Celebrating National Poetry Month with Teens

national poetry month 2016Teens experience so much tumult in their lives. With the internet in their back pockets, they get updates on atrocities happening across the globe almost as soon as they happen. Poetry gives them a safe space to express their emotions and provides an opportunity to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences.

And yet poetry continues to have a bad reputation among most teens. Luckily, with novels in verse becoming more and more popular, this may slowly change.

In the past, I’ve tried a couple of different library programs for National Poetry Month in April–blackout poetry and magnetic poetry–and the attendance was abysmal, to say the least.

I’m trying something a little different this year–a passive display with modern-looking poetry bookmarks that I created for the Spirit of Texas-High School Committee. (The bookmarks should be posted by the end of the month if you’re interested.)

The bookmarks were part of programming based off of Margo Rabb’s book Kissing In America, which is absolutely dripping with poetry. This quote by Rainer Maria Rilke was included in the book:

I would like to beg you, dear sir, as well as I can to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I’m one to easily get frustrated with the big questions and unknowns in my life, so Rilke’s words really spoke to me. Teenage years are so confusing–life tends to hand out way more questions than answers–so I wrote the quote as big as I could on our whiteboard in the teen room, hoping it will encourage the teens who come into the library.

What’s your experience with poetry? Do you have a lingering distaste for it from your school years, or have you discovered how delightful it can be? If you’re a librarian, what kind of programs do you do for National poetry Month?

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