I can’t tell you – but you feel it –
Those simple and sweet words in the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s poem written in 1859 express the reverence Dickinson had for the month of April. So, it is fitting that April should be designated as the official month of poetry.
The Thunder Bay Public Library’s 800 non-fiction collection is a wonderful place to discover new poetry. Filled with countless volumes of classic and contemporary writers as well as books on biography and analysis of some of the greatest writers. Molly Peacock’s How to Read a Poem…And Start a Poetry Circle is such a book that fills the reader with enthusiasm about poetry, instructs how to recite and examine as well as appreciate some of the world’s greatest poets.
The beauty of poetry is that it comes in a variety of forms and can be enjoyed in many ways. Poetry can be a viable form of expression by the writer, for example, by bringing about an awareness of change, justice or wrongdoing. Poetry can also be used to project inner reflection and feeling or by contrast, it can offend, provoke and stir its readers. Poetry can be an observation of the world around or of worlds unknown to us.
Such a poet who did just that was Emily Dickinson. Although she was not well regarded during her lifetime, since her death Dickinson is now considered one of the preeminent American poets. Once the comprehensive Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson is opened, an immediate first impression is of Dickinson’s sparse style. Although Dickinson’s writing was short, within those few lines ignited a world of intellectual thought and tragic emotions, all that is carried out directly or subtly.
A contemporary poet to Dickinson was Walt Whitman, also known as the ‘father of free verse’. Whitman’s greatest accomplishment was the controversial Leaves of Grass. Written in 1855, this collection of poems spoke about Whitman’s views on life, death and humanity. Whitman’s approach to his poetry was considered radical. While many of his peers were writing about religion and spirituality in lofty terms, Whitman wrote about physical human experiences in bold and direct prose.
Moving along to the 20th century, Charles Bukowski’s, an equally polarizing poet as Whitman, made his mark as a poet by recounting the wild, strange and sometimes violent life that he lead. Despite his shortcomings, Bukowski was able to turn those events into verses that would demand your sympathy or condemnation. Bukowski’s The People look like Flowers at Last: New Poems and Slouching Towards Nirvana: New Poems are nonetheless, lively and engaging reads even if you do not agree with his way of life.
Perhaps not as bracing as Bukowski, Canada’s own Michael Ondaatje is a tour de force in his own right. Best known for his critically acclaimed novel The English Patient, Ondaatje left his poetic mark in the form of The Cinnamon Peeler. This collection of poems that span Ondaatje’s life from 1963 to 1990 encompasses his philosophy on life and encounters with love. Ondaatje’s poem ‘The Time Around Scars’ is a particularly touching yet perplexing ode to relationships past and present.
Much like Ondaatje’s lyrical collection, you can uncover a lifetime of a poet’s works at TBPL. The 800s collection as well as a diverse electronic resource selection allows you to experience any number of great poets. So this April, take the time to share a poem with a friend or with yourself. You will find that Miss Dickinson may have one or two you might like.