As a child, poetry was an integral part of my reading life simply because it was wrapped up in the things available to kids. I was fascinated by Shel Silverstein and of course read a lot of Mother Goose. I don’t remember focusing on poetry until junior high where we learned all of the different styles and had to write term papers on specific poets. As a teenager, poetry became a release for me. Like many, I wrote a lot of bad poetry, but I also wrote a few really good pieces. Age, even a few years, helped me understand some of the deeper meanings that would get written into poems.
Today, poetry has become more of a focal point. There is a month every year to celebrate poetry. There are books that are written in free form. The evolution of rap and hip hop have helped poetry become more widely appreciated, except when you actually call it poetry. That said, National Geographic has put out a stunning collection called The Poetry of US that should be a coffee table book in everyone’s house. This book contains over 200 poems that “celebrate the people, place, and passions of the United States.”
Quick side-note on the Walt Whitman poem here. I had to write a term paper on him in 8th grade. I did not understand his poetry at all. It is amazing what re-reading things with a different perspective brings.
The editors brilliantly divided the book into regions, with the first seven poems focusing on America as a whole. Being that it is from National Geographic, not only are their great poems, but they are all surrounded by amazing photography showcasing the beauty, the heartbreak, the history, and the future that is America.
There is something for everyone in this book. Poems that rhyme and those that don’t. Odes to places, foods, sports, and feelings. Poems originally written in English and many that were not (original language and translation both included). Poems to make you laugh, long to explore, feel grateful, feel pride. If you’ve lived in various parts of the country, the poems can also remind you of places you have been and different parts of your life. As a California transplant, I especially enjoyed that section of the book. One thing I don’t miss about LA? Traffic 🙂
Final thought? Gorgeous book. Great way to showcase poetry and the United States. Bravo National Geographic!