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How and Why to Write Poetry

One hundred best poems for boys and girls complied by Majorie Barrows, old, weathered book

I hope you all are staying safe during these difficult times.  I have written this poetry blog and hope it inspires you to be creative and have fun using language to express yourself and to understand the expressions of others.  Poetry is something anyone can write.  Whether you did well in English classes or not does not matter.

There are many ways to enjoy poetry.  One can enjoy it by writing it, reading it, or sharing it with others.  One can also allow it to stimulate the intellect and ponder on its meanings. Poetry can also help to manage your emotions throughout your life.  It can help through times as diverse as dealing with something exciting to coping through times of grief.

Poetry can also help build your imagination.  You can be forced to think about objects, feelings, and experiences in ways that you have never thought about them before.  It can also help build your vocabulary and increase your critical thinking skills.

Poetry is something that can evoke many emotions for both a writer and a reader.  These emotions include happiness, sadness, grief, accomplishment, inspiration, anger, embarrassment, frustration, humor, and a plethora of other feelings Poetry can also take you places It can take you back in time and stimulate you to think about the past, present, and future. It take you to other planets and galaxies.  It can take you to the sky, to the bottom of the ocean, deep underground, to jungles, forests, deserts, and even fictional places from an imagination.

Writing poetry can also provide a framework for your life.  A decade from now, you can look back at the poetry you write today and look at it within the context of how things have changed Just like keeping a diary, you can monitor how your feelings change regarding relationships, goals, and experiences.  When you write a poem, you have the option of keeping it completely private or sharing it with others.

I have put together some tips for writing poetry:

When writing poetry, do not worry about whether it is “good” or “bad.”  Write from your heart.  Write with feeling.  Write about things which are meaningful to you.  If you do this, your poetry will serve a special purpose in your life.

If you are having trouble thinking of words to use, browse through a dictionary or thesaurus.  If you are writing about a specific subject, increase your vocabulary and knowledge about that subject.  For example, if you want to write a poem about lions, read about lions.  Read about their habitats, communication, how they hunt, and how they live in prides. This will provide ideas for both words to use and themes to write about.

Remember that you do not have to write the verses of your poems in the final order.  You can write verses as they come to you and later rearrange them in the order that you think flows best.

Although not necessary, I like to try and make a powerful last verse to the poems I write. I like my last verse to be an intense verse that ends the poem with a solid conclusion that ties the poem up and provides a sense of finality.

Explore different forms of poetry. Poetry is a very vast field. There are many rhyming variations you can experiment with. We have many resources about poetry at the library.  These resources include materials on how to write poetry and materials that will allow you to read poetry.  I encourage you to explore these resources.  Library staff will be happy to assist you.

~Alan Houke

April is National Poetry Month!

nat poetry month

April is National Poetry Month! As are many of you, I’m spending loads more time with my kids. We’re attempting to keep up with reading and math, as encouraged by the school system. What better way to keep up with reading than by reading poems? For many kids, poetry can seem a bit abstract and perhaps not as engaging as a full story. But with exposure (and a convincing delivery!) comes understanding and appreciation.

Of course many of us turn to the master, Shel Silverstein, to introduce our kids to poems. With a perfect mix of utter silliness and a touch of self awareness, truly those collections are classic. But my favorites, without question, are two books of poetry by beloved Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne.

When We Were Very Young” is a collection originally published in 1924. “Now We Are Six” is a follow up collection from 1927. All the poems are written by Milne, and each page contains illustrations by Ernest H. Shephard. The content is positively charming.

Your kids will encounter familiar characters, like Pooh himself, and Christopher Robin. Concepts like imaginary friends, changing of the seasons, and growing up crop up in the pages. With the works being almost 100 years old it might seem as if they’re no longer as relevant… but the innocence of childhood is something that transcends time. And it’s something these collections capture in a most pure and heartfelt way. I know many of these poems by heart and can recite them from memory. You may find yourself familiar with some of the lines, as a few of them became ubiquitous Pooh quotes!

If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading these books, now is the perfect time! These poems find joy in the simplest things, and emphasize the power of imagination. Sharing these poems with your children will be the highlight of your day!

