Celebrate National Poetry Month!
What do most people think of when they hear the word "library"? Reading, of course! 2014 is the year to "Reconnect with Reading 365" at the Cuyahoga County Public Library. To celebrate this initiative, the Bay Village Branch will display monthly calendars that include daily trivia questions or quote from books both classic and modern following a theme for each month. Library staff and customers are looking forward to sharing our suggestions from various genres here with you in the Observer in the feature, "What Your Neighbors are Reading"!
April is National Poetry Month, so we caught up with Bay Village resident and frequent library visitor, Jon Conley, who enjoys both reading and writing poetry. Jon was initially attracted to poetry because of the word play, romanticism and lyricism of the genre. Over the years, his tastes have evolved from those three elements. Emily Dickinson epitomizes word play with the opening stanza of "We play at paste": "We play at paste, Till qualified for pearl, Then drop the paste, And deem ourself a fool."
Jon reads a lot of classics, but two contemporary poems which absolutely crushed him lately were Richard Siken's "Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out" and Lo Kwa Mei-En's "Taxi, Singapore, Ohio." "Litany" is more deft and lengthy than what he would usually read but it rambles in the throes of love without any shame: "So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog of non-definitive acts, something other than desperation." "Taxi" immediately sets foot in a fantastic sense of place: "Wife-beatered, bedroom burst with birds and sons, my grandfather turns left on red."
Jon has constantly come back to Wallace Stevens and Frank O'Hara as two of his favorite poets. He believes he has checked out Wallace Stevens' "Collected Poetry and Prose" a thousand times. Jon says with Stevens you can always count on a precise and trained flourish ("Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream."). Open any page of Frank O'Hara’s collections and be completely absorbed by his romantic realism, though Jon recommends "Lunch Poems." O'Hara's ability to capture life as it happens is almost completely unparalleled in poetry.
Jon notes as a poet in the 2000s, there is such a vast sea of media that it is hard to be precise about process and inspiration. He writes from instances and moods, he thumbs sonnets into his phone, scribbles couplets in a notebook, types rambling sketches into a PC and occasionally burns the midnight oil like a mad Beat with a typewriter. He tries to be inspired by anything and everything and let poetry move through him rather than count on complete self-manifestation.
Jon feels that poetry seems niche now. "It is difficult to turn people on to it and even more difficult to explain why they should appreciate it. It can be easily pinned as frivolous and pointless. But the most exciting part about poetry is that, now more than ever, it can be whatever you want it to be. People are publishing collections of Facebook and Twitter posts, random blog notes, search engine jargon, hip-hop derivatives, distorted nursery rhymes, leftover and redacted to-do lists – all as poetry. Language is what largely renders us human and allows us to make sense of the world while adhering to a semblance of progression and vision. The composition and appreciation of poetry is the embodiment of all of this."
Jon added this sentiment: "I tell my daughter constantly that poetry is the engine of imagination. I can only hope she is listening."
If you are looking for more inspiration as to what to read next, check out Read Intuit – a questionnaire to tell us at the library what you enjoy reading! Your results are shared with a CCPL reader’s advisory expert who will analyze your reading profile to note your tastes and preferences. You will receive a personalized list of recommendations via email within just a few days! Read Intuit is available for all ages! You can find Read Intuit and other Reading Recommendation features on our website at www.cuyahogalibrary.org.
Remember to check the Observer next month to see What Your Neighbors are Reading on the May theme – Check Out New Worlds! – and visit the Bay Village Branch, 502 Cahoon Road, where the staff would be very happy to give you personal reading recommendations too. We hope to see you soon!
WHAT YOUR NEIGHBORS ARE READING
at the Bay Village Branch Library
Jessica Breslin, Branch Manager
Cuyahoga County Public Library-Bay Village Branch