National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, Inspired by the success of Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March, Poetry Month takes place every April in order to mark poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives. Two local authors and poets, David Harrison and Marcus Cafagna, joined us in studio this morning to read a few of their poems and talk about the importance of the art of poetry.
Marcus Cafagna is both published poet and professor in the Missouri State University English Department, where he serves as Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program. David L. Harrison published his first book for children in 1969 and, according to his website, sold over two million copies.
Harrison specializes in writing for children, both prose and poetry. "Poetry has won the hearts of a lot of young people over the years, as a growing number of poets find that audience to be a delightful one, and eager to learn. And poetry in the classroom has earned a place as a teaching tool. So in addition to the fun and joy of poetry in general, now we have put it in the teacher's toolbox too. Poetry, well-done, is an aid to developing reading fluency, understanding, comprehension, vocabulary, and a sense of the world around." Harrison also advocates for encouraging youngsters to try their hand at writing poetry--though he cautions against being too critical of kids' first poetic efforts in terms of form and content. After all, they're just beginning, he says. "I look at my first poems and I think, 'Whew! What was I thinking?'"
At the college level, Marcus Cafagna teaches poetry and creative writing to both undergraduates and grad students here at Missouri State University. "And because some of our introductory Creative Writing classes double as general education courses, we get students from all across the disciplines coming into poetry-writing classes. Many of them think they have no idea what a poem is, and I'm happy to say many of them leave the course with a pretty good idea of what a poem is. Some of them go on to be poets themselves."
Both gentlemen were eager to read some whimsical examples of their own poetry for KSMU listeners. David Harrison brought one from his book "Now You See Them, Now You Don't," about the natural camouflage used by animals to hide or hunt. It's in the form of a note written by a copperhead snake to the vole (a small mouse-like rodent) it's hunting. His other choice was "It's Me," inspired by Andy Warhol's iconic Marilyn Monroe painting (the one with the numerous recurring images of the actress...).
Cafagna brought "Diapers," inspired by his son's decision, at age 4, that he was done wearing diapers... and how as one moves toward old age, sometimes diapers aren't to be shunned(!). (As this 61-year-old interviewer told Cafagna when he finished, "Brother, you're preachin' to the choir!") His other selection was also inspired by real-life events: "Nicely Woven Inside," about an adventure Cafagna and his wife had with a street vendor in Italy selling neckties--and describing them in very broken English.
(Sorry, I can't reproduce the texts here--you'll need to listen to the sound file above.)
By the way, David Harrison will make an appearance at Springfield's Barnes and Noble store, 3055 S. Glenstone Avenue, on Saturday April 28 from 10:00am to noon to sign copies of his newest book for children, "Crawly School for Bugs."
There are many ways to participate in National Poetry Month. You can follow National Poetry Month events taking place at www.poets.org, and follow the Academy of American Poets on Twitter @POETSorg.