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Healing through poetry: some of my favorite poets and their works

Last year, I was privileged to put together a poetry series for the Hoover Library featuring original poems by Birmingham poets.  The HPL Poets Society brought over twenty readers reciting original works or their favorite poems virtually.  (All of these recordings can be found on the Hoover Library YouTube channel.)  In doing this series, my passion for poetry was reignited.  My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, passed away in 2019 – leaving me to reread her work and mourn.  During my grieving, I met and became friends with many Birmingham poets and became involved in D.I.S.C.O. – Desert Island Supply Company.  This Woodlawn-based organization works to bring poetry to the schools by placing volunteers where they can help young students create poetry themselves.  During my short stint in working with Putnam Middle School in Birmingham, I saw young students creating an outlet for their despair and joy.  I saw individuals giving voice to fears.  And I believe that is what poetry enables us to do:  express feelings and hidden passions with words.

On Tuesday, April 27th at 6 pm, I am working with Salaam Green, a well-known eco-poet and teacher, to bring about healing through poetry.  The workshop is free – register for this program here. “Writing to Heal: Healing through Poetry” is co-sponsored by the Magic City Poetry Festival (MCPF).  This month MCPF is bringing several events to us here in Birmingham.  This will be the second year the festival has gone virtual – allowing participants from all over to participate.

In the meantime, I bring you my very favorite publications from 2019 – 2021. Whether it was Amanda Gorman’s inspiring inaugural poem in January of 2021 or Nikki Giovanni’s powerful words, poetry gives me fuel to understand the world in a different way.  I’ve also included my favorite Birmingham poet, Ashley M. Jones, founder of the Magic City Poetry Festival.  Explore the words and make them your own during National Poetry Month in April!

dark // thing / Ashley M. Jones. dark // thing is a multifaceted work that explores the darkness/otherness by which the world sees Black people. Ashley M. Jones stares directly into the face of the racism that allows people to be seen as dark things, as objects that can be killed/enslaved/oppressed/devalued. This work, full as it is of slashes of all kinds, ultimately separates darkness from thingness, affirming and celebrating humanity.

Dearly : new poems / Margaret Atwood. In Dearly, Margaret Atwood's first collection of poetry in over a decade, Atwood addresses themes such as love, loss, the passage of time, the nature of nature and - zombies. Her new poetry is introspective and personal in tone, but wide-ranging in topic. In poem after poem, she casts her unique imagination and unyielding, observant eye over the landscape of a life carefully and intuitively lived.

The Hill We Climb: an inaugural poem for the country / Amanda Gorman. On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe.

home body / Rupi Kaur. rupi kaur constantly embraces growth, and in home body, she walks readers through a reflective and intimate journey visiting the past, the present, and the potential of the self. home body is a collection of raw, honest conversations with oneself - reminding readers to fill up on love, acceptance, community, family, and embrace change. Illustrated by the author, themes of nature and nurture, light and dark, rest here.

How to Fly (in ten thousand easy lessons): poetry / Barbara Kingsolver. In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.

Make Me Rain: poems & prose / Nikki Giovanni. One of America's most celebrated poets challenges us with this powerful and deeply personal collection of verse that speaks to the injustices of society while illuminating the depths of her own heart.

The tradition / Jericho Brown. Jericho Brown's daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown's poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we've become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. 

Whale Day: and other poems / Billy Collins. Billy Collins's new collection brings together more than fifty poems and showcases his deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made him one of our country's most celebrated and widely read poets. Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience.

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