Poetry: a Universal Language

April is always Poetry Month, and while most of us think of Walt Whitman or T.S. Eliot when we hear the word poetry, there are many famous and fabulous poets who write in languages other than English. From Dante, the Prince of Poets in medieval Italy, to Osip Mandelstam in 20th century Russia.

The last poet to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Wislawa Szymborska (Poland) in 1996. She joined fellow Nobel laureates who were poets from other lands:

The Sheridan Libraries subscribe to several good online archives of literary texts (including poetry) in Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Look under the heading "Texts" or "E-Texts" in these subject lists to find them.

But why limit yourself to the "printed word"? There are many audio archives on the Web as well, that include poets of many languages. And the Web sites of writing programs, such the one at the University of Pennsylvania that sponsors Poetry to the People, are also good sources for online poetry recordings.

The Eisenhower Library is overflowing with books of poetry in many languages. In French, check out Charles Baudelaire or Blaise Cendrars. In Spanish, Antonio Machado or Federico García Lorca. Back to Italy and Russia for Giacomo Leopardi and Marina Svetaeva. We collect in original languages and English translation, as well as secondary literature (criticism) on poets.

While you're celebrating Poetry Month, don't forget to enter the haiku contest, and explore Japanese poetry in the process!

About Sue Waterman

Librarian for German and Romance Languages and Literature, the Humanities Center, and the Program in Jewish Studies. Curator for Modern European Literature

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