April is National Poetry Month and the Northumberland Public Library (NPL) has joined forces with children from the “What If…Wednesday” Home School Group based in Heathsville to celebrate this annual event.
This is the second year for the Pocket Poem Project, but the first year for the home-schooled children. Last year Northumberland Middle School students participated, according to Jan Bates, Coordinator of Children’s Programs at NPL.
Under the direction of Bates, with the assistance of Susan Stallings, a retired writing teacher and former home-school parent, the children, ages 4 through 16, wrote short Pocket Poems. They will be distributed to library patrons during the last three weeks of April. Each time a library patron checks out a book or visits the library for computer use or classes, the patron will receive an original short poem written by a local homeschooler. Some parents even created poems about the homeschool family, which will certainly be of interest to the community.
The concept of Pocket Poems can be traced back to World War II when British and American troops were given copies of the short poem If We Must Die. The poem was written by Claude McKay, a Jamaican, in 1919 in response to the race riots after World War I. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly used the poem in some of his inspirational speeches during World War II. This popular practice continues even today in cities and communities across the country where poets stop people on the street and present them with their compositions in honor of April, National Poetry Month.
There is perhaps no better praise for developing writers than having an audience, Bates noted. The event encourages library patrons to write a thank-you note as their gift to the poet. The notes are given to the clerk at the NPL circulation desk and will be delivered to the proper child or homeschool parent.