Public Poetry debuts Saturday
Poems R Us: Houston celebrates National Poetry Month with new reading series
April is upon us and we all know what season it brings. Yes, once again it’s National Poetry Month, our favorite time of year when we don our Maya Angelou turbans, set up the festive Robert Frost mending walls around our yards, dare to eat our Prufrock peaches, and gather for neighborhood caroling of Emily Dickinson’s poetry to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Best of all, every night we go to sleep knowing that if we’ve been very good that day, the spirit of Walt Whitman will slip through our A/C ducts and place an erotically charged poem under our pillow for us to find and read in the morning light, leaving us simultaneously hot and bothered and feeling at one with the universe.
National Poetry Month began in 1996 led by the Academy of American Poets, and according to the Academy they’ve “enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials, educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations to help” continue this yearly month-long celebration of American poetry.
In Houston, that celebration begins officially 2 p.m. Saturday at the Central Public Library with the inauguration of a new poetry reading series, Public Poetry. In partnership with Houston Public Libraries, this year-round series will bring together Houston’s best poets for readings on the first Saturday of each month. The first featured Houston poets will be Inprint executive director Rich Levy, Martha Serpas, Eva Skrande, and Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Wiggins.
Perhaps most intriguing of all, Mayor Annise Parker will be on hand to read “a poem of her choosing.” While the mysterious poem will likely turn out to be something stately and mayoral, we’ll dare to hope that our mayor has been secretly writing beat poetry during the boring bits of city council meetings and will debut one for the occasion.
On April 11, the mayor will again be celebrating poetry as she gives opening remarks at the final Inprint reading of this season. Kay Ryan, 2008-2010 U.S. Poet Laureate and author of eight books of poetry, including the recent The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, will read from her work and then be interviewed on stage by poet Ange Mlinko.
On the occasion of Ryan’s appointment as our national poet laureate, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, stated “Kay Ryan is a distinctive and original voice within the rich variety of contemporary American poetry. She writes easily understandable short poems on improbable subjects. Within her compact compositions there are many surprises in rhyme and rhythm and in sly wit pointing to subtle wisdom."
In a 2008 Paris Review interview, Ryan was asked about humor in her poetry. She answered, “When I read my poems to any audience there’s a lot of laughing, but I always warn them that it’s a fairy gift and will turn scary when they get it home. I can’t bear work that takes itself too seriously, but that doesn’t mean that my work isn’t serious. “ Those brave enough to accept such a scary fairy gift can receive it at the Alley Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
On that same evening, April 11, the River Oaks Barnes & Noble will host a reading of noted local poets to celebrate National Poetry Month and the publication of the Caroline Kennedy edited poetry anthology, She Walks in Beauty: A Women’s Journey. The night’s readers include Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Lauren Berry, Sasha Pimentel Chacon, Beverly Monestier, and Susan Wood.
The next week on April 17, the Museum of Fine Arts’ Bayou Bend and Rienzi host “Things Worth Writing” a poetry-themed free family day that will include writing activities, poetry readings, storytelling, and live music.
Still not enough poetry? Then, subscribe to the Poets.org Poem-a-Day email program or download the Poem Flow iphone app. to get your daily poem fix. If you prefer your poetry fresh and locally grown, sign up at the Writers in the Schools website and they’ll deliver to your email box a WITS student’s poem every day in April.
As a special treat to get our National Poetry Month rockin, give a listen to America's pinnacle of overly excessive gothic poems, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” recited, as it surely was meant to be, by our national acting treasure, Christopher Walken complete with electric guitar riffs and raven cries. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the cowbell.