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Books and Reading
Staff Picks: Reading Selections for National Poetry Month
as National Poetry Month promises to be a powerful celebration of the versified
word. For some enthusiasts, running
the circuit of spoken word gatherings and author readings is the real method of
enjoying poetry. For some, though,
a good solid, industrial-strength collection of poems, read during a coffee
break or on a sunny porch with a glass of iced tea nearby, is really the ticket
for paying homage to this once-a-year fête of verse.
April, this month’s Staff Picks include collections of poetry from Edgar Allan
Poe, North Carolina writers, classic Chinese, Persian, and Japanese poems, a
young adult fiction selection about poetry and its effect on an inner-city
classroom, and correspondence from the renowned poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
We hope that these will inspire you on to other great reads in the world
Bronx Masquerade by
Nikki Grimes. Something’s going on in Mr. Ward’s high
school English classroom in the Bronx. When Wesley “Bad Boy” Boone writes a
poem instead of an essay for an assignment, Mr. Ward discovers that almost all
of his 18 students have been inspired by their recent study of the Harlem
Rennaissance to write poetry of their own. Because of this interest, Mr. Ward
starts Open Mic Fridays, a time when students can share their poems and their
lives. Through the raw honesty of their poetry, the students find surprising
differences and similarities about each other. (Recommended by Brandon
Bensley, Children’s Services)
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.
In 1902, Franz Kappus, a military school student and aspiring verse writer,
first initiated a series of letters to Rainer Maria Rilke, then coming on his
own as poet. Letters to a Young Poet shows Rilke’s side of the
correspondence, comprised of 10 letters written between 1902 and 1908. In these
letters, he offers Kappus his ideas on composing poetry and the experiences
needed to write it. Throughout, his well-penned letters are infused with a
wonderful sense of gentle criticism - indeed, the reading of these even today
can resonate with the would-be wordsmith. (Recommended by William Hicks,
excerpt from the letters here.
The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia
Inayat Khan; translations by Coleman Barks. One of the beautiful gifts to come
to us from the Middle East is Persian Mystical poetry. You will be surprised to
find that these writings from the 13th Century are still applicable today. Of
the poets included, Rumi is the one most will recognize, but the others will
become known to you by way of a translator’s introduction to each section.
These “lectures” are not very long and definitely add to the reader’s
enjoyment and understanding. This book is less than 200 pages and is a treat to
read. (Recommended by Cheryl Jenkins, Circulation)
of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume I, Poems edited by Thomas Olive
Mabbott. Mabbott certainly numbers among the great Poe scholars, and it is a
pity he did not live to see this, his opus, in print. Mabbott selects the “best
text” of each of Poe’s poems, relying on all known manuscripts, printed
texts, revisions, variants, etc. Each poem is thoroughly introduced and
annotated, providing biographical/historical background, as well as discussion
of composition and bibilographic problems relating to first publication and
attribution where relevant. For students studying the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe,
Mabbott’s work can be considered the final word. (Recommended by Tim Cole,
Thousand Leaves: Love Poems from the Manyoshu.
Translated from the
Japanese by Harold Wright 895.61
day, I copied down a poem from this book but forgot to write down the book’s
title. For eleven years
afterwards, I was on a continual search for the book’s name.
One day, a woman called the library asking about information on haiku
poetry and when I went to the shelves to find books for her, my eyes fell
on this book, Ten Thousand Leaves.
As I usually did when I found collections of Japanese poetry, I decided
to look inside for the poem. The
book nearly fell open to the very page it was on!
These poems are not haiku, but tanka, a similar form of
poetry consisting of 31 syllables divided into five units.
This collection consists of 136 love poems drawn from the Manyoshu,
a larger anthology of poems on a range of subjects compiled during the eighth
century. Written by royalty and
peasants, warriors and priests, these lyrical tanka use nature imagery
to express the many facets of love and longing.
For those who are interested, the poem I finally rediscovered is No.
20. (Heidi Cary, Information
Li Ching-Chao, Complete Poems
Li, an internationally famed Chinese
female poet, was born in the 11th Century.
She was not only known as a poet, art collector, literary critic,
painter, calligrapher, but also as an esteemed political commentator.
She was the only female poet and political commentator before and after
her time (the Sung Dynasty). Her
tz’u poems (one of the genres of Chinese poetry) are full of sublime
conception, grandeur, and beauty. Unfortunately,
many of her lovely tz’u have been lost and only 16 remain.
(Belinda Lam, Information Services)