Both of my boys are now well past 6, but on their 6th birthdays I recited to them the title poem from “Now We Are Six“:

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

~ A. A. Milne

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Self-Published Poets

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department,

Walt Whitman

Using the lens of today’s microscope, hearing the term “self-published author” is pretty commonplace. With technology being what it is, anybody can publish their work online. It’s easy to forget that this designation can be applied to many of the most famous writers, dating back generations. Point of fact: Walt Whitman self-published his masterpiece collection of poetry. “Leaves of Grass” was first published in 1855; a simple volume with a mere twelve poems. Whitman continued to add new poems, change titles, and regroup poems up until his final, “deathbed” ninth volume 1891-1892. This had turned into a daunting collection, comprised of nearly 400 poems. Whitman influenced several famous poets, including Allen Ginsburg, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. He never backed away from controversial (at least for the 1800s) topics and changed the game with his unusual rhyme, meter, and cadence patterns.

Today, poetry has seen an epic resurgence of popularity. This is encouraging, given that we’re so inundated with technology of the instant gratification sort: internet, podcasts, Instagram, Netflix, etc. It’s sometimes shocking that people find the time to simply sit down and read a book. Maybe it stands to reason that poetry is the perfect literary hallmark, given that it lends itself to brevity and creativity. Heck, some of today’s most popular poets have gained major steam using that aforementioned source: Instagram. If you’re a poetry connoisseur or just interested in dipping your toe into the poetry waters, we’ve got some great current poets to check out!

Rupi Kaur reading from her book milk and honey in Vancouver – 2017

Rupi Kaur is one of those poets whose poetry is all over Instagram. She’s already a number one New York Times bestseller, with her first collected work, “Milk and Honey”, selling over a million copies. In fact, it’s been translated into 40 languages and has knocked Homer’s “The Odyssey” out of its position as the bestselling poetry book of all time. In 2017, Kaur released her second volume of poetry entitled “The Sun and Her Flowers.” She tackles tough issues familiar to all: love, loss, and trauma.

Tracy K. Smith is the author of four books of poetry, most recently releasing “Wade in the Water” (2018). Her resume and accolades are staggering. She received her BA from Harvard and a MFA in creative writing from Columbia. “Life on Mars” (2011) went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship and in 2017 she was named U.S. poet laureate. Her memoir, “Ordinary Light”, was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. Academy of American Poets Chancellor, Toi Derricotte, summed Smith’s work up best: “The surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of unknown vastness. Her poems take the risk of inviting us to imagine, as the poet does, what it is to travel in another person’s shoes.”

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on a rice farm. When he was two years old (1990), he immigrated with his family to Connecticut (after spending a year in a refugee camp in the Philippines.) Despite the tender age in which this occurred, one suspects his background influences his work, which seems to explore themes of transformation and traumatic loss. Vuong earned his BA at Brooklyn College and is now works for the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His collection, “Night Sky with Exit Wounds,” was the winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2018. He has had works translated into Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, and Hindi.

Mary Oliver is a fitting final mention, given that she has drawn widespread comparisons to Walt Whitman himself. Her poetry focuses primarily on nature, with a particular regard for the quiet aspects and moments it holds. Her fifth book (“American Primitive”) was written in 1983 and won the Pulitzer Prize. “New and Selected Poems” (1992) was the recipient of the National Book Award. She was a prolific writer, producing a new book or collection every one-two years. Her last release (2017) was a greatest hits of sorts entitled “Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver” and can be found at a bookstore or library near you. Oliver passed away at the age of 83 earlier this year.

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The Space for True Reception: Why We Love Great Verse

By Allan Cross, Reference Department

Poetry isn’t the simplest thing to appreciate. At a passing glance, it may not have the same immediacy of film, music, and visual art. When placed alongside other forms of literature, a book of poems can struggle to match our latest bestsellers in accessibility. For all these reasons, some of us might dismiss poetry as a medium for high-minded wordsmiths, rather than a readership of less heady taste. But exceptional poetry has endured for millennia, and verse as a creative avenue stretches onward still. Why, then, do so many others read and derive worth from it today?

