Thursday, April 9, 2009

National Poetry Month

This year, I celebrate National Poetry Month in Chicago. As I walk down the sidewalks without my winter coat and breathe in the springlike air, I don't really see the effects of National Poetry Month. No one can be seen wearing berets, carrying bongos. I don't hear an overabundance of metaphors. To put it simply: I am disappointed. 

At Hope College, where I received my undergraduate degree, NPM is starts with a bang--or, a blitz. As a combined April Fool's Day/NPM event, students wake up on April 1st to find the campus sprinkled with poems: taped on doors, windows, sidewalk squares, or tied to trees and bikes. Little elves have been hard at work all night long to make sure that even non-English majors at Hope College can experience Billy Collins or Walt Whitman or even their fellow students' poetry. Janitors have contacted English professors, telling them that they sat around during their lunch breaks reading the print-outs, keeping them tucked next to their mops and buckets.

So, what will follow over the next month will be a (small) blitz of my own. Enjoy, and I only wish you could have stumbled upon these treasures hanging from a tree or maybe in your mailbox. 

Making a Fist
[Naomi Shihab Nye]

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence we answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

L. Stacks


Adam Morgan said...

Interesting choice of poet, there...

Jamie Winger said...

Wow! we should leave poems around RU!