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Robert Frost said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” Virginia’s own Rita Dove advances this thought: “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Whether contemporary or classic, poetry tilts language on its head, inviting the reader into a suspension of grammatical rules, definitions, and connotations. Poetry turns the page into a canvas, words into paint.

National Poetry Month is upon us once again and the Library of Virginia is pleased to highlight the finalists and winner of the Literary Virginia Awards in the poetry category: Bill Glose with Postscript to War; Kiki Petrosino with White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia; and winner, Annie Kim, with Eros, Unbroken. Enjoy listening to their discussion in the October 2020 Literary Awards poetry panel as a warm-up for their contributions over the next three weeks. Next week, Bill Glose offers a poem and a discussion of “What the Bomb Wants.” Next, Kiki Petrosino’s work will be featured. Lastly, Annie Kim wraps up as a guest blogger.

You can celebrate and explore poetry every day this month by:

  • Signing up for Poem-a-Day, curated this month by award-winning poet Jane Hirshfield, and reading a poem each morning
  • Subscribing to the Poem-a-Day podcast
  • Checking out a book of poetry from your local public library
  • Supporting poets and local bookstores by buying a book of poetry
  • Beginning or ending virtual or face-to-face gatherings with a poem
  • Attending a poetry event near you
  • Taking a walk and writing a poem outside
  • Recording yourself reading a poem, and share why you chose that work online using the hashtag #ShelterInPoems. Be sure to tag @poetsorg on Twitter and Instagram!
  • Following the above hashtag on social media

Find more suggestions for home and classroom courtesy of

Whatever way you choose to celebrate National Poetry Month, take a moment to be the echo for which poets, according to Don Marquis, are waiting: “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”

Tips for Reading Poetry

  • 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, double entendré?
  • 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 the poet and YOU bring your own meaning to the poem.

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

Nan Carmack

Director, Library Development & Networking

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