National Poetry Month: A Celebration

April is National Poetry Month. Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds us that poets play an integral role in our culture and that poetry matters.

During this unprecedented time in our lives, the Friends are holding an online celebration of National Poetry Month by adding a new poem or a quote from a poet to this page each day to remind us of the many ways that poetry can bring solace, strength, and joy in uncertain times.


April 1

A Dandelion for My Mother
Jean Nordhaus

How I loved those spiky suns,
rooted stubborn as childhood
in the grass, tough as the farmer’s
big-headed children—the mats
of yellow hair, the bowl-cut fringe.
How sturdy they were and how
slowly they turned themselves
into galaxies, domes of ghost stars
barely visible by day, pale
cerebrums clinging to life
on tough green stems. Like you.
Like you, in the end. If you were here,
I’d pluck this trembling globe to show
how beautiful a thing can be
a breath will tear away.

April 2

I  Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
The Music of Spring
M.W.

When the wind starts to whistle through the grass, I hear the tulips sing a little song.  It makes me feel like I am a part of the Earth, so I start to sing along.

The birds join in and the grass keeps the beat, and our toes wiggle under beneath.

When the wind starts to rustle and the trees begin to dance, I imagine myself marching with the ants.

And that is a perfect Spring day.

 


April 4

God's World
Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

April 5

Almost!
Emily Dickinson

Within my reach!
I could have touched!
I might have chanced that way!
Soft sauntered through the village,
Sauntered as soft away!
So unsuspected violets
Within the fields lie low,
Too late for striving fingers
That passed, an hour ago.

April 6

Invitation
Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer …
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

(from Where the Sidewalk Ends, © 1972, renewed 2002 by Evil Eye, LLC)


April 7

Chicken
Meish Goldish

Known for its feather and wings and legs,
The chicken lays eggs and eggs and eggs!
Known for the comb atop its crown,
The chicken lays eggs of white and brown.
Known for its strut when taking a walk,
The chicken lays eggs! Ba-a-awk! Ba-a-awk!

April 8

I Opened a Book
Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

(From Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum, first published 2004 by Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers International Limited. Text © Julia Donaldson 2004)


April 9

The Dog
Ogden Nash

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

April 10

The Pasture
Robert Frost

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

April 11


April 12

A different kind of poetry for today: the poetry in motion that is the Knox County Public Library. The library’s physical doors have been closed since March 20, but it continues to find ways to serve our community day after day. Library staff members working from home have issued nearly 900 digital access library cards to people without an active library card, and library patrons have accessed thousands of materials online. (Numbers shown here are for March 20–April 8.) And thanks to KCPL’s Ask-a-Librarian service, patrons have been able to communicate with reference librarians through online chats, email, and text messages. Poetry in motion indeed!

April 13

Risk
Anaïs Nin

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

April 14

It's all I have to bring today
Emily Dickinson

It's all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

April 15

 


April 16

My life has been the poem I would have writ
But I could not both live and utter it.

— Henry David Thoreau

April 17

Read to Me
Jane Yolen

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished — please read them again.

 


April 18

Summer Stars
Carl Sandburg

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

April 19

Poet's Tree
Shel Silverstein

Underneath the poet tree,
Come and rest awhile with me,
And watch the way the word-web weaves
Between the shady story leaves.
The branches of the poet tree
Reach from the mountains to the sea.
So come and dream, or come and climb —
Just don’t get hit by falling rhymes.

April 20

Enchantment
Jane Yolen

Stack by stack,
shelf by shelf,
I pick out books
all by myself.

Page by page,
line by line,
word by word,
I make books mine.

With a wave of a card
like a wizard’s right hand—
and an alphabet-alchemy,
life
is
just
grand.

April 21


April 22

A POEM FOR MY LIBRARIAN, MRS. LONG
(You never know what troubled little girl needs a book)
Nikki Giovanni

At a time when there was not tv before 3:00 P.M.
And on Sunday none until 5:00
We sat on the front porches watching
The jfg sign go on and off greeting
The neighbors, discussion the political
Situation congratulating the preacher
On his sermon
There was always the radio which brought us
Songs from wlac in nashville and what we would now call
Easy listening or smooth jazz but when I listened
Late at night with my portable (that I was so proud of)
Tucked under my pillow
I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah vaughan sing black coffee
Which I now drink
It was just called music

There was a bookstore uptown on gay street
Which I visited and inhaled that wonderful odor
Of new books
Even today I read hardcover as a preference paperback only
As a last resort

And up the hill on vine street
(The main black corridor) sat our carnegie library
Mrs. Long always glad to see you
The stereoscope always ready to show you faraway
Places to dream about

Mrs. Long asking what are you looking for today
When I wanted Leaves of Grass or alfred north whitehead
She would go to the big library uptown and I now know
Hat in hand to ask to borrow so that I might borrow

Probably they said something humiliating since southern
Whites like to humiliate southern blacks

But she nonetheless brought the books
Back and I held them to my chest
Close to my heart
And happily skipped back to grandmother’s house
Where I would sit on the front porch
In a gray glider and dream of a world
Far away

I love the world where I was
I was safe and warm and grandmother gave me neck kissed
When I was on my way to bed

But there was a world
Somewhere
Out there
And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe
But no lions or witches scared me
I went through
Knowing there would be
Spring

(from Acolytes, © 2007)

April 23

 

The Purple Cow
Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

April 24

The Rose Family
Robert Frost

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
And the pear is, and so’s
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose —
But were always a rose.


April 25

Because
Nikki Giovanni

I wrote a poem
for you because
you are
my little boy
I wrote a poem
for you because
you are
my darling daughter
and in this poem
I sang a song
that says
as time goes on
I am you
and you are me
and that’s how life
goes on

April 26


April 27


The Peace of Things
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


April 28


Church
Jacqueline Woodson

On Sundays, the preacher gives everyone a chance
to repent their sins. Miss Edna makes me go
to church. She wears a bright hat
I wear my suit. Babies dress in lace.
Girls my age, some pretty, some not so
pretty. Old ladies and men nodding.
Miss Edna every now and then throwing her hand
in the air. Saying Yes, Lord and Preach!
I sneak a pen from my back pocket,
bend down low like I dropped something.
The chorus marches up behind the preacher
clapping and humming and getting ready to sing.
I write the word HOPE on my hand.

April 29



Dreams
Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.



On a Tree Fallen Across the Road
Robert Frost

(To hear us talk)

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not to bar
Our passage to our journey’s end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.


April 30



Knoxville, Tennessee
Nikki Giovanni

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy's garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep

(“Knoxville, Tennessee” from Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgment by Nikki Giovanni. Copyright © 1968, 1970 by Nikki Giovanni