The Brookline Poetry Series Weblog

April 1, 2008

National Poetry Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — brooklinepoetry @ 7:58 pm

Okay, I know there’s a lot of mixed feeling about this–shouldn’t we acknowledge poetry 365 days a year and not just 30? But at least we have some public awareness attempted.

I spoke with a young student teacher at Milton High School this week; she’s launching a poetry unit to coincide with National Poetry Month, and reports enormous enthusiasm for the project. In fact, Milton HS has an annual poetry event where students read and perform their own work and it was the highest attended non-athletic event last year.

I speculated that there is a lot of poetry happening all the time–in schools, cafes, living rooms, and libraries all across the country. It’s just that the pop culture zeitgeist hasn’t allowed it to filter through. And maybe that’s a good thing. What would happen if Paris Hilton or another overexposed, uninspiring celeb began reciting Whitman during visits to clubs and spas? It would be attributed to her handlers, who had become temporarily insane in recommending such a move.

Maybe the better question is whether Walt Whitman would want to be read by Paris Hilton. Let’s think about this. W.W. was one of the most broad-minded individuals of the 19th century. Perhaps he would have great sympathy for someone so narrow in her world view. Perhaps he would include her recent legal woes in this stirring pronouncement:

The shapes arise!

The shape of the prisoner’s place in the court-room, and of him or her seated in the place.

The shape of the liquor-bar lean’d against by the young rum-drinker and the old rum-drinker,

The shape of the shamed and angry stairs trod by sneaking footsteps,

The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwholesome couple,

The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish winnings and losings,

The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and sentenced murderer, the murderer with haggard face and pinion’d arms,

The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and white-lipp’d crowd, the dangling of the rope.

Okay, a bit of a leap, I know (she hasn’t actually killed anyone that we’re aware of, though one does wonder what happens to all those teacup dogs she carries under her arm over the years), but I could see this being addressed to a celebutante wearing out her welcome, her tiara loose and rusting.

I hope we can all celebrate poetry in our own unique ways in the coming weeks. In the meantime, see you at our Friday reading–Sue Standing and Kevin Bowen, plus our remarkable open mike.

Here’s something to keep us aware of our place in the world.

— SR


1 Comment »

  1. Whitman would be DELIGHTED to be read by Paris Hilton. He actually spends much of the poem talking directly to her (and, as it happens, to me).
    Great to read the lines you quote–wonderful to be among such as hear what Whitman’s always whispering to them, just to them!

    Comment by john — April 4, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

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