Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Celebrate poetry

Today begins National Poetry Month, an annual event for more than a decade in the United States and Canada. Organizers admit that April was chosen because school's still in session and teachers can plan lessons around the commemoration; still, tongue in cheek, they pay note to notable in-verse invocations of the month:

T.S. Eliot wrote, 'April is the cruelest month.' It is our hope that National Poetry Month lessens that effect.

On a lighter note, Chaucer wrote:
Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flow

Finally, Edna St. Vincent Millay asked, 'To what purpose, April, do you return again?' For National Poetry month, of course!

Skimming of lists of poets (here and here) turns up many whom IntLawGrrls have profiled over the months of our existence; for example: Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Atwood, Emily Brontë, Julia Ward Howe, Emma Lazarus, Gabriela Mistral, and Alice Walker. In honor of today's kickoff we'll add another:

Gertrude Stein was born in 1874, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. When she was 3 her parents, of German-Jewish origin, moved the family to Vienna and then to Paris. By age 4 they were living in Oakland, California, where she lived until moving East for university studies. In 1903 Stein (far left) moved to Paris, and remained abroad for 30 years. With San Francisco-born Alice B. Toklas (near left; in the middle is the couple's poodle, Basket) Stein established a salon at their home and helped the careers of artists ranging from Djuna Barnes to Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso. Stein's own writing has been likened to cubist paintings. Her poem America, which demonstrates both her modernist style and a bit of her transnational turn, is reprinted below.
All this month, your poet/ry nominees are most welcome!

(credit for middle image, 1927 photo of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, protesting the planned execution of Sacco and Vanzetti)

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