I’m so excited! April is National Poetry Month. In 1996, the American Academy of Poets launched this annual celebration to “remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters.” Poetry is a rich gift offering something for everyone. Whether formal or informal, fancy or casual, long or short, poetry is a gateway to the universe. It explores the past and worlds unknown, speaks what the heart cannot say, brings solace and strength, yelps with joy, makes us laugh.

If you’ve only encountered dry, dusty poems or have only had poetry forced upon you, try one of these books instead. Both of them are great for family time or solo reading, and both, along with other poetry books, are available through the library’s OverDrive/Missouri Libraries 2 Go e-resource found at https://molib2go.overdrive.com/missouripldc-joplin/content or the Libby app.

You’ll find a variety of verses — rhyming and not — and subjects in these poems. They are fun to see and hear. Try reading them aloud, play around with the tempo, feel the rhythm of the words. For extra fun, try reading outside. It’s a super opportunity to explore poems on your own or to build language skills with kids and is easily adaptable to electronic communication.

An easy place to start is with “iF: A TREASURY OF POEMS FOR ALMOST EVERY POSSIBILITY,” an anthology of well-known or frequently taught poems with a smattering of less well-known verses from famous poets. British editors ALLIE ESIRI and RACHEL KELLY created an app to connect kids to poetry and have collected their favorites to encourage poetry time at home. Their selections range from nursery rhymes to nonsense verse and from love poems to historical ballads — lots of familiar territory here. Plenty of famous, pre-20th-century names are included — William Wordsworth, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne and Lewis Carroll, among others — with a smattering of later poets.

“iF” offers helpful aids to understand poetry’s structure and to connect poetry to children’s lives. Esiri and Kelly include a glossary of poetic forms and terms accessible to families exploring how poems work. The editors also divide the book into sections such as “Growing Up,” “Humor and Nonsense,” “Animals, Nature and Seasons” and “Bedtime” — each section starts with easier poems and progresses to longer, more complex ones. Many poems have short explanatory notes from the editors. An index of authors and index of titles make it easy to search for a familiar entry. Most helpful is the “Poems for Possibilities” list which suggests poems for different situations such as needing courage, seeking guidance, facing grief or needing “a pocket full of peace.”

While “iF” is a gateway to read-aloud poetry, “A DAZZLING DISPLAY OF DOGS” is proof that poetry can be a feast for the eyes and ears. Poet BETSY FRANCO has transformed dog stories from elementary students into lively concrete poems that dance across the pages. Concrete poetry often refers to poems with outlines depicting a recognizable shape and that may or may not rhyme — a verse about a bell written in the shape of a bell, for example. Here the poems are artworks with a life of their own. Illustrator Michael Wortz uses each poem’s shape to create energetic scenes in a palette of blues and warm reds, oranges and yellow. He layers shapes and textures in a look resembling cut paper come to life.

Suitable for reading cover to cover or randomly, Franco’s book is chock full of delight. Try “Fast Al, the Retired Greyhound,” a former track racer whose story is told in the circular path he runs on the beach. Or check out “Apollo at the Beach,” which shows a yapping dog chasing swooping seagulls of text. “Emmett’s Ode to His Tennis Ball” is a riot of yellow and blue with a “slobbery, sloppy, slimy sphere” of poem in his mouth. “White Collar Blues” is a cone of shame worn by Mathilda, who is having none of it.

There’s plenty of fun to be had during National Poetry Month. For virtual activities from the American Academy of Poets, check out https://poets.org and click on “National Poetry Month” at the top of the screen. See the Library’s webpage for links to our e-resources for books of all sorts, joplinpubliclibrary.org.

Hope you enjoy the poetry of words and nature this month.

Beth Snow is the teen librarian at the Joplin Public Library.

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