Monday, April 4

The Power of Poetry

 "On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at the presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe. Her poem, "The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country" ...celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.

--An excerpt from the book jacket of The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Most Americans watched as a young woman dressed in yellow as bright as sunshine stepped up to a podium and began to speak. For the following five minutes, the power of poetry entered into homes to fix the listener in rapt attention. The poet is Amanda Gorman, and the event was the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. Despite all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the inaugural festivities, poetry won the day and the heart of a country.

Therein lies the power of poetry -- to stir the soul, to soothe the heart, to embrace hope, and to empower the listener to respond or act. April is National Poetry Month, and according to the official website, it is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and poets marking poetry's important place in our culture and our lives.

Throughout history, the power of poetry has been recognized by some of the world's most famous citizens. Plato stated that poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. Emily Dickinson said, "If I feel as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." Edgar Allen Poe defined poetry as the rhythmical creation of beauty in words. Samuel Beckett described poets as philosophers of the intelligence of humanity, and Wallace Stevens said the poet is the priest of the invisible. 

The CMRLS libraries certainly understand the power of poetry in all its many forms. An initial search of the system's card catalog lists 2,376 item records. A more advanced search displays a variety of poetry subjects from A to Z, from Tennesse to Thailand, from birth to death, from Hiawatha to Helen of Troy. The library collection includes popular works by American poets, English poets, Irish poets, and Scottish poets, but also a broader global community of Portuguese, Chilean, Greek, and Korean. One can find poems to suit all moods and interests, emotions and experiences, celebrations and sorrows, passions and protests.

In his essay, A Defence of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the following: The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution is poetry. At such periods, there is an accumulation of the power of communicating and receiving intense and impassioned conceptions respecting man and nature. The persons in whom this power resides may often, as far as regards many portions of their nature, have little apparent correspondence with the spirit of good of which they are ministers. But even while they deny and abjure, they are yet compelled to serve, the power which is seated at the throne of their soul. It is impossible to read the compositions of the most celebrated writers of the present day without being startled with the electric life which burns within their words.

And a present-day nation listened as the youngest poet ever to speak at a presidential inauguration startled her audience with the electric life which burned within her words...the power of poetry. 

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