Poetry is worthy of celebration

TaLeiza CallowayColumn, Opinion, St. JosephLeave a Comment

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.

Author: TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.

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