- Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.
The Poets.org website provides a wealth of content on contemporary American poetry. The official website of Academy of American Poets, Poets.org offers hundreds of essays and interviews about poetry, biographies of more than 500 poets, more than 2,500 poems, and audio clips of 150 poems You can also read a new daily poem, see a calendar of events and readings for poetry month, and find where poets lived and worked near you on their website.
When I was a child we were encouraged to learn a poem by heart every year in school. In class we would recite long ballad poems such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 's "The Song of Hiawatha," Edgar Allen Poe 's "The Bells " and "The Raven," and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's lyrical ballad "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. "
In high school we read the epic poems of Homer: "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey, Dante Alighieri's " The Divine Comedy," as our English literature class assignments. I'll never forget being baffled and perplexed by the old English language of the ancient epic poem "Beowulf" that we had to study as freshman students!
It was in high school that I really began to appreciate and enjoy reading poetry, however, and one of my favorite poets at that time was Edward Estlin Cummings. He is sometimes known by the lower case as "e e cummings," although Spring, The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, disputes that Cummings wanted his name to officially be only recognized in lower case.
Many of Cummings poems feature an distinct avant-garde style, often with words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols scattered across the page, often making little sense until read aloud, at which point the meaning and emotion become clear. It seems as if Cummings was painting a picture with the typography and syntax in many of his poems. Cummings was, in fact, also a painter and often said he was ''an author of pictures, a draughtsman of words."
I found his poems enthralling. and while some of his poetry may appear childish or simplistic, many of them deal with complex themes of urban realities, nature, birth and death, the celebration of the individual, and erotic and romantic love. He wrote 15 volumes of poetry during his lifetime, 1894-1962
From the Poets.org website:
During his lifetime, Cummings received a number of honors, including an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1958, and a Ford Foundation grant.
At the time of his death, September 3, 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost
Some examples of his work:
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
4 Patchin Place, off West 10th Street between 6th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York was E. E. Cummings' residence, along with his third wife Marion Morehouse, from 1923 until his death in 1962. Cummings wrote that "the top floor back room at 4 Patchin Place ... meant Safety & Peace & the truth of Dreaming & the bliss of Work".
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
There is a large, sometimes locked iron gate, in front of the blind alley of Patchin Place.
A closer view of the top floor window that E. E. Cummings would look out of as he worked.
Patchin Place also contains NYC's last functioning gas lamp. The lamp dates back to the gaslight era and has since been electrified. If you click on to enlarge the photo above you can see it at the back of the courtyard.
Directly across the street from Patchin Place is the Jefferson Market Library at 425 6th Ave. Originally a courthouse, this magnificent building, which looks like a Victorian era castle, was built in 1875 and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in New York. A firewatcher used to be housed in the 100 foot tall tower, on the lookout for fires in the Village and ready to call out the firemen. It has served as a branch of the New York Public Library since 1967.
Another view of The Jefferson Market Library.
A photo of E. E. Cummings standing at the door of 4 Patchin Place.
Cummings often welcomed the visits of fellow poets such as T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Ezra Pound who all made a pilgrimage to see him at Patchin Place.
Patchin Place was also the home of the writers John Masefield, and John Reed, who lived at No. 1 while he was writing his eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution: ''Ten Days That Shook the World.'' Still another resident was Djuna Barnes, famous for her satirical novel ''Nightwood,'' who lived at 5 Patchin Place.
I hope you will enjoy reading and sharing some of your favorite poems during the month of April, and perhaps be inspired to write a poem of your own!