National Poetry Month rolls around every April, and every April I think to myself, “I should read more poetry.” Books are lined up on my bookshelf, some on recommendations from others, bought so that maybe this year I will start to read poetry regularly. My battered Norton Anthology of Poetry sits stuffed with post-its and college notations. A used copy of Poetic Meter and Form. A complete Emily Dickinson. Works of T.S. Eliot. Rilke’s Book of Hours. Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground, a gift from a friend. Wendell Berry, David Whyte, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, all just waiting to be opened and read.
My relationship with poetry has been a winding one. I’m sure as a child my ear for rhythm was awakened through many fine children’s books that use a rhyming structure for their story. But I believe it was L. M. Montgomery, in her Anne and Emily books, that introduced the concept of poetry as a created thing. Who can forget Anne’s obsession with Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, that led her into the leaky dory and stranded her under the bridge, where Gilbert had to rescue her? Montgomery’s lesser known Emily trilogy (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest) features a main character more autobiographical of Montgomery herself. Emily Starr is a deeply sensitive and creative girl who struggles to develop as a writer and stay true to that pursuit. Following Emily’s journey I saw her use poetry to express her emotions and her imagination, finding the right words to convey the beauty seen around her.