There are many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, from signing up to receive a poem every day in April to making a poetry playlist on your favorite music app. You can also delve into different forms of poetry, or learn about an influential poet, through the Penn Libraries’ Featured Books and DVDs.
As always, you can find the selections highlighted below, and many more, on display on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, next to New Books. Additionally, some of our selections are available to view in our special collections: Cherry-Blossoms and Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's Gift are both collected in a special edition in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts; and “After Mecca” is included in the Joanna Banks Collection of African American Books. You can request to view any of these items in their special collections form by visiting the catalog record (linked below), selecting the Kislak Center version or the version labeled “rare,” and clicking “request to view.”
Note: The descriptions below are collected from publishers and edited for brevity and clarity.
- Cherry-Blossoms: Japanese Haiku Series III translations of poems by Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and others.
Step into a series of dazzling, funny, melancholic, and joyous moments with this collection of haiku masterworks. Beloved translator Peter Beilenson’s goals were twofold: to craft a book of haiku accessible to anyone, and to render his best guess at what the poets would have written in English. His translations preserve the sublime spirit of each verse, conjuring vivid visual and emotional impressions in spare words.
- "After Mecca": Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement by Cheryl Clarke
The politics and music of the ’60s and early ’70s have been the subject of scholarship for many years, but only recently has attention turned to the cultural production of African American poets. After Mecca explores the relationship between the Black Arts Movement and Black women writers of the period. Cheryl Clarke charts the emergence of a new and distinct Black poetry and its relationship to the Black community's struggle for rights and liberation. Through the theme of "Mecca," Clarke explores the ways in which these writers were turning away from white, Western society to create a new literacy of Blackness.
- Reading Lyrics edited by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball
Explore more than 1,000 of the best American and English song lyrics of the 20th century in this anthology of some of the most important lyricists of the last century, including the lyrics of George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Dorothy Field, Frank Loesser, Johnny Mercer, and more. This history, which covers the time period 1900-1975, also celebrates the work of dozens of superb craftspeople whose songs remain known, but who today are themselves less known. The lyricists are presented chronologically, each introduced by a biography and commentary.
- Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's Gift by Nikki Grimes, with illustrations from Ashley Bryan
In this colorful book for children ages 7 and older, 13 interrelated poems and as many radiant illustrations create not only a celebration of the ancient art of weaving but a joyful exploration of how love and hard work can mesh separate threads — or separate people — into a harmonious whole. Ashley Bryan, the illustrator, donated the book to the Penn Libraries as part of his archive in 2019. Learn more about Bryan this month through the Kislak exhibit, Beautiful Blackbird: The Creative Spirit of Ashley Bryan.
- Care Ethics and Poetry by Maurice Hamington and Ce Rosenow
The first book to address the relationship between poetry and feminist care ethics argues that morality, and more specifically, moral progress, is a product of inquiry, imagination, and confronting new experiences. Engaging poetry, therefore, can contribute to the habits necessary for a robust moral life―specifically, caring. Each chapter offers poems that can provoke considerations of moral relations without explicitly moralizing. The book contributes to valorizing poetry and aesthetic experience as much as it does to reassessing how we think about care ethics.
- Nṛan Guyně (The Color of Pomegranates)
In a series of tableaux that blend the tactile with the abstract, The Color of Pomegranates revives the splendors of Armenian culture through the story of the 18th-century troubadour Sayat-Nova, charting his intellectual, artistic, and spiritual growth through iconographic compositions rather than traditional narrative. The film’s tapestry of folklore and metaphor departed from the realism that dominated the Soviet cinema of its era, leading authorities to block its distribution, with rare underground screenings presenting it in a restructured form.
- Blinded by the Light
Set in 1987, during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, Blinded by the Light is a joyous, coming-of-age story about a teenager who learns to live life, understand his family, and find his own voice through the words and music of Bruce Springsteen. Javed is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels between the singer's powerful lyrics and his own working-class environment. Springsteen's melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice and follow his dreams.
- Don’t Be Nice
The upstart Bowery Slam Poetry Team, made up of five African-American, Afro-Hispanic, and queer poets in their 20s, prepares for the national championships. As their coach pushes them past their personal boundaries to write from a painfully honest place, the poets break down, break through, and ultimately write their masterpiece. An emotional and inspiring film that gives insightful commentary on race, gender, identity, and sexual politics in America today, Don't Be Nice is both an absorbing competition doc and a vital writer's workshop that proves once and for all that winning hearts and minds is the ultimate prize.
- ASL Poetry: Selected Works of Clayton Valli
A total of 21 selected works by ASL poet Dr. Clayton Valli are recited by a diversity of signers using a wide variety of styles. Host Lon Kuntze guides the viewer through the hidden meanings in the poems, affording a keen understanding of the material. Through Kuntze’s narration, the viewer will gain an appreciation for how ASL poems are created and will actually see similarities between a written English poem intended to be read aloud and an ASL poem recited through sign language.
- Who Owns Jack Kerouac?
Jack Shea's Who Owns Jack Kerouac? is a powerful and controversial documentary exploring the relationship between the author of On the Road and his never-acknowledged daughter, Jan Kerouac. It is the record of Shea’s cross-country journey searching for answers to the controversy over Kerouac’s estate.