As we close out April and National Poetry Month, while many of us are in slow-down mode and many others of us are working extremely hard, let’s give ourselves a moment to pause and breathe and hear something good.
You may have seen recent articles and comments about the restorative power poetry can have in moments of crisis and confusion. While, as a poet, I agree with this sentiment, it seems to me that many readers find poetry difficult or off-putting because they learned in school that there was some magic key to unlocking a poem, and that you had to "get it" or you’d failed. This isn’t true! If you’re curious but nervous, one way to start experiencing poetry is to listen to it.
Poetry started as a spoken art, and the craft continues to be of great cultural importance in countries like Ireland and Iran where emphasis on the oral tradition of verse (speaking and listening to it) is as important as reading it or professing to understand. Poetry expresses emotion and searches for meaning, yes, but it also loves language, loves to make English (in our case) sound delicious. And when something sounds delicious, it can bring us joy and a measure of calm.
Here’s a wonderful entrée into listening to (and watching) poetry – our very own Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Trapeta Mayson, created a video of her poem, "We Will Make Something" for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.
Watch and listen to Trapeta’s poem »
If you want to explore listening to more poetry, try an audiobook from Overdrive or Hoopla, two of our Digital Media resources. All you need is your library card number and PIN to start downloading. You might like:
- An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
- The Tradition by Jericho Brown, a finalist for the National Book Award last year
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, the tried and true trailblazer who named himself America’s poet
And for the intrepid, there are also a ton of poetry ebooks available if you want to get reading!
There are also a lot of podcasts that can connect you with poetry that don’t require having to pore over it or go into study mode. The Slowdown is a weekly podcast curated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Each episode is less than 10 minutes and focuses on the reading of a single poem by a contemporary poet. It’s quick, yes, and Smith also makes an effort to find work that is restorative and fun to hear. And of course, many world-class poets have visited the Free Library, and you can find podcasts of their readings on our website.