March 31st will be here in only twenty-one days, and that fact has two layers of significance: first, March 31st will be an opportunity for me to honor the life and legacy of my wonderful mother Juanita who would have celebrated her 69th birthday that day. (By the way, many of the colorful hats that I have been sporting this month were a part of my mother’s magnificent “church hat” collection.) Secondly, March 31st is the last day for individuals to figure out how to celebrate National Poetry Month! Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is held every April. It is a special time for schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets of all ages to come together to celebrate poetry and its vital role in American society and culture.
For me, poetry is as necessary as food and water. Poetry sharpens my critical thinking, boosts my creativity, slows my pace, and forces me to grapple with ambiguity— all essential capacities for effective leadership. Books of poetry populate the shelves in my offices at home and at Hamlin, and a book of poetry is always on the table next to my bed. My mother, ever the practical woman, carried poems in her purse so that she was always ready to inspire and encourage others. She could quickly retrieve a poem lodged between her leather checkbook and hard candies and deliver a powerful reading to one person or hundreds in a manner of minutes. Here’s a poem she used to read with vigor:
Don’t You Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit--
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Here are three more poems for your reading pleasure. These poems were either written by or inspired by Hamlin girls.
Kyoko Hirose (Grade 8)
Dance is now
All people moving freely
Never thinking about anything else
Connections made with others
I leap, soar, fly through the air
Step by step,
Our hearts, souls, bodies together
We dance now.
Avery Garhart (Grade 4)
no sky at all.
a flash of auburn
in a perfect star
a sign of laughter,
a wish for light.
This leaf will be here
(for my sons and the Class of 2013)
Wanda M. Holland Greene
How many times have I used the firm-mommy-voice to say
Pick up your toys
Put away your toys
I am sitting on, tripping over, slipping on, falling over your toys!
Legos between my toes
Stuffies in my bed
Little cars in the bottom of my tote bag?
Rubber duckies on the edge of my grown-up tub
Toys and more toys
The story of motherhood is told in toys.
The memories of your childhood are shared in toys.
So we cannot put the toys away
Or put our stories on the shelf.
We need our building blocks and connectors.
It is true that 13 year-olds have work
And 14 year-olds have serious days
But we must remind them to play
Dance like maniacs
Sing like superstars
Giggle like clowns
Read a book
Throw a ball
Dress a doll
Paint a picture
Write a poem.
Grow and Stay, boys.
Work and Play, girls.
And Love each other
To infinity and beyond.
Get excited for National Poetry Month—twenty-one days from now! Perhaps you love reading, writing, and listening to poetry, or maybe you are still trying to figure out what kind of poetry speaks to your heart. Either way, please click this link
and subscribe to Poem-A-Day. A poem will be emailed to you each day. Read the poem to your daughter as a way of increasing her vocabulary and reading fluency. Write a poem with her to strengthen her grammar and writing skills. I know that I will read at least two poems per day during the month of April. I can’t think of a better way to pause, reflect, appreciate beautiful images, and contemplate some of life’s greatest questions.