Poetry offers so much–thought and lyricism, nuggets of truth (both our own and the poet’s) as well as a lens through which we can see a different world. Spring provides a wonderful backdrop for this celebration, with its demonstration of birth, rebirth, and new life. In honor of National Poetry Month, we will explore the work of Library of Virginia Literary Award winners and nominees.

Often, poetry can feel intimidating to the casual reader. However, a few considerations can help open this rich world.

  • Read the poem aloud, using line breaks and punctuation as a guide, first considering whether the poem rhymes, or has clusters of sounds. Don’t worry too much about the meaning on the first go.
  • Read the poem aloud for a second time, considering the meaning this time. Do you “hear” ambiguity, or double entendre?
  • Ask questions of the poem:
    • To whom is it speaking?
    • What emotions arise? Joy, sadness, confusion?
    • What are the circumstances or situation of the poem?
    • What does the title suggest about the poem?
  • Read it aloud once again for the full effect, understanding that both the poet and you bring your own meaning to the poem.

For additional information about reading poetry, visit PBS Newshour’s Guide.

Are you ready to give it a try?

We’ll start by celebrating one of our 2019 Library of Virginia Literary Award winners, poet Michael Chitwood. While born in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Chitwood now lives, writes, and teaches in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His 2018 collection, Search & Rescue, was inspired by the abundance of the natural world and by Appalachian culture.  The poem below is reprinted with permission of the author.

The Brief Springtime of My Easter Best

All I can see of him
is one white sleeve, elbow propped
in the rolled down window.
his other hand is on the steering wheel.
he’s ready to go.

It’s Sunday afternoon, I think.
His white shirt and the get-up I’m wearing—
white leather shoes, shorts and a matching shirt,
even a little accessory cap—
are what make me believe it’s the Sabbath.
I’m about one.
He’s ready to go
but Grandma is holding me for the picture.
A breeze has caught her Sunday dress
and it stirs it like a curtain,
the only movement the camera has found.
One fin of the Fairlane is a hot spot
of the reflected sun.
Is that old car the reason this picture was saved?

The sun glaring off the Ford
blares like a horn.
It’s Sunday afternoon, sermon long over.
He’s ready to go. He’s ready to go.
Who’s taking so long with this photo?

Cover of SEARCH & RESCUE, by Michael Chitwood (Louisiana State University Press, 2018)

“The Brief Springtime of My Easter Best” sets a scene of family, of distraction, of restlessness, and begs the reader to consider:

  • What feelings are evoked by this poem?
  • Could you relate to this poem–have you ever been the driver, the child, the grandmother?
  • Have you ever found a photo and wondered why it was saved?

Curious? Here’s more:

–Nan Carmack, Director, Library Development & Networking

Leave a Reply