Spring is in the air, and so is Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and we love to feature poetry in all its forms during this celebratory period. How many forms can poetry take, you ask?

Well, there's the obvious one of oral readings. Poetry was first and foremost an oral art. The Sheridan Libraries own a surprising number of recordings (in various formats) of poets reading their work, collections of poems read aloud, and other audio recordings related to poetry. You can also check out the American Academy of Poets Web site, where there are many audio clips online. YouTube of course has many video clips of poets reading poetry too.

Works by major poets, like Edmund Spenser, Pablo Neruda, Charles Baudelaire, Goethe, and Lord Byron abound in the libraries' collections. But so do the works of contemporary poets who publish with small presses like Bear Star Press, Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press, and Sarabande Books.

Increasingly, you can find poetry in digital formats: from e-books in the libraries' collections to online archives to individual poets' Web sites.

One last format to consider - periodicals. Many now-famous poems were published first in a literary review or magazine. Browse through some of our poetry periodicals in Special Collections. We have, for example, the first appearance in print of Stéphane Mallarmé's typographical masterpiece "Un coup de dès" in the literary review Cosmopolis; the only printed version of the poem to be supervised by the poet. And a quirky late 19th century San Francisco review "The Lark", created by one Gelett Burgess, author of that famous little poem that my grandmother loved to recite:

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

Well, no one ever said all poetry was actually good!

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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