In our February subscriber exclusive, we interviewed children’s author Kimberly Johnson. One of her lasting inspirations is her grandmother’s recitation of poetry.
Kimberly names Dr. Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Shel Silverstein among her favorite childhood influences. As a children’s writer, she prefers to write in verse, influenced by her grandparents, Amos and Lucy Pearson, who raised her. She has a special place in her heart for poetry, inspired by her grandmother, who recited poems from memory.
“My grandparents were amazing storytellers,” says Kimberly. “They were illiterate. My grandmother could read a little bit, but my grandfather couldn’t read. They never looked at the words. That was so amazing to me, how they could know a great story without even looking at it. And then they would tell it in such a way that it would come to life. So I started finding books at school that I could read just like they told a story. I would read and make the stories come to life. Even now, I see how important that was to my life. When I present, I pull from those days.”
In honor of April’s National Poetry Month, we want to how poetry has influenced your life. Is there a poem you’ve read many times? A line or two you recite for inspiration? Do you write poetry? Here’s what our readers shared:
Naomi: One of my favorites, especially for springtime, is this stanza from a poem called “Easter Hymn” by Thomas Blackburn: “Awake, thou wintry earth, Fling off thy sadness; Fair vernal flowers laugh forth Your ancient gladness.”
Alexander: I like to write poetry because it allows me to convey emotions in ways other mediums don’t. It brings words to life.
Katelyn: I write a poem each week. Sometimes my poems are profound, sometimes silly, sometimes very serious. They often reflect my mood or things that have happened that week. Writing in the form of a poem helps me see my experience and the world around me through new eyes. And… it’s cheaper than therapy.
William: I’m a pretty simple guy. I don’t mind poems I can understand. For example, “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman. As he shows the carpenter, the boatman, the mother, and so on, all singing, I’m pretty sure it means we all have our own song to sing.
Elizabeth: My favorite poem is “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by William Butler Yeats. It reminds me of all the beauty we long for and would give to those we love if we could, as well as the interconnectedness of our dreams and desires. “I, being poor, have only my dreams;… Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
Diane: Rilke’s Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. I could read it for hours and hours. Just beautiful. My favorite.
Betty: Shel Silverstein is my favorite. I love to read his poems to my grandchildren. They conjure such wonderful imagery and discussions!
Karen: My sister Lori has written “Roses are red, Violets are blue” poems since she was five (that’s more than thirty years ago!). That’s my favorite kind of poetry: homemade with love.
April is National Poetry Month. On Twitter, track #NationalPoetryMonth for a wide range of activities, events, and inspiring poets. There are many modern-day poets in your neighborhood that are online as well as performing readings in nearby cities and universities. Let us know what new favorite poetry you discover!
Tell us about the poetry in your life.