Every year, April is set aside as National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Here, at the Examiner, we’ll have coverage of poets and their books and their ideas with a focus on the local. But one nagging question I always hear from people is that poetry is boring or just too difficult to understand. So I issued a challenge to some poets out there to answer the question, “Why should people read poetry anyway?” You’ll find their responses here. Celebrate this month and read some poetry, write some yourself or attend one of the many local readings in your town.
Alan Chong Lau
IE Arts Editor
“Poetry is like a map. If you follow a trend, you’re gonna lose your way. If it’s a bad map, you’ll never go back. If it’s a good map, you get to see water, mountain ranges, deserts. You stop at the gas stations and talk with the people. You follow that road willingly, full with tree frog sounds, like a jazz riff deep inside from a long ago summer.”
Shirley Ancheta co-edited the Filipino American poetry collection, ‘Without Names’ (Kearny Street Workshop Press). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. She is the widow of poet Jeff Tagami. She makes her home in Santa Cruz, CA
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“To reinvigorate their relationship to language, which is ebbed and chipped by functional prompts, which have a bottomless font of their own, don’t you think?”
—Anna Maria Hong
Anna Maria Hong is the Visiting Creative Writer at Ursinus College and a former Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her fiction and poetry recently appear in The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, The Nation, Green Mountains Review, Fence, Drunken Boat, Dusie, Conduit, and The Best American Poetry. She is a Contributing Editor at The Offing.
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“Metaphorical thinking is a critical thinking skill involving empathy. Poets use metaphor to convey the emotions of a moment. To show an understanding of an individual’s pain, suffering, joy and ecstasy poets employ metaphor to convey to their readers or listeners that they are not alone.”
—Oliver de la Paz
Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry, the most recent being “Post Subject: A Fable” (University of Akron Press 2014). He co-chairs Kundiman, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American poetry. He teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
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“Poetry incites the very practical expansion of one’s capacity for empathy and connection to the world outside the self. Poetry teaches us to read the complex simultaneity of the world—the many truths contained in single moments, the music beneath our transactions of language, the lived intersections of experiences and identities.”
Michelle Penaloza is the author of “landscape/heartbreak” (Two Sylvias Press) and “Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes” (Organic Weapon Arts).
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“Poetry is an art form. It is also an expression of our human nature. Literary patterns, verses in the language of words used to capture nature or the human experience in all its various shapes, feelings and emotions with immediacy, clarity and style can connect us on profound levels to our essential nature and moral awareness as fellow beings.”
Genny Lim’s award-winning play “Paper Angles” was the first Asian American play featured on PBS’s American Playhouse in 1985, and was produced in Seattle and Tacoma in 2015 and the Seattle Fringe Festival in 2016. She is the author of three poetry collections, “Child of War,” Winter Place,” “Paper Gods and Rebels” and co-author of the American Book Award winning, “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island,” re-published in a new and expanded edition in 2014. Lim is also a noted poet performer and has collaborated with Jon Jang, Francis Wong, Bobby Bradford and Herbie Lewis and the late Max Roach among many others.
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“My poetry teacher once said, “Fill the sky with poems, not bombs.” Throughout the ages we humans have written poems. It fulfills the same urge that makes us express ourselves in music. Just as music can connect to our hearts and minds in mysteriously powerful ways, poems can do the same.”
Amy Uyematsu is a sanest poet and teacher from Los Angeles. Her most recent book is “The Yellow Door.”
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“I was compelled recently to re-read William Butler Yeats poem, “Easter, 1916.”*
—Lawson Fusao Inada
Lawson Fusao Inada is the author of “Before the War: Poems As They Happened”; “Legends From Camp,” which won an American Book Award; and “Drawing the Line.” He co-edited the seminal work, “Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Literature” and the follow-up volume, “The Big Aiiieeeee!” He edited “Only What We Could Carry—The Japanese American internment Experience.” He was poet laureate of Oregon is an emeritus professor of English at Southern Oregon College.
* Editor’s note—The poem Lawson Fusao Inada refers to is considered one of the most powerful political poems of the 20th century. In 1916, around a thousand Irish Republicans who wanted to establish an independent Ireland led an insurrection that was brutally put down a week later by the British government. Many of its leaders were executed. Yeats’ poem describes his own torn emotions. Though he sympathized with the cause, the poet rejected violence as a way to achieve Irish independence. One of his great loves was a woman in this movement and one of the leaders of this movement was a love rival Yeats considered a bully. Yet this poem shows Yeats working through his feelings and in the process, writing a powerful poem for an independent Ireland that would resonate throughout the years. To hear this poem read in its entirety, go to https://youtu.be/7RODe9l9SM0.