National Poetry Month, April 15, 2014

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

My morning yesterday began happily and boisterously – at Mary’s Montessori School in Boone – in front of about twenty children, ranging in age from 2 to 5, tiered above me in rows, as if on bleachers, while I sat on the teeny mystery reader stool and read a sampling of poems by Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein.

Jack Prelutsky

Jack Prelutsky

I was introduced by my favorite neighbor, three year-old Vivian Davidson, who lives just across the road from Joan and me. Vivian told her classmates my name, that I was her neighbor, that I had two cars and a cat. Which sums it up nicely.

For the past many months, on the Poet Laureate trail, I’ve done a little program with children K through second grade called “Poems Are Stories Too.” Easy enough. I just walk into their classrooms and read them wacky poems and act crazy with them while they howl and wiggle and offer up their own zany rejoinders.

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

I love to read Shel Silverstein’s poems, particularly “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle me Too.” I invite the kids join me in the chorus of “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle me Too,” initially in a whisper, then building in volume, stanza by stanza, and culminating with a final resounding crescendo. Check out Shel himself in a rousing rendition of the poem.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

While I’m on the subject of Shel Silverstein, it’s very much worth mentioning that he was a song writer and that one if his stupendous credits is that he wrote “A Boy Named Sue,” a song Johnny Cash made famous. In fact, you can truly see the verbal agility that Silverstein delighted children with in “A Boy Named Sue.” We can’t leave here today without seeing and hearing Johnny himself perform it.

Silverstein also wrote “One’s on the Way.” Here’s Loretta Lynn singing it.

A very happy birthday to Terry Kennedy. I’m awfully pleased to feature his poem (another prose poem to add to this month’s inventory), “The Bright Forever,” from his new book, New River Breakdown(Unicorn Press, Greensboro, 2013)

Terry Kennedy

Terry Kennedy

The Bright Forever

You will be leaving soon, drifting to where you cannot find me—our days a flock of blackbirds gone south for the winter. I miss already your words at play: laughter that breaks the skin of the river again & again. Behind the house, smoke drifts from the neighbor’s chimney, the birdbath’s empty—I have no words for this: I am lost in the crunch and click of the frost—its voice an accusation: I do not want you to forget my name but when you do, promise to remember what we had, to linger in every goodbye like the last wren at the feeder, like the salt on your skin after making love. Our time together was marked by more laughter than tears—these notes, they’ll continue sailing; there is nothing else like them.

Terry L. Kennedy is the author of two collections of poetry including the recently released New River Breakdown. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is editor of the online journal storySouth.

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