The convenient answer nowadays might be to quote Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating, an English teacher played by the late Robin Williams, inspires his students (and unceasing scores of audiences) with his speech about why people read and write poetry. One of the film’s great strengths lies, of course, in its poetry readings. These, combined with well-chosen samples, bring forth the emotional meaning that fuels successful verse. The film serves as a great access point to poetry, emphasizing the importance of reading it aloud. When we readers encounter a given poem, we can better involve ourselves by audibly speaking the work. By doing so, we should enhance the piece with our individual voices, each one conducive in its own distinct way.

Testing this in light of three widely known poems seems a good place to begin. The trio we have selected consists of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Rudyard Kipling’s “If–,” and Shel Silverstein’s verse children’s book The Giving Tree.

In the third stanza of “The Road Not Taken,” Frost writes:

And both that morning equally lay/

In leaves no step had trodden black./

Oh, I kept the first for another day!/

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/

I doubted if I should ever come back.

Andrew Spacey, a commentator for Owlcation, points out that Frost’s work reflects on the many choices we make in life, and how we tend to regret those decisions after committing to them. It is also commonly read as a statement in support of individualism, and the promotion of opinions that contrast with majority views.

Below is an excerpt from Kipling’s “If—”:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;/

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;/

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/

And treat those two imposters just the same;/

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools/

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/

And stoop and build them up with worn out tools:

 

The theme of Kipling’s work, which regards the importance of thought, but not to the point where it impedes action, seems like a stirring antidote to Frost. It acknowledges the significance and moral need for regret, but urges the reader not to allow past mistakes to obstruct the path to future growth.

The Giving Tree addresses similar concerns, as shown in some of its final lines:

“I am sorry,” sighed the tree./

I wish that I could give you something…/

But I have nothing left./

I am just an old stump./

I am sorry….”/

I don’t need very much now,” said the boy./

“just a quiet place to sit and rest.”/

I am very tired.”

Rivka Galchen, in her 2014 review for The New York Times, argues that there is an unavoidable dilemma in The Giving Tree, it being whether we read it as a statement on thoughtless acquisition or unreserved giving. The two characters, the boy and the tree, do what is most fundamental to their natures. It’s up to the reader to then decide how to feel about the situation, including the conclusion about whether it turns out morally right.

The takeaway from all of this, in spite of all the people who attempt to influence our points-of-view, is that we allow ourselves to read and study works on our unique terms. As mentioned earlier, it may prove worthwhile to read these pieces and others to ourselves (at the risk of seeming foolish), in order to bring out their inherent humanity. We should remember that reading can be, in its way, a roomy type of interpretation. There’s a mysterious element of poetry, one we cannot entirely rationalize and so must trail behind. Rather than strain for full understanding, this is the process we might instead come to accept.


Sources:

 

Poetica

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

Poetica

Howard Shirley

It’s April.
It’s National Poetry Month.
1996.
There. You have a year.
That’s when it started.
The American Academy of Poets.
That’s who started it.
Not much else factual to say.

But poems aren’t about facts.
Poems are about themselves.
They say whatever they say.
You hear whatever you hear.
That’s a poem.

They’re not about rhyme (though they can be)
They’re not about time (though they can be)
They’re not about meter (rigid or free)
Or fanciful words like “lugubrious.”
Which no one uses any other day.
Or any other way.
Poems are just whatever you want to say.
The way you want to say it.
Your poem is yours.
It can be no one else’s.

It’s National Poetry Month.
So go write a poem.
I just did.

— Howard Shirley

 

Now it’s your turn! If you are a teenage resident of Williamson County, age 12-18, you are invited to submit your own poems to our Teen Poetry Contest. You may submit up to three poems. Poems are welcome in any form on any subject—the choice is yours (as it should be). A poem may be any length and any style—haiku, sonnet, ballad, limerick, free verse; however your muse takes you. All poems must be your original creations.

All poems must be typed on plain white paper in an ordinary font. Poems with multiple pages should be stapled together. All poems must include the poet’s name, age, school and grade, and contact information (e-mail or phone) at the top of the first page.

We are accepting poems through April 30. You may turn your poem in at any Williamson County Public Library branch, or upstairs in the Teen Room of the Main Branch in Franklin. Contest winners will be announced in May during our Teen Poetry Slam as part of our Summer Reading Kick-off event.

You’ve All Heard of Limericks, I’m Sure

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Limericks can even be done for Math!

