Poetry. I understand that the mere word instils fear into the hearts of some. But I think there is a kind of poetry for everyone. So, this month I wish to celebrate the art of poetry.
As I believe that there is poetry for everyone to enjoy, I also think everyone should dabble in the writing of poetry. As part of National Poetry Month, there is a challenge to write a poem every day. I am going to participate in this challenge and encourage all of you to do the same!
I have written 30 days worth of prompts so you don’t need to have any fear or crisis with lack of ideas. Also, hopefully these challenges are diverse enough that they give you practice in many different styles of poetry. As you work to complete this challenge, I encourage you not to worry about how “good” your poems are. Just write for the sake of creating something that only you could have written. If there’s one that you like or see potential in, come back to it later and make it something even more beautiful. If there’s one that makes your stomach cringe, just try again the next day. Ultimately this is about practice, not perfection.
If you don’t like my prompts (or would like more) please visit napowrimo.net. They will be posting daily prompts throughout April.
Day 1: April Fools Day! Write a nonsense poem, which is basically poetry that has no meaning and is whimsical and focused mainly on rhyme. (A great nonsense poet is Dr. Seuss)
Day 2: Find a book (perhaps at your local library) and turn to page 35, pick a sentence, and write a poem with that sentence as inspiration.
Day 3: Write an elegy or an ode to an odd object found around the house. (For example, I once wrote an ode to all the bobby-pins I’ve lost over the years)
Day 4: What’s your least favorite kind of weather? Ok, now write a poem glorifying it with beautiful language.
Day 5: Take a drive or search online for a house that is unique. Whether it is cute or creepy, large or small, write a poem about that house and why it struck you.
Day 6: Did you know Dictionary.com has a word of the day? Look up the one for today and somehow integrate that word into your poem.
Day 7: Love poems seem to all be the same these days. Take the idea of love (in any of its forms) and compare it to an unusual object. Start your poem with: “Love is” and insert your own word or phrase. (For example: “Love is a Lucky Charms cereal box”)
We'll share another week's worth of prompts next Monday. In the meantime, feel free to share your poetric creations with us!
One of the things I love about reading is the ability to gain new perspectives and empathize with others, even when they’re fictional. I especially love books that let me safely experience things outside of my comfort zone. As a public librarian my path crosses with a wide variety of people, and while it can be easy to make assumptions, I read a few books this year that I felt gave me a new understanding of the people around me.
People come to the Library for a variety of reasons and with a variety of backgrounds. This book reminds me that, what at first glance can appear to be rudeness, laziness, or a lack of cleanliness, can be due to a variety of legitimate reasons I know nothing about. Tara Westover was born in the mountains of Idaho to survivalist parents and didn’t set foot in a classroom until she was 17-years-old. Attending college was different from any experience she’d ever had, and her unique past and limited understanding of the world, history, and social norms made her experiences and accomplishments all the more extraordinary. Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction, and this powerful memoir is just that.
I’ve had the opportunity to take books to teens in juvenile detention, meeting several who dreamed of a life better than the one they were living. I’ve also met people with a variety of gender identities, struggling to figure out who they are. This book follows the lives of two teens in with similar struggles, something I’ve never dealt with, and found very eye opening. One day on the 57 bus, for no particular reason aside from thinking it could be funny, Richard set Sasha’s skirt on fire. He thought it would smolder a bit and surprise Sasha, like a practical joke, but instead it erupted in a ball of flames, severely burning Sasha’s body. It was treated as a hate crime since Sasha is agender, and Richard was facing life imprisonment. Using her background in journalism, Slater covers the lives and decisions of both teens leading up to the incident, and how both lives were heartbreakingly altered.
I met one of my favorite YouTubers this year and was amazed at how normal she was without a camera in hand. In an age of social media influencers it can be easy to idolize people and feel like you know them without actually meeting them. In this contemporary sci-fi novel, mysterious giant statues appear overnight around the world, and April May goes viral for being in a YouTube video about the first one. What does becoming an overnight celebrity do to a person? How does social media change our perception of reality? This book explores those questions in a way that feels genuine and personal, probably because the author is a social media influencer himself. If you follow someone who makes their living on social media, this book can be eye opening.
If you’ve seen the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, odds are you have a pretty negative opinion of the Sea Witch. Henning spins the original Hans Christian Andersen tale a little differently, focusing on the origin of the Sea Witch, and only introducing the Little Mermaid at the very end where the original tale begins. It’s hard to not feel compassion for the Sea Witch when you understand her background and why she made the decision to take the Little Mermaids voice in exchange for legs. While Disney’s Sea Witch is an archetypal villain, Henning humanizes her and turns her into a sympathetic and multifaceted character that feels more realistic. If you want your perception of a fictional character to take a 180° turn, this is the book to do it.
