visit a bookstore or library and browse through the poetry section. Many excellent books for children exist, and include poets like Carl Sandburg, Theodore Roethke, and William Carlos Williams, who all wrote verse suitable for younger people. 
The Ellie Klopp Library offers many possibilities for exploring poetry and poets’ lives, as well as fiction in verse, and aids to help write poetry, if so interested. A few selections and search ideas are listed here:

Search for Tag "POETRY - 811" in RSSAA's Online Catalog

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