You’ve all heard of Limericks, I’m sure
Whether racy or actually pure
They’re funny old rhymes
From good old times
And the good ones are rarely demure

They all start in jolly old Britain
Whose poems were occasionally written
In lyrical styles
To bring forth some smiles
And the poets were instantly smitten

City of Limerick, Ireland

The name, it comes from good green Erin
The Maigue Poets used to declare in
the city, Limerick.
Those bards got a kick
from the poetry style used there in.

The transition to bawdier verse
(Or something ocassionally worse).
The decade was roaring
and not a bit boring,
still, reactions were quite terse.

Original Edward Lear Limerick

There once was a man, name of Lear
Who wrote them, though not very clear
His meanings were nonsense
With ridiculous contents
And his fame stretches from then to here

Some people delight to change form
From the meter and scheme as a norm
They sometimes depart
On whole, a la cart
But can do so in in whatever manner they choose and still leave it mildly humorous

So let us praise the limerick this way
On this, the Limerick’s Day
They bring joy and delight
And the length is just right
Except like now when I’m carried away!

As one last PS I must add
A very hard time I have had
To not use Nantucket
Or mention a bucket
But I know that would really be bad.

National Poetry Month: Poems for All

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Most people encounter poems as a child first and poetry books for kids are fun and often silly. Kids love being read to and many poems are made to be read aloud.   It’s when we grow up and forced to study specific poems and poetry that we lose interest. That’s why April has become “poetry month,” to encourage everyone to find their enjoyment of poetry again. And poetry really is for everyone. Or rather, there is at least one poem out there for each person that will touch them in some way. You just have to find it.

In order to help people find their enjoyment of poetry again, I hope to introduce you to a few good or unusual poetry books. Of course, if you just want to browse through our poetry books, in our Nonfiction section, which includes poetry, our library organize by the Dewey Decimal System, where American poetry is usually found in the 811s and British poetry is usually found in the 821s.

9781846143847To refesh your memory about fun children’s poems, have a look at these:

  • Falling up: poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein (J 811.6 SIL )
  • A bad case of the giggles: kids’ favorite funny poems (J 811.08089282 BAD)
  • Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
  • A light in the attic by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
  • I’ve lost my hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky (J 811.54 PRE)
  • My dog ate my homework! a collection of funny poems (J 811.54 LAN)
  • Stopping by woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost (J 811.52 FRO)
  • Dirt on my shirt: selected poems (J E Fox)
  • For laughing out loud: an anthology of poems to tickle your funny bone (J 808.81 FOR)
  • Pizza, pigs, and poetry: how to write a poem (J 811.54 PRE)

87efc575c9f06a5f5a26a61dc2f5b9c8Want to get back to poetry or rediscovery your love for it? Try these books:

  • How to read a poem: and fall in love with poetry (808.1 HIR)
  • How to haiku: a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms (808.1 ROS)
  • Essential pleasures: a new anthology of poems to read aloud (808.81 ESS)

Most all adults have read Beowulf, one of the oldest extant English poems. Seamus Heaney won awards and rave reviews for his new translation of this epic poem (829.3 BEO). If Beowulf is too long, maybe you should try this book of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poems with a mouthful title, Ten Old English Poems Put into Modern English Alliterative Verse (821.1 MAL).

If you really want to get adventurous, try listening to the Iliad or The Odyssey. It’s easier to listen to, somehow. Perhaps because it was recited for centuries!? And maybe try The Aeneid for the same reason. Virgil wanted to write a great Roman epic and he definitely succeeded.

  • The Iliad by Homer (883.01 HOM)
  • The Odyssey by Homer (883 HOM)
  • The Aeneid by Virgil (873.01 VIR)

41U-yc-HaiL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_For something completely different, try reading haiku, or maybe writing them. They are short and usually describe a nature scene. There is a definite pattern for haiku: the first line has five syllables, the second line had seven syllables and the third line has five syllables. The best things about haiku are they are short and they don’t have to rhyme!