Okay, I can’t say I’ve ever met a zombie, but if a zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, I want the zombies to be like the ones in WARM BODIES. The vast majority of the book is spent inside R’s head, listening to his internal dialogue and seeing the changed world through his eyes. It’s quite philosophical for a zombie book, which is why it’s on my list. R has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listing to Frank Sinatra. When he decides to let one girl live and keep her safe from the undead, his life death will change forever. This is a funny, scary, and moving take on the classic Romeo and Juliet story.
So, if you want to expand your horizons this year, exercise your empathy, and perhaps get out of your comfort zone through the safety of a book, I would highly recommend any of these titles.
One of the hallmarks of African-American literature in the “slave narrative.” These are true biographical accounts of slaves who lived in the American South. Mostly they are written by the slaves themselves (such as NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS or INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL) giving a personal touch to each story. This, along with their experiences, make the storytelling distinctive and recognizable. Following the abolition of slavery, many African Americans have continued to write in this genre, calling it the “neo-slave narrative.” Mostly these new stories are fictional novels, but they take inspiration from real slave accounts, exploring the racial tensions and anxieties of this time period. Here are a few of the best in the genre:
A black woman spontaneously travels back in forth in time: from her apartment in 1970’s Los Angeles to a slave-holding plantation in the early 1800’s. Things do not go well. Despite its fantastic premise, Butler did extensive research to prepare for this novel. From reading personal accounts, to actually visiting the plantations, her writing is based as much as possible on the historical experience of slaves.
This story was initially inspired by an article printed in a 1865, titled "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child.” Half-poem, half ghost-story, Morrison’s novel includes the hardest-hitting parts of slavery. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was even made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey.
One of the oddest takes on “historical fiction” that I’ve ever read. In this story, the “Underground Railroad” is just that, literally an underground train riding through the Antebellum South. Another Pulitzer Prize winner, this novel purposefully drifts away from reality, mixing facts with fantastical reimagings. Despite the intentional inaccuracies, the work still rings true, highlighting the terrible atrocities that did occur.
Bedtime can be a challenge. There are baths to take, teeth to brush, and pajamas to get on. Add to that the fact that kids are often bouncing off the walls because they are too wound up or are too tired to understand that they should want to sleep. I totally get it! I have had my fair share of times I couldn’t get a small kiddo to go to sleep. So here are my five favorite books to help with those bedtime blues.
The idea behind this book is that every time you blink, you have to turn a page. But if you don’t blink, you won’t get to the end of the book—and thus you won’t have to go to bed! This is a hilarious bedtime book that just dares kids to not blink and to try to stay awake. As the adult reader, I have to watch to see when the child blinks (and thus to turn the page). And if the kid stares for a while, we just sit on that page for a bit. It is totally a good way to try to get kiddos to close their eyes and keep them shut until morning—or at least to get them to try!
This is a great picture book. Owl wakes up and is excited to play—only it is nighttime and all his friends are sleeping (or trying to sleep). This is a good book to read to help little ones realize that sleep is important for all sorts of animals (and people) and they shouldn’t keep others awake. This is also a good book to start a discussion about day or night.
Jane Yolen is a master at helping kids understand the right and wrong ways to act at certain times—such as bedtime. By showing dinosaurs doing the wrong (and then the right) ways to go to bed, kids can learn how good little dinosaurs (and children) should approach bedtime. And if a youngster loves dinosaurs, then bonus! Teague shows a plethora of dinosaurs and has names for the little aspiring paleontologists.
This is one of my all-time favorite bedtime books. It is a classic! This book was first published in 1996, and it is still one of the best! In this story a mother keeps telling all sorts of animals to be quiet since baby is sleeping—only she doesn’t see that baby is actually awake and moving around. Kids will like seeing where baby goes and will potentially be lulled to a calmer state due to the soothing cadence of the rhythms and rhymes.
In this book jaguar is very hot and tired in the jungle—so he decides that he wants to take a nap, a siesta. Only he wants to wake up in 10 minutes so that he can get up and go about his day. So he asks coati to wake him up. Coati agrees, then gets tired and wants to take a nap as well so he asks cockatiel to wake him up (and so on and so on down the animal alarm-clock chain). This is a fun book that shows kids how naps (which are often similar to bedtimes) are a happy thing that animals (and people) should be excited about.