As we near the end of April, I feel it is important to discuss Important Observances which you may have forgotten to put on your calendar. I’m just that kind of mom.
April is National Poetry Month (as well as International Guitar Month and National Welding Month). This week is National Karaoke Week, and today is Great Poetry Reading Day, so you get a four-for-one if you play guitar and sing your poetry. I’m going to pass on suggestions for how to celebrate National Welding Month.
There is a bill in Ohio to create a position (unpaid, FYI) for an Ohio Poet Laureate. Which got me thinking and researching.
The first thing you need to know, O Best Beloved, is how to talk about more than one poet laureate: the correct way is to say poets laureate. Like Attorneys General.
The next thing you need to know is what the heck a poet laureate is. A poet laureate is a person officially appointed who composes poems for special events and occasions. In the case of Ohio, the person (assuming the bill passes) will also be asked to help educate Ohioans about poetry and literature.
The first poet laureate was Nate Neanderthal who was appointed by his mother (who was quite proud of him) to give a toast at his sister’s marriage. Nate confused the role of poet laureate with drunken buffoon and the tradition of Best Man was born.
Fast forward to the Greeks and Romans who loved to hear all about how wonderful they were. They appointed poets to immortalize their accomplishments and—wait for it—gave them crowns of laurel leaves as recognition. Who was the Greek god of poetry? Apollo. Which god held the laurel as sacred? Apollo. Are you seeing the connection? Wait. It gets even better.
The term “laureate” came to stand for excellence and superior achievement—think Nobel laureate (people who have done so well they are awarded a Nobel prize) and baccalaureate (the degree people get when they have done so well that they are allowed to leave college and begin paying off their student loans). These days you get a mortar board rather than a laurel crown, but it symbolizes the same thing. More or less.
Many people think poetry is difficult. Um, yes and no. Some poetry is difficult. Especially if it’s written in a language you don’t speak. Some poetry is very easy. And—with a nod to the unpoetic three bears—some is just right.
What? You say. I hated poetry in English class.
That, my darling child, is because you were reading the Wrong Poetry. And because you were forced to deal with it rather than enjoy it. (And please don’t say “hate”.)
Truth be told, you like lots of poetry.
You like music lyrics (poetry set to music). You like the poetry your mother writes. You like the poems Grandpa has written. You like Dr. Seuss. You like some of the poems of Rudyard Kipling (well, I don’t actually know that you do, but I do so I’m including them). You like the poems of A. A. Milne (the writer of Winnie the Pooh. Also of brilliant poems like Binker and Disobedience which is the James, James Morrison Morrison poem). You like some of the poems by Robert Frost (who was a US poet laureate) like The Road Not Taken. And you like Ogden Nash (The Tale of Custard the Dragon).
The list goes on.
Because it’s National Poetry Month, I shall leave you with one of my favorite poems, by the Incredible Dorothy Parker.
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
By Dorothy Parker