Start 'em when they're young

I don’t know about you, but I was not exposed to a lot of contemporary poetry growing up. In junior high school and high school, I studied poets like Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Homer, and Robert Frost. In college, I studied many dead poets too.

In fact, it was only through creative writing classes in college that I began reading contemporary poets. As much as I love the late greats, how amazing it was to read Gwendolyn Brooks, Louise Gluck, J.D. McClatchy, Charles Wright, Donald Hall, Jean Valentine, and so many others. How liberating!

Suddenly, poetry took on a whole new meaning for me. There were so many new avenues I could travel upon to get to where my muse might be hiding at the time. It was incredible at the time, but it’s also sort of depressing that it’s so hard to find. Part of me felt kind of cheated and still feels cheated that others don’t know how accessible and brilliant contemporary poetry can be.

So I do my small part by reading age appropriate poetry to my sons. I also write them little stories and poems that make them laugh and giggle. It’s small, but it’s something. I encourage you to try and make an impact–big or small–on sharing contemporary poetry with others–young or old.

Here are two recent articles where two people are doing just that:

“Their poetry screams to be set free,” by Marc Cabrera, shows how poetry affects young men and women at the Monterey County Youth Center. Read the article at Monterey Herald.

“New poet laureate has a passion,” by Meera Pal, is about a new local poet laureate, Martha Meltzer, who is also an elementary school librarian. As poet laureate she will try to spread the love of poetry to all, but she’s in a unique position to help with children. Read the article at Contra Costa Times.


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