I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a huge poetry fan. Inserting poetry into a text makes my eyes glaze over, and those books in verse? Thanks, but… (having said that, I did enjoy Sharp Teeth, so it’s possibly more a question of “finding something I don’t mind”). So it’s with some trepidation that I settled in to hear the Poetry Panel at the Day of Dialog. For those of you who feel the way I do, the following might help change your mind.
Robert Pinsky opened by stating that children have a natural instinct toward rhyme: just look at children’s books like Dr. Seuss, and the sing-song way they often speak (not to mention the rhyming games they play). He also said that the way to appreciate poetry is to say it aloud – it will make you a better writer and reader.
So, how do we go about marketing poetry? It’s risky, because then we’re treating poetry as “other”, right? Poets.org has great resources to help you find poetry (including a great Poem-a-Day program). Several suggestions arose, including casually adding it to your displays (e.g., scarey poems as part of a Hallowe’en display), keeping books of poetry next to the check out (much like candy bars at grocery check outs). Asking random members of the community to read their favorite poems for a podcast or videocast and posting it on your website. Tweet great opening lines, or short poems, with a link to information about the poet or the poem.
We were also reminded that there are no rules for poetry. Yes, teachers say that (and there are, of course, rules about poetic form) but that’s really just wrong; they want to be able to say “smart things” about poems and poetry, when in reality, poetry is what sounds good when you say it – in other words, do not overthink a poem. Just enjoy it. As MacLeish said, “A poem should not mean / But be.”
Need resources? Library Journal is launching a poetry blog that will be gathering news, collection development ideas, tools and more. Poets.org has a Poem-A-Day program. Many current poets are on Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way to connect to living poets. Poets House has some great programs and ideas.
In other words, don’t let poetry scare you – treat it as any other part of your collection, promote it within your community, and watch things blossom.