Windows and Mirrors - Rhyme and Reason by Florence Sprague, April 2018

April is National Poetry Month. People often associate poetry with ambiguity, obscurity, and torturous English papers analyzing symbolism. It’s time to look at poetry again. The world is awash in poetry today and some of the poems are quite remarkable. They can helpus to build bridges.

Sample a variety of poets from different communities at the library or on the internet. Ask friends for recommendations and, when you find a poet with whom you connect, keep reading. No one will connect with all poems, but a good poet can find amazing ways to reveal the heart of an issue.

Poetry is frequently more accessible when heard, rather than read; witness the popularity of spoken word and rap. Even traditional poetry benefits from the human voice. Some countries, like Russia, have a strong tradition of poetry readings. Here, the youth are leading the way. Much of contemporary poetry is specifically intended to be heard. Spoken word artists gather to perform their works in a variety of venues, from coffee shops to classrooms to churches. Rap is also poetry, spoken poetry with the addition of a beat and sometimes music. This poetry

is often spoken with tongue-twisting rapidity and may be sprinkled with vulgar language, but it clearly reaches huge audiences of young people of all races. As in any genre, some of it won’t reach you, but seek out poets whose voices touch politics or social issues and skip the crude ones.

One St. Paul spoken word artist that I admire is Tish Jones. Check out her poem “Tracks” and her interview on TPT’s MN Original ( ). Find the text of “Tracks” at Tish addresses the issues facing us today with a clear vision.  She also supports other poets through the organization TruArtSpeaks ( which is “Exploring the intersections of arts, civic engagement, and youth development.” This work for equity, safe spaces, and mentoring can reach young people when other programs might not, giving them a voice and greater stability.

The files of MN Original are a good place to learn more about local poets from a variety of communities. It has featured more than a dozen poets and supporting organizations, from Minneapolis’s new councilwoman Andrea Jenkins, whose poems share with us the challenges of a transgender woman, to Moheb Soliman, a Minnesotan of Egyptian heritage who writes about nature, the Great Lakes, and belonging.

Two poets who have built a bridge are Felice Belle and Jennifer Murphy. In their TED Talk, “How we became sisters,” the poets, one black and one white, perform poems and excerpts from their play. We could all use friends and sisters like these. Watch the Ted Talk at:

Poetry can connect us in beautiful and unexpected ways: opening doors and windows, evoking images and memories, nurturing emotions and connections. It can be deeply satisfying. Read or listen and follow your heart. Happy spring!  April is National Poetry Month!