Sunday, April 10, 2011

April is National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month and I recently had the good fortune of attending a lovely poetry reading by Christianna Hannum Miller and Diane Herrin at the Kennett Flash. It was a fitting start to this month-long celebration of the importance of poetry to us all. Christy had done a similar type of event a few years earlier, first alerting me to the existence of National Poetry Month. You can read all about that evening in a posting from the Kennett Farmers Market Blog.

The local Philly band The Great Unknown is also celebrating National Poetry Month with the release of a new EP and participation in a special concert at the Apollo Theater – the 4th annual poetry slam to benefit the America SCORES Foundation. Last winter the Great Unknown traveled to inner city schools across America facilitating poetry-to-song workshops; a project directed by the collaborative program of ASCAP and America SCORES. You can read more in a New York Times article that appeared last December.

Below is a video from one of the workshops. The band's goal with this project was to reinforce the importance of each child’s voice, that individuals have something important say.
The results really are quite magical. I encourage you to check out the rest of the videos from the winter tour at The Great Unknown Video Page. The Great Unknown will be performing at the WHYY Studios this Thursday, April 14 and also participating in this coming weekend’s (4/16 and 17) Philadelphia Book Festival click here for more details.

You might be wondering what connection poetry has to farming. Besides the fact that I love to include poetry in my blog postings, I can confidently say that the single most influential entity in my decision to become a farmer has been the writings of farmer-poet Wendell Berry. His essays, short stories, novels, and most of all poetry has been a guiding force to many a new farmer (and local economy advocates). This year Wendell Berry was given a National Humanity Award by President Obama, giving him the opportunity to acknowledge the First Lady’s local food advocacy. I leave you with his “instructions” for being a poet.

How To Be a Poet
By Wendell Berry
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

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