Monday, September 18, 2006

Kids get a laureate

“CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation will inaugurate the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate: Consultant in Children’s Poetry to the Poetry Foundation, as part of the third annual Pegasus Awards ceremony in Chicago on September 27, 2006.”—news from The Poetry Foundation September 18, 2006

John Barr, president of The Poetry Foundation, says children’s poets go unrecognized. I’d have to agree with him. But then poetry in general often goes unrecognized. Designating a poet whose work resonates with youth certainly can’t hurt.

Children respond to poetry with levels of honesty and acceptance unreachable by adults. If youth experience poetry early on, there’s a chance as adults they will be receptive to it.

I believe reading poetry and responding to it will enhance anyone’s education. My own children are strong writers and readers. As toddlers, they’d always calm down when I read to them. My daughters were wide open at an early age, so I used books and together-time to help them learn to sit still and pay attention. We also used stories and poems as springboards for the imagination. As they’ve grown older, they’ve both made a place for poetry in their lives.

It perplexes me that unlike many other countries, America keeps poetry confined to aesthetic tribes and small journals. I’ve never understood why major women’s magazines don’t publish poetry. More newspapers seem to be giving the genre some attention, and on occasion, a television program will feature someone reading a poem either at a funeral or a wedding.

I encourage others to read poetry because, in my opinion, it adds a beautiful dimension to life. I’ve often thought poetry could use a few more good missionaries. Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, and Annie Finch are fine poets who, by various activities like readings and networks, have furthered the reach of our purest form of writing.

On the other hand, I’ve suffered through more than one reading where I wish the poet had kept things to himself.

Poets. We’ll never be 100% happy with anything. If we were, we’d be writing fiction.

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