April is National Poetry Month. The theme of this year’s celebration, supported by the Academy of American Poets, is “There’s a poem in this place,” and if you are talking about the Library, there are many.
Sylvia Plath’s work is sharp, dark, and undeniably influential, her poetry included. “The Collected Poems”, edited by Ted Hughes, includes works from 1956 until her death in 1963, as well as a collection of “juvenilia” written during her time at Smith College. “Female Author” and “Spinster” act as Plathian microcosms, capturing the gallant feminism and touchstone melancholy that have come to define her works. The former even features clever rhyming, such as, “The garnets on her fingers twinkle quick/And blood reflects across the manuscript.”
A newer poet whose work I recently discovered is Ocean Vuong. His first collection, “Night Sky With Exit Wounds”, is a devastatingly beautiful assemblage of poems that explore grief on various levels — the global pain of war, the rushing sadness of love, and the deep emotional tug of family. These themes all collide in my favorite poem of the collection, “To My Father/To My Future Son”. In this piece, Vuong distills each of these types of grief into specific tableaus — a cigarette floating in the air mid-car crash, reddening October leaves, and the rippling of a torn flag. His words are gutting, yet elegant.
Sometimes poetry is as visual as it is literal. Helena’s Tyler Knott Gregson exemplifies this concept in his book “Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series.” Interspersed between stunning landscape photographs, Gregson’s poems are typed onto scraps of paper, backs of receipts, and old book pages. His untitled poems succinctly capture snapshots of being in love and give texture and grounding through their physicality. I adore the simple sweetness in this poem, typed on a piece of orange construction paper: “How quickly jealous I become of the wind when it, and not I, gets the privilege of properly messing up your hair.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss my favorite collection of children’s poetry, “No More Poems!” by Rhett Miller. These silly, winding poems, paired with brilliant artwork by Dan Santat, harken back to Shel Silverstein with their mischievous and unapologetic takes on lost homework, embarrassing parents, and midnight bathroom visits. Kids and adults alike will laugh out loud at this one.
Check out all of these collections and more at the Lewistown Public Library.