Happy World Poetry Day!

poetryI was on Twitter and saw that #WorldPoetryDay was trending. (I really need to keep track of these things.)

Then I thought – wait – didn’t we do a poetry post in the fall? Yes we did. That was for #NationalPoetryDay. Wait, what?

UNESCO has declared March 21 to be World Poetry Day. According to the United Nation’s Website:

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

I couldn’t have said it better myself (that’s why I quoted it).

I literally just finished hearing someone speak at a breakfast about the Global Women’s Movement (I capitalized it because I think it’s important). What does this have to do with poetry? We need to tell our stories. We need to have a way to show other points of view. And poetry is one way to do that. THAT is why it’s important.

Of course I picked out a poem. I am reppin’ my homeland of Canada and one of my favourite authors Margaret Atwood. I remember reading this in grade 11 or 12 english class and railing against it – a poem about an orange? Are you kidding me? (I would have said WTF if that had been invented back then.) “Orange in the middle of the table…” <insert teenage eye roll here>

Here is the thing, as I read it later in life, I need to tell my cheeky teenage self – it’s actually brilliant. Who knew that some life experience could change your mind about something?

So happy World Poetry Day! Here is my challenge: go read a poem that you hated in high school (don’t say I hated all of them!) and see if you hate it less today.

Against Still Life by Margaret Atwood

Orange in the middle of a table:

It isn’t enough
to walk around it
at a distance, saying
it’s an orange:
nothing to do
with us, nothing
else: leave it alone

I want to pick it up
in my hand
I want to peel the
skin off; I want
more to be said to me
than just Orange:
want to be told
everything it has to say
And you, sitting across
the table, at a distance, with
your smile contained, and like the orange
in the sun: silent:

Your silence
isn’t enough for me
now, no matter with what
contentment you fold
your hands together; I want
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhoods, aimless journeyings,
your loves; your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies.

These orange silences
(sunlight and hidden smile)
make me want to
wrench you into saying;
now I’d crack your skull
like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin
to make you talk, or get
a look inside

But quietly:
if I take the orange
with care enough and hold it
gently

I may find
an egg
a sun
an orange moon
perhaps a skull; center
of all energy
resting in my hand

can change it to
whatever I desire
it to be

and you, man, orange afternoon
lover, wherever
you sit across from me
(tables, trains, buses)

if I watch
quietly enough
and long enough

at last, you will say
(maybe without speaking)

(there are mountains
inside your skull
garden and chaos, ocean
and hurricane; certain
corners of rooms, portraits
of great grandmothers, curtains
of a particular shade;
your deserts; your private
dinosaurs; the first
woman)

all I need to know
tell me
everything
just as it was
from the beginning.

2 thoughts on “Happy World Poetry Day!

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