The now-iconic bright yellow jacket and bold red headband; a young, Black girl reciting loudly and clearly for all to hear. As I perused my social media feeds on the evening of January 20th, one thing was abundantly clear: Amanda Gorman was having a moment. Poetry was having a moment. The National Youth Poet Laureate’s words from her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” were being shared in videos zipping around the internet, discussed in classrooms and talked about in Zoom calls. Amanda Gorman became a household name overnight. For this poetry-loving, English-major librarian, it was exciting to witness.
Once upon a time, poets and their poems were very much a part of the collective pop-culture consciousness. Edna St. Vincent Millay, known for having a rock-star level of fame and once famously referred to as “the Madonna of her time,” comes to mind. These days poetry tends to be relegated to an oft-dreaded languages arts unit in school. A thing to be endured rather than celebrated; a thing only stuffy, high-minded people enjoy.
How did poetry end up with such a bad reputation? In the early 1990s, the bookmobile from the local public library would visit my elementary school once a week. When it was my class’ turn to board, we would all rush on and fight over two authors’ books–the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz, and any of the poetry books by Shel Silverstein. I was never a fan of being scared, so I went for Shel almost every time. The zany black and white illustrations, the utter hilarity and nonsense of the rhymes–it was obvious then that poetry was really fun.
To capture that spark of childhood joy and to mark National Poetry Month, members of the library’s Youth Services staff share a Poem of the Day video on YouTube each day this month. Some of the poems read will elicit a chuckle, some will incite wonder, some will make you ponder, and some are just plain nonsense. If reading poetry is more your speed, check out our staff-curated lists for children, teens, and adults For writers of poetry, there is the Writers Room Poets event on April 12. And, nature lovers can explore the nearby Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail at the D&R Greenway Land Trust.
As any teacher, librarian, or Amanda Gorman will tell you, it’s never too early or too late to begin cultivating an appreciation for poetry. We hope you join us in celebrating this joyous art form.
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