Saturday, January 26, 2013

Celebrating National Poetry Month: A Call for Submissions

"Book of Poetry"
image courtesy of Dan at freedigitalphotos.net

My fourth grade teacher loved the written word, and encouraged her students to pursue their personal interests by reading whatever books caught their attention. Several times each week we visited the school library or perused her overflowing classroom bookshelves searching for yet another exciting adventure to embark on.  Beezus and Ramona, Stuart Little, Little House on the Prairie, and several books about ghosts, superstitions, and folklore comprised the bulk of my fourth grade literary choices.

But, for me, my fourth grade teacher’s most memorable trait was her love of poetry. Often she read aloud great poems such as Lewis Carroll’s, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:

“The Walrus and the Carpenter
  Were walking close at hand;
  They wept like anything to see
  Such quantities of sand:
  “If this were only cleared away,”
  They said, “It would be grand!”

The words lifted off the page, out of her mouth, and into our heads, forming fantastical visions more animated and exciting than a Saturday morning cartoon.

One week she gave a new assignment: Memorize a stanza from William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”. The groans from my classmates filled the room and spilled down the hall all the way to the principal’s office. But I refrained from complaint. Was it possible that I could recite words as beautifully as she? Could I silence a room with my lilting expressions, painting a picture of nature’s beauty so magnificent that my listeners needed to close their eyes in an effort to capture the vision indefinitely in their imaginations? For the sake of my beloved teacher, I needed to try.

For several days I practiced and listened as my classmates, one by one, trembled in fear while they recited their portion of the poem. Their voices often barely audible, they quickly sat back down in their seats after finishing their parts, thankful for the assignment’s conclusion.  I, however, relished the opportunity to speak those beautiful lyrics, “I wander’d lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way, they stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay: ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

“Oh, Dawn!” My lovely teacher exclaimed, “You must do that again!” And she proceeded to call other teachers in throughout the day to have me recite my portion to them. The other teachers “oohed” and “ahhed” appropriately after I finished, but their praise paled in comparison to the fact that I had moved my teacher so deeply by my efforts on the assignment.

“Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.” (Wallace Stevens)

Poems delight our senses, paint pictures of a landscape, and evoke our emotions in a unique manner. April is National Poetry Month, and I’m giving you a heads-up in an effort to get your creative juices flowing about ways you can celebrate poetry in your community. Share a favorite poem with your family, volunteer to read at your local public library or elementary school, attend a formal poetry reading, or try your hand at writing poetry.

Want to help me celebrate National Poetry Month by sharing your poetry with my readers?  Between now and March 15, 2013 submit your poems to dhsticklen@gmail.com. I will select my top ten favorites and publish them here on “Since You Asked….” Be sure to get all your poet friends involved, as well!

So, go outside, find your quiet spot, drink in Nature or contemplate on the flurry of activity found in humanity and then share your reflections here with us in an effort to help all of us “get the world right”!

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