Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April: National Poetry Month

As a lover of poetry and a poet of sorts, I am very interested in April, set aside as National Poetry Month, thirty whole days to celebrate poetry. With your indulgence, I want to depart from my usual history column and write about poetry.

April as National Poetry Month was inaugurated in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets, a non-profit organization promoting the vitality and value of poetry in American culture. National Poetry Month has grown since 1996 to be the single largest literary celebration in the world.

We have but to examine America’s early history to find that our forebears practiced the art of poetry. America’s founders brought an amalgam of cultures composing our original population. From the countries in the old world they brought their love for poetry and their ability, in many instances, to write poetry, to catch a deep and abiding truth in concise lines. This appreciation for poetry has grown through America’s years as a nation and will continue through the present and future generations.

The Academy of American Poets set up as the overriding aim of a whole month of celebrating poetry as a time to make poetry more visible and accessible to citizens. This year’s National Poetry Month has seven specific goals:

1. To highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets.
2. To introduce more Americans to the pleasure of poetry.
3. To bring poets and poetry to the attention of the public in immediate and innovative ways.
4. To make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum.
5. To increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media.
6. To encourage increased publication, distribution and sales of poetry books.
7. To increase public and private philanthropic support for poetry and poets.
Even though the month of April 2006 is in its last two weeks, it is still not too late to make poetry more visible and accessible to citizens. Just now, with the writing of this column, and your reading it, we are fulfilling Goal 5 above. If you are a teacher reading this column, I hope you will think of ways you can increase your students’ appreciation of poetry in the days remaining of April, 2006. Your local book store has poetry books for sale. Buy one and read it with joy and pleasure. If you have the capability of going online, you may access the Academy of American Poets and see the thirty-day suggestions of innovative things to do during each day of April to make poetry come alive for yourself and others.

And, being a great fan of Union County’s Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958), poet extraordinary, I can plead for you to fulfill Goal 7 listed above by supporting the Byron Herbert Reece Society’s aim of making the Reece Farm into a cultural center to honor the poet and his poetry, and to aid future poets who might be inspired as they visit the place where Reece thought so deeply and wrote so admirably.

I cannot close this article without sharing some personal thoughts of how I have celebrated April, National Poetry Month, to this date. I have sent my original poems to several people in letters and sympathy cards already during this month, and I will continue to do so until the end of April, and, indeed, all year long. To dear friends and relatives who have lost loved ones during the month of April, I sent them my sonnet entitled “Death at Times Is Kind.”

For my first great grandchild, born April 12, 2006, I printed and framed my poem entitled “This Clay to Mold – A Mother to Her Child,” which I hope my dear granddaughter Paula will take to heart and use as a sort of idealistic guide for motherhood as she rears the precious baby, Gavin Ernesto Berenguer-Aguirre, entrusted to her and Ernesto for rearing.

A dear younger friend of mine, Beverly Michelle Denmark, has published during this month of April her first book of poems entitled “Sipping Coffee.” I received my copy of the book from her, signed by the author, with the notation that through Georgia Poetry Society I had inspired her to write. I will write a book review of Beverly’s book, and hope thereby to help her with publicity for her book and to increase her book sales.

I thought how I would like to go into the schools and teach poetry workshops as I once did, or teach my own classes (as I did prior to my retirement) the beauty of poetry and how students can write their own. Just now, my circumstances of care-giving for my husband do not permit me to engage in this much-loved activity. But I can appreciate all the teachers from my past who made me a lover of poetry from elementary school through college and graduate school. At Choestoe School, a two-teacher school when I attended there, my teachers loved poetry and taught me to appreciate it. It was then I memorized “The Village Blacksmith” and “Song of the Chattahoochee,” and other poems for “recitation” day on Fridays. Thank you, Mrs. Mert Collins, Ms. Opal Sullivan, Mrs. Bonnie Snow, Mrs. Florence Hunter and others for instilling in me the love of poetry when I was young. I have never departed from that appreciation of poetry, and my love for poetry has grown with the years.

I will end this appeal for you to celebrate and enjoy poetry during April, National Poetry Month, by ending with Byron Herbert Reece’s quatrain that says so much about the love of poetry and how it is written. His aim certainly has come true:

“From chips and chards in idle times,
I made these stories, shaped these rhymes;
May they engage some friendly tongue
When I am past the reach of song.”

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Apr. 20, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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