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How to Celebrate National Poetry Month

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national poetry month poster

You know that feeling when something amazing happens and you think, “I can die now?” Poetry makes me want to die. Sometimes a line brings me to such a level of satisfaction that an aneurysm seems the only ensuing viable option. Poets are geniuses. Their ability to pack the mush of our everyday experience into a line of text is just one hairbreadth short of miraculous.

For example, the opening lines of W.S. Di Piero’s Tombo
“Life, as you say, my friend,
is lived in its transitions.”

Even now I am filled with the desire to kick back and savor the chiseled edges of this thought, close my eyes and keel over. Just be done. Because, who can keep living after such a thing has been said?

Tombo is my favorite poetry collection out by a local publisher this year. The syntax is languid, and one gets the feeling of being taken by the hand on a jazzy tour of the Bay, looking into windows, hearing the late night fog horns, watching the oystercatchers, staring at young lovers in the Mission. Stay with me awhile and see how majestically Di Piero unfolds the poem I quoted above (titled “The Running Dog”):
“A breakfast of poached eggs,
spiked coffee, newsy talk,
crushed sun behind the clouds,
marine layer vapors phasing
blue to green, and the body
quivers through its days
unawares but sensate,
like a dreaming dog
in the still, marbled air
of its own running …”

Henry Oliver Walker, Lyric Poetry 1896; Mural, South Corridor, Great Hall, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building; Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2007
Henry Oliver Walker, Lyric Poetry 1896; Mural, South Corridor, Great Hall, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building; Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2007 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Even if you’re not in the mood for this most excellent book (I mean…), the opportunities to brush up on poetry are everywhere this month. One wishes that all months were like this, with poets gracing all the pages of everything all the time in perpetuity and forever, but alas.


Gertrude Stein

Celebrate the centennial of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons April 23, 2014 at San Francisco’s Main Library. Editor Seth Perlow, poet Juliana Spahr, Stein biographer Renate Stendhal, and the incredible Michelle Tea will read and discuss from this new correction that incorporates Stein’s own handwritten edits. Yay modernist classics! For more information visit sfpl.org.

Thursday, April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Select your favorite poem, put it in your pocket and share it with the people in your life. You can also share your selection on Twitter #pocketpoem.

If you want something contemporary, An evening of Poetry and Education in Resistance to Eviction and Removal (April 25, 2014) at the International Hotel promises to be not only amazing but constructive. Local poets and activists (including San Francisco’s Poet Laureate Alejandro Murgu&iacutea and rabble-rouser Jack Hirschman) will serenade you with their poetry and then discuss advancing gentrification and strategies for resistance. For more information visit citylights.com.

If all else fails, and the rain keeps you in, make sure you watch Kevin Young in this mini-doc over at the New York Times. His new collection, Book of Hours, is a beautiful and poised meditation on grief and birth.

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