April was National Poetry Month in the US, a fact that might have passed me by had I not been a long-time follower of David over at The Dad Poet.I first came across his blog when I spotted his reading of John Keats’ Ode to Autumn on YouTube. He has a wonderful voice for reading poetry. He read Keats with an American accent; yet his reading was better than many of the all-too-theatrical versions by British actors who often fail to make the words feel authentic. After all, Keats had, by all accounts, a London, rather than an Old Etonian accent. Great actors such as Sir Ralph Richardson read Keats as they would read Shelley or Byron. Not wrong exactly, but not quite right for me.
Back to The Dad Poet, as he says not to be confused with the Dead Poet. In April he pledged to post a poem a day; offering a video of his reading, not simply the text. Sometimes he would include a reading by an actor – there were some marvelous readings by Matthew MacFadyen (here reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 for example.) But at all times he let the poems take the centre stage and his selection was wide and eclectic: Stevie Smith, W.H. Auden, the wonderful Robert Frost (and a rather poor early Keats poem…) Maya Angelou, Frank O’Hara, May Swenson and the great Billy Collins. I was introduced to collections I had barely dipped into.
He admitted to spending a considerable amount of his time, even in the smallest room in the house, surrounded by anthologies trying to pick the best poem for the next day’s reading. He included his lovely family of sons in the process and it has built up into a terrific record of not just a month of poetry but a month in one man’s life. It doesn’t require lots of biographical detail, although sometimes a snippet sneaks into the introduction to the blog post accompanying each video, but it is a map of moods as the month goes on, whether Dad/David intended it or not. After all, isn’t that what poetry is about? Distilling our mood to points of recognition that can always move, but which can occasionally spear your heart with a recognition so intense that it can literally take your breath away?
I know poetry is not something everyone finds easy to enjoy. It does require a lot of work sometimes to really ‘get’ it, whatever that ‘it’ might be. But in my view it is always worth the effort. Even if you decide that a particular poem or poet is not one you want to read more of, you can see your analysis of the lines as something of a puzzle solved, or understood. A little bit of detective work, the conclusions reached yours alone; for often it doesn’t matter what the poet meant, it is what it means for you that is important.
I can’t get any of the videos to embed, so here is a link to The Dad Poet’s YouTube channel for the 30 days of National Poetry Month. David is a talented poet in his own right, so look out for his own work hidden modestly amongst the well-known names. He is also generous with his comments and discussions on the subject of poetry in general and I heartily recommend his blog as a ‘follow’ for any lover of words and the muse. So thank you ‘sonofwalt’ – you gave me such a lot of pleasure in April 2012 and it is so nice to have poetic connections even across the ocean.