Sharing Poetry

by Holly Moseley, Camp Crook

Often we think of sharing poetry as trying to get our own poems published. It is great to open a new issue of South Dakota Magazine or Pasque Petals or a local anthology and read a poem by someone we might meet or already know. Reading words that describe a feeling or sense we enjoyed, or suffered through, brings recognition and connection. Suddenly we know that at least one other person has felt the same sensation and we are not alone. There is a kindred spirit out there, and not so far away if he or she is another South Dakota poet.

Sharing poems that mean a lot to us is also helpful. When Tracy K. Smith, our national poet laureate, visited the Black Hills last fall, she brought along boxes of a slim collection, American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time. She opened the boxes, gave the books away to everyone who came, and spent time sharing and discussing them with us. In Belle Fourche, the gathering piggy-backed onto a regular morning coffee group time and space. The conversation turned out to be lively and varied, with many different perspectives presented. We all became richer in the exchange, prompted by a volume of poetry. Caroline Kennedy has two collections I appreciate, Poems to Learn by Heart, which includes new and old favorites, and She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems. The latter I have on CDs, making it especially delightful because of the various voices reading the poems. Last month, I shared my love of poetry with two groups of high school students. Their teacher informed me that they are quite different, yet both sections listened and interacted respectfully and with more interest than one might expect. I asked if they had ever read a poem about their favorite sport and they all seemed surprised that such things might exist. It opened their eyes to possibilities, that their interests might be reflected in a form not usually encountered outside the classroom. And isn’t that the beauty of poetry, that it can and does capture our experiences in a way that gets to the core of them? When looking for conversation topics beyond the usual “What do you do?”, we sometimes ask, “What’s the last movie you saw?” or, if we discover that he or she is a word nerd, “What book are you reading?” What if we asked, “What is your favorite poem?” and were ready to share our own.

Here’s mine, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson 288

I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – Too? Then there’s a pair of us? Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – To tell one’s name – the livelong June – To an admiring Bog!

Memorizing poems used to be a part of most school’s curricula. What if we did this again, just for fun? And what if we shared them when we could? We might be amazed at what we learn, both in the memorizing and the sharing.

p.s Want to share more poems with more people? Consider giving gift memberships to the SDSPS! Who do you know who might appreciate such a gift? Each member receives the spring and fall issue of Pasque Petals and the annual chapbook, published by the South Dakota State Poetry Society. See the link on the membership page of our website!

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