July 26, 2018

Restoring the Walt Whitman Neighborhood in New Jersey

Whitman's home is second from the left on the busy street now-named Martin Luther King Blvd.

I was glad to see a recent article about Walt Whitman's home (a National Historic Landmark) in Camden, New Jersey. It is still there, but the home and the surrounding neighborhood have needed some work.  A $895,730 contract for design work was awarded this month by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which owns the structures, to upgrade this historical, literary, and architectural gem.

The Walt Whitman Association is an all-volunteer association that goes back to friends and fans who knew and supported Whitman and his work during his lifetime. The organization has encouraged Whitman studies and promoting the house for the past hundred years. The association diligently lobbied for the “Whitman’s neighborhood” project.

The new plans call for the exteriors of the three houses, including the former home of noted architect Stephen Decatur Button at #332, to be restored to their original appearance. The three interiors are to be re-purposed as exhibit areas and other facilities for visitor and educational programs, as well as association and state park offices.

Whitman bought the house in 1884 and lived there until his death in 1892.

Whitman's surprisingly grand tomb is also in Camden.

The Mickle Street home and its neighbors - other adjoining homes have since been demolished. Image Library of Congress, 1890

July 13, 2018

More People Are Reading Poetry

I like finding surveys that say that more people are reading poetry. 28 million American adults read poetry this year according to a survey of arts participation conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the U.S. Census Bureau. That is the highest percentage of poetry readership in more than 15 years.

“We’ve never seen an increase in poetry reading. If anything there had been a decline — a pretty sharp decline — since about 2002 at least,” said Sunil Iyengar, NEA director of research and analysis."

The full arts participation report won’t be released until later this year, but they thought the results were too significant not to share early.

Young adults and certain racial ethnic groups account for a large portion of the increase. U.S. poetry readers aged 18 to 24 more than doubled, jumping from 8 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2017. Among people of color, African Americans and Asian Americans are reading poetry at the highest rates — which more than doubled in the last five years — up 15 and 12 percent, respectively.

Other notable increased readership groups include women, rural Americans and those with only some college education.

This kind of data is of interest to the NEA’s mission of increasing participation in the arts, and they have found in other studies how reading tends to be a portal to other types of participation and other types of engagement, in the arts and outside the arts.

July 7, 2018

Prompt: Summer Haiku

Oiran in Summer Kimono - Attributed to Hosoda Eishi (Japan, 1756-1829) - via Wikimedia
While we are on vacation this month, we are offering a different prompt and submission option. Here we are going to give you a brief summer haiku prompt and ask that if you write a poem to the prompt that you post it below as a comment. All comments on this blog require approval, so there will still be some gentle screening of submissions, but let's assume that everyone can follow the simple rules, will post and will be approved.

We have written here in the past about haiku more than a dozen times, and had specific posts and prompts about spring, autumn and winter haiku. Somehow, summer was overlooked. This month we remedy that.

The haiku form doesn't get the respect it deserves. It seems so simple that it is often used with children as a first formal poetry assignment. But good haiku is not that easy to write.

People notice that many famous haiku poems don't seem to follow the rules we usually hear for haiku verse: three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. That is both because the classic Chinese and Japanese poets of haiku were not working with syllables and because in translation to English the syllabication is usually ignored.

We will ask you to follow that 5-7-5 in your poems, but perhaps more importantly are some of the other "rules" for haiku.

Most classic haiku follow the culture and influence of Buddhism in the way that the poems emphasize a single moment.

Most haiku focus on something in nature.

In the traditional form, they contain either a direct or indirect reference to a season that turns the reader's attention to the passage of time. They often do this by using a seasonal word rather than naming the season. That seasonal word is called kigo (KEY-GO). In the examples below, the cricket and firefly suggest summer.

Here are a few examples:

The cool breeze.
With all his strength
The cricket.
      ~  ISSA

This warm river
I walk across it
holding my sandals
      ~  BUSON

This hot summer night.
The dream and real
are same things.

Even a woodpecker
wouldn’t crack the tea hut.
in the summer grove.

Their own fires
are on the trees
fireflies around the house with flowers.
     ~  BASHO

Post your own summer haiku as a comment to this post.

Firefly by  Shoen Uemura - via Wikimedia

July 6, 2018

When Poets Go On Vacation

POETS ONLINE is taking the month of July off for summer vacation. No new writing prompt this month. Even our web server seems to be vacationing lately, so we will try to rest everyone for a few weeks and hopefully return in August refreshed.

Tomorrow, we will post a kind of prompt alternative that doesn't require any coding on our part.

We will also try to stay offline, but the laptop will be there with us, and we will check in on the blog and our Facebook pages during the month.