“Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners” - Naomi Shihab Nye
April is National Poetry Month and this is a good time to discover or get reacquainted with poetry. The Roswell Public Library has many “The Best American Poetry” anthologies from various years or you might check out a book by your favorite poet. Some other selections might help in understanding how one becomes a poet. One good example of this kind of book is Marilyn Nelson’s “how I discovered poetry”, a narrative memoir-in-poems about Nelson’s own discovery of becoming an artist.
Also, newly released and published for children, is “Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners”, a collection of poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. The book hinges on listening: to hear voices that matter, even in nature and to recognize the voices of history for a better understanding of our world today. In the introduction, Naomi Shihab Nye writes “In the modern world, we deserve to wind down. Or perhaps some morning reading, to launch yourself? Slowing to a more gracious pacing – trying not to hurry or feel overwhelmed – inch by inch – one thought at a time – can be a deeply helpful mantra. It’s a gift we give our own minds” (xv).
Finally, and perhaps the most compelling and inspiring book of poems you might explore, is a book called “Poetry Speaks”, which makes available classic poems along with recordings of those poems on three audio CDs being read by the authors themselves. Included here are poets Robert Frost, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes and many others. It’s a fantastic lesson and reminder that, although poetry is written, it is certainly meant to be read aloud and listened to by an audience. To hear the poets read their own lines and stanzas provides both the history – the original voice of the poem! – and an understanding of the performative aspect of poems.
And finally, if you find some books and recordings that inspire you to write poems, too, you might consider participating in NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month – which also takes place in April. Writers everywhere agree to delve into the world of poetry by writing 30 poems in 30 days during the month of April. You can find out more about participating in the free project here.
-Colette, Roswell Public Library, New Mexico