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Friday, April 25, 2014

Scribble a Verse for Poetry Month*

What better way to celebrate April than to enjoy a little poetry? 

Grab a poetry book and start reading. Or, start scribbling lines that capture your imagination and (keen) sense of observation. Go ahead and try. You’ll be amazed at what you did!

E.D. Hirsch Jr., professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, and author-editor of more than a dozen books, including “The Core Knowledge” series, and “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know,” wrote that “one way to bring our children into the spirit of poetry is to read it aloud to them; another is to encourage them to speak it aloud so they can directly experience the sounds of language.” 

Through poetry, children can understand the power of language to create vivid word pictures. “A child’s knowledge of poetry should come first from pleasure and only later from analysis,” he said.

I love poetry. Poems inspire; they can make you smile. They can give you (new) meaning to life; they can educate and liberate. They can unite people, too.

(When I was younger, growing up in the Philippines, we used to memorize and recite short poems in class. Remember those funny “Mother Goose” nursery rhymes? Those tongue-twisting alliterations? “Hickory, dickory, dock/ The mouse ran up the clock/ The clock struck one/ The mouse ran down/ Hickory, dickory, dock.”)

Let’s have a trivia game and  see how well you know our poets:

1)  He’s famous for his Chicago poems. (Carl Sandburg)

2) She delivered her passionate convocation address on April 17, 2007, following the Virginia Tech school shooting. (Nikki Giovanni)

3) Famous for his “Howl” and Other Poems. (Allen Ginsberg)

4) Once a student of the University of Virginia who penned The Raven and Annabel Lee. (Edgar Allan Poe)

5) An acclaimed author and poet who recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. (Maya Angelou)

6) He wrote "Leaves of Grass." (Walt Whitman)

7) American lawyer and author who penned our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." (Francis Scott Key)

8) The first African American U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-1995) and the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. (Rita Dove)

9) At age 86, he read his poem, “The Gift Outright” at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961. (Robert Frost)

10) The first U.S. Poet Laureate to have served three terms (1997-2000). (Robert Pinsky)

(Other poets that come to mind, at this time, are Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein.)

April is National Poetry Month in the United States. Marie Bullock founded the Academy of American Poets in 1934 “to support American poets and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.” The academy started the National Poetry Month in 1996 ("to increase awareness of poetry in the public, and the media, while creating more interest in the art form.”) 

The academy sponsors poetry readings, creates displays in bookstores, gives tips on the teaching of poetry to different audiences.

Each year, the Library of Congress designates a poet laureate, whose mission is to promote the reading and writing of poetry in the United States. Serving a second term (2012-2014) is Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate of Mississippi. She’s the author of four poetry collections and a book of creative nonfiction.
Virginia, too, has a poet laureate, appointed by the governor from among the nominees submitted by the Poetry Society of Virginia. Presently serving her second year as Poet Laureate of Virginia (2012-2014) is Sofia M. Starnes, a writer of Philippine-Spanish heritage. Recipient of poetry awards and fellowship, she’s the author of five poetry collections.

Enjoy your poems, be they limericks, haikus, sonnets, ballads or free verse!

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a North Suffolk resident, is a retired U.S. Navy veteran. He maintains a blog at onebuddingpoet/ Email him at

*Published in the print edition of award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, April 25, 2014. For more information, visit

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