It’s an interesting time, April. April is a month of excitement. Spring starts to come (and with it Spring Break for many of us). Trees and flowers bloom; you can start to wear shorts and sandals (unless, of course, you’re in one of those places where it’s still snowing). And the list of random (and sometimes obscure) holidays is long and varied. There are three subjects that are up for discussion all month as well. Two should be celebrated; the others are more for pondering and deep consideration either on your own or with friends or peers.
National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month. As a lit freak, I considered, for a moment, making you all read, discuss, and dissect Yeats’ The Second Coming. But instead, I’ll leave that to the English teachers, and we’ll look at a couple different kinds of poetry.
The Realm of Possibility was published in 2006, so many of you might have read it already. But if you haven’tâ€”go. Find. It. Now. If you have, you might want to revisit it. David Levithan can seriously work in any textual medium. I was drawn to the book itself because it has a claddagh on the coverâ€”and I love claddaghs. But then, I started to read. Using all different voices and styles, Levithan tells us the story of a bunch of high schoolers of all different backgrounds and situations. And the short text is strangely satisfying. Check out the excerpt on his website. You won’t be disappointed, even if you don’t like poetry.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. I came across this collection twice this yearâ€”when I first got a new copy of the Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, and later when I found myself singing a recent composition to the poem â€œGospel Cha Cha,â€ one of the â€œmoods.â€ Each one is a two column poemâ€”the first column is the poem itselfâ€”and while they range in subjects, â€œGospel Cha Chaâ€ is still my favorite. The second column is Hughes’ description of the music he heard in his head, how he wanted someone to set it to music should they decide to do so. There have been a few musical collections made, and people are still making them. So if you happen to see an advertisement for a reading or performance of it, check it out.
It’s also National Poetry Writing Month (or, NaPoWriMo). So, if you are a writer, skilled or dilettante, now’s your time to write something. If you want to share it with the world, go to NaPoWriMo’s website. If you want to write something, but don’t know what, or don’t want to take on the challenge or endeavor of writing for the rest of the month, check out this previous post on Figment, a website for writers to write, read, discuss, and collaborate.
National Arab American Heritage Month
April is also Arab American Heritage Month. This particular celebratory time doesn’t get the attention it deserves, mostly because there’s still a scary stigma about Arabs in this country–but Arab Americans are Americans, too, so let’s celebrate their heritage here, even if it is only through a couple of books.
Because it says it in much better words than I ever could, check out this review of Naomi Shibab Nye’s Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose on Teen Book Review. Nye’s book of poems and short prose is not only an intriguing discussion of what it is like to be an Arab American in the current age, but is also some darn good poetry.
Does My Head Look Big in This speaks the voice of a Muslim teenager in the western world in an open and endearing way. While Amal, the main character, lives in Australia instead of the United States, her issues are similar to those of a girl growing up in the states–image, school, friends, faith. Check out this interview with Randa Abdel-Fattah, the author.
For a look into other Arab lives as well as other cultures, this month or any, have a look at this list, a Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults segment from 2003.
Sexual Assault Awareness/National Child Abuse Prevention Month
While we can’t keep every child from being abused or every person from being sexually assaulted, we can still discuss the problem, and maybe think about what we can do to prevent it in our own lives and maybe even the lives of others. Novels are only one person’s story, but they can still make us think about what we see, what we do, what we don’t do, and what we’d like to do.
If Push didn’t go on your to-read list when you saw Precious, or when I mentioned it for Black History Month, it should definitely be considered a point for discussion during this month for both awareness and prevention. Similarly, even if you’ve read it already, have a discussion with yourself or with others about the things that go onâ€”and what could have happened differentlyâ€”in Margaret A. Edwards Award winner and Printz Honoree Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.
A different kind of read for contemplation of this topic is David Klass’ You Don’t Know Me, a novel told by John, a teenager being abused by his mother’s boyfriend. The more common stories that are told about child abuse seem to me to deal with the sexual abuse of small children, or even older childrenâ€”mostly girls. But this is neither about sexual abuse nor about a small child. This story tells us in a way that is rarely seen that, even for the big kids, the bullies aren’t always at school.
Oh, and it’s just a great novel, too. So read it (and everything else I’ve talked about) next month if you have to, even next year, but read it.
Finally, just for a little fun, here’s a little ditty in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day.
Trees by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
–Jessica Pryde, Currently reading Safe House by Meg Cabot, cause she couldn’t find the 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU books when she was in high school.