Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poetry and Readers' Advisory

I've been trying to find articles about poetry and readers' advisory, but that topic seems to be non-existant. Why is that? There are entire textbooks on genre fiction and readers' advisory. Why should poetry be left out? Well, I was able to find some possible answers to that question.

First of all, poetry's not as popular as genre fiction or non-fiction. As Dominique Raccah writes in his article, "The Promise of Poetry in a Digital Age," poetry is one of the poorest sellers in bookstores. It would only make sense that the same would be true for libraries. But why? Why is poetry such a poor seller? Raccah suggests that poetry tends to make readers feel a bit uncomfortable. He mentions that "no matter how learned the reader was, people generally were unsure of themselves in tackling poetry." Now it should be said that Raccah is the CEO of Sourcebooks, the publisher of Poetry Speaks. Poetry Speaks is a book of poems accompanied by CDs of poets reading their work. Raccah is suggesting in his article that this book helps people become more comfortable with poetry because they can hear the poems read outloud. Regardless of his obvious objective in writing this article, I still feel that Raccah makes a good point in suggesting that poetry does tend to make people uncomfortable. I am an English major who enjoys poetry, but I still feel uneasy or confused at times when reading poems.

Raccah may also be correct is suggesting that hearing poetry helps people get more out of poems than simply reading them. PoetryArchive.org, created by 1999 U.K. Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, seems to agree with Raccah on this point. They explain that poems were originally made to be read aloud. Hearing poems was more important than reading them. In that tradition, perhaps hearing a poet read his work would be more meaningful than reading a poem on your own.

In addition to the challenges that poetry presents to readers, I also feel that poetry is not as popular because people tend to cling to certain poems that have great meaning to them. In my opinion, it can be more difficult to drift away from a favorite poet than from a favorite author. For me, that poet is Robert Frost. I had to memorize "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," in fourth grade. It was that poem that really introduced me to poetry. It was that poem that caused me to fall in love with this art. I can read other poems by other poets, and I have, but none have stuck with me like Frost's work.

So, what is a readers' advisor to do? There are several resources out there that are helpful in locating particular poems, themes, poets, etc. It would be helpful to familiarize ourselves with these resources. A patron may have a poem in mind, but only knows a single line of the peom. Or they may want a book of poetry on animals or robots. These resources can be quite helpful. If a patron wants to read poetry, but doesn't know where to start, a collection of poems may be a nice suggestion. Perhaps the patron will then find their own Robert Frost.

Some suggested resources:

Poets.org (created by the Academy of American Poets)

PoetryFoundation.org (publishers of Poetry Magazine)

loc.gov/poetry (Library of Congress - contains info on Poet Laureates, news conferences and links to other useful sites)

PoetryArchive.org (Inclues searches by poet, poem, theme or poetic term - great for teachers)

guardian.co.uk/books/poetry (includes reviews of new poetry)

Bartleby.com/verse (includes many of the classic poets)

1 comment:

  1. I like poetry too but, as you mention, only certain poets whose work resonates with me. I like Whitman, Plath, Ginsburg, and Sexton mostly. Maybe I could like other poets as well but I haven't taken the time to explore them.

    Great links by the way.