April ushers in Major League Baseball, the storied Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, flowering bushes and budding trees, and, some few would say, National Poetry Month.
Typically more Americans cotton to baseball, golf and nature hikes than to poetry, which we see all too little of in American newspapers and magazines. A few nationally circulated magazines run a sprinkling of poems each issue, notably The New Yorker, the Atlantic and Harper’s.
American newspapers, from what I recall, used to run poems once in awhile. Now we hardly see any at all. I suspect that many newspapers do not like the idea of scribblers submitting poems of questionable quality, forcing the papers into the rejection business.
Who knows? Still in all, I applaud the idea of National Poetry Month and indeed wish that in our K-12 public and private schools, more attention were given to the reading and reciting of poetry — out loud in front of the class — and also to the writing of poetry.
While living in Pau, France, in the 1980s and early ’90s, my then-wife and I had our daughter, Gabrielle, enrolled in the local public school. (She started at age 5 knowing almost no French and by age 9 had become first in her class — in French!)
Quite frequently she would ask me to “check out my poetry reading.” Let her rehearse with me holding the text of some celebrated poem in French that she was charged with memorizing and reciting, for a grade. Impressive.
Similar exercises used to happen in American schools, and I mourn their loss. Excellent training for the mind and good also for a beginning course in public speaking at an early age, too.
Thus, when I was recruited to instruct English 101 and 102 for Marshall credit at Point Pleasant High School shortly after my arrival in this area (1994-95), I had the good fortune of being able to teach the sonnet form to my young charges, juniors and seniors. Reason being, Point, as the students called it, had a tradition of having students write sonnets.
Some of the sonnets from my class are woven into a book titled “River Fog Rising: the Solitude Papers.” Mostly a book of prose selections from the class, the slender volume also features eight sonnets. That book launched a whole publishing company, Publishers Place Inc., which recently shut down after a 25-year run.
In honor of those intrepid Point students and also in honor of National Poetry Month, here is a lovely sonnet from “River Fog Rising,” by Erin Dalton, who managed to crash the class as a sophomore.
Silence is the sweetest song of all / It takes a world of sound to feel the same / Some feel discomfort when sounds fall / Our world of constant chatter is to blame.
You are foolish to always talk. Just sit / And reflect on life. You must do so / To find yourself. Rest and knit / your questions in life with what you know.
Life has many feelings, points, and reasons / You must use your knowledge to find them / Or life will pass you by in too few seasons, / And to others, your value will be dim.
If you take time to learn your value, / It will be clearer to those around you.