Favorite Poem Project

It’s still National Poetry Month.

Sadly, this project has come to an end, but the product is still quite cool:

The Favorite Poem Project is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, founded the Favorite Poem Project shortly after the Library of Congress appointed him to the post in 1997.

During the one-year open call for submissions, 18,000 Americans wrote to the project volunteering to share their favorite poems — Americans from ages 5 to 97, from every state, of diverse occupations, kinds of education and backgrounds. From those thousands of letters and emails, we’ve culled several enduring collections.

Watch some and see…Just out of curiosity, if you were going to participate, what would you read? I’d have a horrible time picking, but if time were short, I think I might read a chunk of Chicago: City on the Make. Or Billy Collins’ “On Turning Ten” That one kills me. What about you?

Happy National Poetry Month


Have you ordered/received your poster yet? Have you been reading your poem a day all year long?

Have you had a chance to look at the glorious book of poetry gathered up by educators from across the country in a book called, “Teaching With Fire”? Do yourself a a favor and check it out. It’s magnificent.

Have you read a poem lately?

Better yet, have you heard one read, a poem that will make you laugh? Or one that might make you cry?

If not, what the hell are you waiting for?

Black History Month Begins

February is Black History Month. I posted this poem at the end of BHM last year, but it fits better at the beginning, I think.

“BLK History Month” from Nikki Giovanni’s Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea:

If Black History Month is not

viable then wind does not

carry the seeds and drop them

on fertile ground

rain does not

dampen the land

and encourage the seeds

to root

sun does not

warm the earth

and kiss the seedlings

and tell them plain:

You’re As Good As Anybody Else

You’ve Got A Place Here, Too

And don’t forget the kickoff event today featuring Martin L. King, President of Operation Push (2-3:30pm, rm 103)!

MLK Day Required Reading

Oh, sure, you’ll hear a lot about the Dream speech today, and (don’t get me wrong) it’s a great speech, but I vastly prefer “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

If you haven’t read it in awhile, give it a read today. It will be time well spent…

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

A Little Medicine

Ok, so this week has been–by turns and sometimes all at once–stunning, frustrating, saddening, enraging, worrying and depressing–and that’s how it’s been for those of us who still HAVE our jobs. Lest we forget what we’re doing and why, I thought I might show you this. I was going to save it until April for National Poetry Month, and I’m sure that 95% of you have received an email text version, but those don’t really do it justice.

It’s a piece that was written as Spoken Word, and so Taylor Mali’s piece must be heard to be experienced. And the animation doesn’t hurt either…

Useful Stuff

I fell over this article in last week’s Trib about “The Art of Freestyling” which was written around a video of a local Chicago artist, “Rhymefest” talking about his process and techniques for freestyle rapping and battles.

We wanted to interview an expert on freestyling, someone we can dive into the brain with and attempt to break down the creative and technical process of battle-rapping. We found that person in Rhymefest, Chicago native, community activist and Grammy-winning hip-hop artist. Rather than articulate it in print, we collaborated with Rhymefest in a short film called “The Art of Freestyling” (above).

Three tips to better freestyling from iO’s Rene Duquesnoy

1. One-syllable words ending with strong vowels sounds are easier to rhyme than ones that end in a consonant. “Bay” is easier to rhyme than “catastrophic.”

2. When you freestyle about a certain topic, you free-associate words. Say it’s skydiving and you think of the word “plane.” Don’t use it immediately — save the money word for the second line of the couplet.

3. If you have nothing to rhyme or you’re stuck, you can fake it with energy. Make some sort of big declaration and the audience will think you’re fearless.

I don’t know how you’ll be able to use this video, but I’m sure that most of our disciplines will be able to use parts of it for something…it’s longish, but worth watching, I think.

(Sorry I couldn’t embed it; Vimeo won’t let me)

Halfway Through Poetry Month

Perhaps you’d like to take a small break from reading poetry, and read someone writing about poetry.

If so, check this out; I found it really interesting. And just yesterday (after listening to this story), I had an urge to pull Walt Whitman off the shelf and spend some time with him this weekend. After reading this, it’s a practical certainty (good lord willing and the creek don’t rise).

And if that doesn’t tempt you, check out this little piece on Lucille Clifton, who is equally (though differently) awesome.

This Week’s Poetry Site

As I sort of implied last week, I’m going to feature a Poetry Web site every Monday in April since April is National Poetry Month and the world needs more poetry in it.

You can travel the world on the World Wide Web, but you can find some great local stuff, too. This week’s featured Poetry site is a local production, hosted by the Poetry Foundation. You might remember them as being a relatively tiny group, putting together a successful enough, but relatively unknown journal dedicated to poetry, when a woman named Ruth Lilly bequeathed a boat load of money on them five years ago.

Their site is a treasure trove of delights, including my own personal favorite area called According to a Poetry Everywhere and a list of upcoming poetry events in Chicago. According to a letter from their President, the Foundation will break ground this spring for new, permanent digs right here in Chicago. We are, and likely will be, lucky to have them. Check it out.