T.S. Eliot thought April was the cruelest month. William Carlos Williams thought it was the saddest. Longfellow and Ogden Nash said they loved it, and Emily Dickinson was ambivalent, so far as I can tell.
There’s at least one thing about April that they might all appreciate, though: It’s National Poetry Month, an opportunity for teachers, librarians, and readers everywhere to celebrate poetry and its vital role in U.S. culture.
Primary sources from the Library of Congress can be a powerful entry point into poetry, and the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog has published a number of posts highlighting poetry resources and providing teaching strategies.
Exploring Other Eras
Throughout U.S. history, poets have used verse to illuminate public issues as well as private ones. Poems about voting, about battles, and about new technologies have always taken their place alongside poems about matters of the heart. Reading these poems can help students see the culture of another era through the eyes of its writers. In addition, reading them as they first appeared, whether in newspapers, on song sheets, or posted on a wall in broadsides, provides clues about the ways in which poetry permeated the physical environment of another day.
Two blog posts can help students get started:
Examining the Creative Process
Other primary sources allow students to peer over the shoulders of poets at work, and to watch them struggle with ideas and their expression. Looking at poets’ rough drafts can help students see that even the greatest of artists still have to slog through the process of authorship and revision, and also can provide an opportunity to think about how a well-known poem might have been different in the revision process had ended earlier.
Sparking Creativity in Students
Poetry is, of course, a living art, and primary sources can help students discover the poets within themselves.
For more ideas, search for “poetry” in our blog archives.
Also, please check our sibling blog from the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, From the Catbird Seat.