Three Snaps for World Poetry Day!

March 23rd, 2022 – Kayla Thompson, Adult Services

Over the years, I have had a complicated relationship with poetry. As a small child, I loved it when my mother would read me nursery rhymes, and Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends was a family favorite. High school saw a little more tension between poetry and I, as I found myself forced to study it as part of the curriculum but simultaneously, I wanted to be the next Dickinson. Sometimes grass is just green and violets are just blue and there isn’t any deeper meaning…sometimes. 

By the time I got to college, I found myself finding more enjoyment in reading poetry. My professors introduced fun elements like mythology when reading Catullus, or Middle English when studying Chaucer, which made poetry a little more engaging. I now find reading poetry almost as fun and enjoyable as I did as a kid, and because of this I also find myself writing this poetry blog post for the library. But enough about me. What is World Poetry Day?

World Poetry Day was declared in 1999 to be March 21st by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The idea was that in doing so it would promote linguistic diversity through poetic expression and would encourage the reading, writing, and sharing of poetry across the world. Originally, World Poetry Day was generally celebrated around October 15th which was the birthday of Caesar Augustus’s poet laureate Virgil (who wrote the Aeneid). Today, some areas around the world still hold poetry celebrations around this time.

Poetry has a long history. It is used as an art form but also as a way to record and pass down history and traditions. It is believed that poetry’s long life originated somewhere around 5000 BC with the Mesopotamians and their use of the cuneiform tablets and their writing system (pickmeuppoetry.org). Back then, poetry was used as a way to document kings, their achievements, and the events of their rule. It was also used in chants for religious ceremonies (i.e. weddings and funerary events) as well as for storytelling (oral histories).

The earliest known written poem is The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100-1200 BC). This work is believed to have been written in Mesopotamia and was likely influenced by much earlier works of poetry that are now lost to us. Throughout time, poetry has been a way for people to communicate their life experiences and their emotions to one another. Whether theologian or secular scholar, philosopher or artist, poetry remains a form of written communication that withstands time and survives translation. Think about it: today, we are still reading works like The Epic of Gilgamesh, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Not only that, but we have access to and can read thousands to millions of poems from hundreds of languages around the world and still manage to communicate the nuances and complexities of meaning. How neat is that?

So poetry may not be your cup of tea (it might never be!) but there is no denying that it is a complex and rich form of writing. Maybe this blog post will encourage you to pick up a title and try it again. And if not, I hope you found a new understanding and appreciation for one of the world’s oldest written art forms.

Below are books of and about poetry that can be found here at the Cape Girardeau Public Library:

Some of my Favorites:
Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters by Nikita Gill
Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Love Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Collected Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe
100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Honorable Mention: Sappho (Female Archaic Greek Poet from the island of Lesbos)

Other Great Poets at the Library:
The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
African American Poetry: 200 Years of Struggle and Song by Kevin Young
Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman by Walt Whitman
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
Are you an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by Misuzu Kaneko
A Thousand Years of Vietnamese Poetry by Ngọc Bích Nguyễn

Books About Poetry:
Writing Poetry by Matthew Sweeney
The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes
The Haiku Handbook by William Higginson
How to Read a Poem and Start a Poetry Circle by Molly Peacock
How to Interpret Poetry by Laurie Rozakis
You, Too, Could Write a Poem by David Orr
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry  by Edward Hirsch

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