Poetry As a Community Builder
Rini Hughes | June 28, 2010
Editor's Note: In case you missed it, this week we're featuring blog posts on ALA Annual Conference programs. This entry focuses "Poetry As a Community Builder: Expanding Community Outreach Through Poetry," designed to help attendees make poetry accessible to your community; the program discussed new ideas and best practices in poetry programs and outreach.
If the three panelists from this morning's session can't turn you on to poetry, you might want to get your hearing checked. Kwame Alexander opened the discussion by reading from his own poetry. His dynamic delivery engaged the listener from the moment he opened his mouth, living evidence of the power of poetry. He was followed by Stephen Young of the Poetry Foundation who talked about exciting programs aimed at getting young adults interested in reading and writing poetry. Linda Holtslander of the Loudoun County Public Library (where, incidentally, Kwame Alexander is Poet-in-Residence) was positively effervescent when she described some of the amazing outreach her library is doing using poetry. The three of them managed to make poetry both glamorous and accessible—even writable by the average person in the street.
There's only room for highlights, so here goes:
Stephen Young told us about how the Poetry Out Loud competition sponsored by the Poetry Foundation attracted 325,000 entries this year, well up from the 35,000 he recalled from the early days. And the Poetry Tool, among other things, developed by the Foundation is an amazing poetry search tool.
Linda Holtslander described many ways to program for the community outside the library as well as ways to bring patrons back into the library based on the outside programming—including reaching out to young adults in juvenile detention. This year's One Book, One Community book is a poetry book: Bicycles by Nikki Giovanni.
Kwame Alexander recounted his experience at Detroit, Michigan's Cass Tech High School when he guided a class through publishing an entire book of their own work in a single day. He also talked about the pleasure of being a Poet-in-Residence and suggested that public libraries invite good (read dynamic) local poets as poets-in-residence giving the poets a "home" and the library a working poet.
Find out more about the outstanding outreach and other programs at the Loudoun County Public Library.
Read more about Book-in-a-Day.
Rini Hughes is student at Pratt Institute in New York; when she completes her degree in May 2011, she plans to work in family literacy.