St. Joe is not “small”
but is a thriving city,
a true hub of growth.
I wrote that haiku in celebration of National Poetry Month. That’s the month of April for those who might not be aware of it.
National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets, according to www.poets.org. It was inaugurated in 1996.
More importantly, it is a time when many in the world stop to acknowledge the beauty that lies in not only the art of poetry but the written word. I absolutely love it! Yes, I am a journalist and it is my job to report and write the news of the day. In my spare time, I write for fun, and poetry is one of the things I like to read and write. Some of the poets you might catch me reading include Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks. It is hard to pick a favorite poet as each one of those women has written something that spoke to me in some way.
During a recent Black History event at the Whitney Senior Center, a humanities discussion included the topic of poetry written by African-Americans. Though I’m sure I was the only 20-plus-something in the room, we were all united on this particular day. Age did not matter as we were there to engage in dialogue and share perspectives.
I even learned of a poem written by Brooks that I had not heard before. It’s called, “A Song in the Front Yard.” It reads:
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.
I want to go in the backyard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.
They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.
Aside from the story itself, what I instantly liked about this poem was it included the name of my grandmother. My father’s mother is Johnnie Mae Johnson. I got a kick out of this as one of the meeting attendees read the poem aloud.
I came home and called my grandmother to share the news of her name making its way into a poem written by one of the finest writers of our time. I read it to her over the phone and promised to mail her a copy of it. She admitted she had not heard of the poem either. She thought it was cool her name was a part of American literature. I did too.
I know it might seem there is a month dedicated to everything these days. Whether it’s to raise awareness about an illness or a month to honor the contributions of women, there is always something to celebrate.
Well, poetry deserves a month. The written word can make us happy, sad, angry and inspired.
Everyone is not meant to be a published poet, but just the act of writing can change our mood. That alone, makes a month dedicated to something that can affect our lives worthy of a 30-day acknowledgment and more – at least to me.