  • Haiku landscapes: in sun, wind, rain and snow (808.1 ADD)
  • Haiku love (895.6104108 HAI)
  • Haiku: an anthology of Japanese poems (895.6104108 HAI)

And for a different kind of haiku, try these:

  • Haiku for the single girl (811.6 GRI)
  • Redneck haiku: Bubba-sized with more than 150 new haiku! (811.6 WIT)

If you are feeling patriotic or want to celebrate patriotic holidays, this is the book for you:

  • A patriot’s handbook : songs, poems, stories, and speeches celebrating the land we love / selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (810.8 KEN)

22557366For poems written from another culture’s point of view, check out these books. Hah, check out these books!!! A little library humor for you.

  • The Southern poetry anthology, Volume VI, Tennessee (811.50809768 SOU)
  • Angles of ascent: a Norton anthology of contemporary African American poetry (811.09 ANG)
  • Voices of the rainbow: contemporary poetry by Native Americans (811.54080897 VOI)
  • S O S: poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka (811.54 BAR)
  • Reflections: poems of dreams and betrayals by Adebayo Oyebade (811 OYE)
  • No enemies, no hatred: selected essays and poems by Liu Xiaobo (895.1452 LIU)

For those trying to say something romantic, nothing is as good as a poem. Here are a few books to get inspiration from (or to copy and give your beloved, showing how much you care.)9780142437704

  • Rumi : the book of love : poems of ecstasy and longing, translations and commentary by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
  • The essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
  • Art & love: an illustrated anthology of love poetry (808.81 ART)
  • Ten poems to open your heart by Roger Housden (811.6 HOU)
  • Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (821.8 BRO)
  • Twenty love poems and a song of despair by Pablo Neruda (861 NER)
  • Love poems and sonnets of William Shakespeare (822.33 SHA)
  • If there is something to desire: one hundred poems by Vera Pavlova; translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour (891.715 PAV)

51ZUnfDU-jL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_For those who want to explore military themes, and get a real feeling of battle and the letdown of safety after, here are some from older wars and present conflicts.

  • “Words for the hour”: a new anthology of American Civil War poetry (811.0080358 WOR)
  • Some desperate glory: the First World War the poets knew by Max Egremont (821.912 EGR)
  • Poets of World War I: Rupert Brooke & Siegfried Sassoon (YA 821 POE)
  • Visions of war, dreams of peace: writings of women in the Vietnam War (811.54080358 VIS)
  • Lines in long array: a Civil War commemoration: poems and photographs, past and present (811.008 LIN)
  • Here, bullet by Brian Turner (811.6 TUR)

In case you think poetry is just a “girl thing”, here are a few books for men:

  • Poems that make grown men cry: 100 men on the words that move them (821.008 POE)
  • The Bar-D roundup a compilation of classic and contemporary poetry from CowboyPoetry.com (CD 811.54 08 BAR)
  • Lessons from a desperado poet: how to find your way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game (811.54 BLA)
  • Poetry for guys– who thought they hated poetry (811.008 POE)

51S1pZ2ZoQL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_A few offerings of humorous poems for grown-ups

  • O, what a luxury: verses lyrical, vulgar, pathetic & profound by Garrison Keillor (811.6 KEI)
  • Ogden Nash’s zoo (811.52 NAS)
  • How did I get to be 40: & other atrocities and other poems by Judith Viorst (811.54 VIO)
  • I’m too young to be seventy: and other delusions by Judith Viorst (811 VIO)

Other poetry books to consider that are recent and don’t really fit a category:

  • It’s probably nothing, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love my implants by Micki Myers (811.6 MYE)
  • Words for empty and words for full by Bob Hicok (811.54 HIC)
  • Horoscopes for the dead: poems by Billy Collins (811.54 COL)
    • Mr. Collins was a US Poet Laureate – a big deal!
  • Firecracker red by Stellasue Lee (808.810082 LEE)
    • Ms. Lee is a local poet

This book is in a category all by itself – and funny!

