Before cave paintings, hieroglyphs on stone, parchment, quills, Gutenberg’s press or any concept of reading, there was poetry. Poetry—stories, prayers and messages expressed in rhythmic words, between humans, all over the planet. Hip hop, spoken word, song lyrics and William Shakespeare’s sonnets are all descended from this common and memorized way of learning, warning and story.
In 1996, the Academy of American Poets began National Poetry Month, observed in April and now recognized worldwide. Minnesota has at least 10,000 poets, led by its newest Poet Laureate Gwen Nell Westerman, author of Follow the Blackbirds. Westerman is a distinguished faculty scholar at Minnesota State University at Mankato. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is also a renowned fiber artist whose work is in the permanent collections of many museums. As Minnesota Poet Laureate, she will celebrate all of Minnesota’s voices. This month, I encourage you to join her by singing a song, reciting a prayer or writing a poem. It may even inspire you to participate in poetry every day of the year.
Contributed by Maureen Millea Smith, a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.