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Friday, April 02, 2010

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month:  "a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated."

At the Academy website there are many different ways you can participate in the enjoyment and propagation of poetry in this country, from signing up to receive a poem a day from Poets.org, to finding coming events honoring the poets and poetry of your own state on the National Poetry Map.  For instance, when I clicked on New Mexico, I found this perfect poem by a poet whom I do not know at all, John Balaban:

Passing Through Albuquerque    

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

This poem evokes an Albuquerque of years gone by, although I know for a fact that this version of it still exists in the Hispanic enclaves of the south Valley. So, who is this guy? I asked myself after I read the poem. A little searching brought me a lot of information about Balaban, and now I am embarking on a search for more of his work.  He's an amazing human being, as well as a fine poet, as this interview from TriQuarterly makes clear. So, there you are.  One brief visit to the National Poetry Month site, and I'm off on a new poetic adventure. With a reason to crawl used bookshops' poetry sections, one of my favorite occupations.

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