  • I could pee on this: and other poems by cats by Francesco Marciuliano (811.6 MAR)

51axz2dw8pL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 


Sources:

 

Reflections on Children’s Poetry, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Lorax

By Stacy Parish, Children’s DepartmentShel_Silverstein_-_Where_the_Sidewalk_Ends

One day several years ago, when my children were small, it occurred to me that perhaps I was letting them watch too much television. I had this particular epiphany after an episode of Teletubbies led me to idly speculate what sort of expensive pharmaceutical usage had led to the invention of the aforementioned pudgy nonsense-spouting creatures, and if the ensuing commercial success of the Teletubbies then enabled the program’s creators and producers to be able to afford more of whatever controlled substance had been instrumental in bringing Dipsy, Po, Laa Laa, and Tinky-Winky into existence. And then there’s Caillou. (Which translates to “small smooth pebble” in French. You’re welcome.) Do not get me started on that whiny, round-headed little twerp. * Even hearing his name all these years later makes me immediately start casting around for a sharp object. If an animated children’s television show inspires such sinister thoughts, it’s probably not a great idea to let your kid watch a ton of it.

I’ll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet—

And you know what I tell you is true.

He loved to watch his TV set

Almost as much as you.

                                                     –Shel Silverstein

 I’ve always been a bookworm, and I read to my kids (okay, technically I suppose I was reading to my burgeoning midsection, but you know what I mean) even before they entered the world, but maybe it was time to step it up a notch from Eric Carle and Lucy Cousins to something a little loftier. Poetry? What a great idea!

Between the dark and the daylight,

When the night is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,

That is known as the Children’s Hour.

                                           –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So. Where to begin? At the library, of course, after a brief detour to the local ice cream parlor. (It’s merely a suggestion. If you prefer active culture frozen yogurt with organic mix-ins, go for it. Just don’t judge me.) Here we go–Shakespeare, Silverstein, Seuss. Nesbitt and Nash. Milne, Moore, Millay. Prelutsky and Poe. In case you’re wondering, and I really hope you aren’t, those beautiful, haunting verses created by Edgar Allan Poe may ignite a fire in your adult soul but are generally not appropriate for– or amusing to– your average preschooler. That old saw about knowing your audience definitely holds true when diving into the poetry pool with your child. In other words, if you decide to make a foray into poetry with your kiddo, don’t overthink it. Whether you choose The Giving Tree or Green Eggs and Ham, or something else entirely, enjoy the exploration of a new genre with your child. And . . .

When called by a panther/Don’t anther.

                                                          –Ogden Nash

Suggested sources for children’s poetry, in no particular order:

  • Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
  • The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash
  • Shout! Little Poems That Roar by Brod Bagert
  • Here’s a Little Poem collected by Jane Yolen
  • Treasury of Poetry selected by Alistair Hedley

 

*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.

Guest Post: Why this Doctor Writes Poetry

Brian Christman, MDMedicineBy Brian W. Christman, professor and vice chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Medicine as well as chief of medical service at the Veteran Affairs’ Tennessee Valley Health Care System

It is always a bit of a challenge to explain why a physician, a person so intensely interested in the well-being of other people, would move away from the world and craft a few lines about a scene, an observation, or a thought. Sometimes it comes from a sense of obligation, the feeling that someone should think a bit longer about a solitary widow taking a shaving bag home, or a veteran patient smoking and telling stories at sunset, or the obvious but unspoken respect of a granddaughter for the recuperating patriarch. It seems to me that doctors are privileged to be with people during critical episodes in their lives and should not remain unmoved by events and interactions.

Occasionally there is just a snatch of nature, like the endlessly erasing shoreline at sunrise, begging in an undescribed language for translation. Often there is just a phrase, or part of a story, that resonates with a previous experience and sculpts a partial memory into something new.

But this explanation claims too much high ground. Sometimes I just like to noodle around with words and phrases about a topic until something comes together with its own rhythm, rhyme, and silence. It feels good to distill.

Guest Post: Medicine and Poetry, Not so Far Apart after All

By Hester-DougDouglas Landon Hester, an anesthesiologist whose academic work focuses on airway management and resident education

I suspect I’m a poet and a physician for the same reasons. In both, small details define major issues. In both, precision matters. In both, the right word in the right way can help someone. In both, I believe I’m using talents as a steward. In both, there is a wonderful tension between science and art.

In both, relationships are ultimately the bottom line. Whether I am offering a specific drug or procedure or I am trying to connect with a reader I have never met, it is the common humanity between us that allows me to be a physician and a poet.

Medicine and poetry are, for me, about people. I’m blessed to do both.

 

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