National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, and, since 1998, it’s also been celebrated in Canada. The idea for the celebration came when the Academy saw the success of Women’s History Month (in March) and Black History Month (in February), and wanted a way to celebrate and promote the work of poets, and the power of poetry. So, as a Library who always enjoys a celebration, we are happy to oblige!
Today, we bring you a poem by American poet Djuna Barnes. Barnes was born in a log cabin in New York state in 1892. Her family life was not a happy one, marked by poverty, sexual abuse, and a forced marriage to a man decades older than her (which was neither consensual or legal). When her parents split up, Barnes, her mother, and several siblings moved to New York City. Desperate for work, Barnes applied for a job as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, telling an editor “I can draw and write, and you’d be a fool not to hire me.” Over the next few years her work appeared in almost every newspaper in New York, including The New York Press, The World and McCall’s; she wrote interviews, features, theatre reviews, sat ring-side at boxing matches (she advocated boxing for women), and often illustrated her work with her own drawings. In 1915, she joined a Bohemian community in Greenwich Village, and began writing and acting with some of the most well-known artists of the day. A bisexual, a progressive feminist, an avant-garde poet, and a gifted playwright, Barnes’ work was hailed both in the US and the UK, and offered inspiration to writers as diverse as Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, David Foster Wallace, and Anaïs Nin.
This Much and More
If my lover were a comet
Hung in air,
I would braid my leaping body
In his hair.
Yea, if they buried him ten leagues
Beneath the loam,
My fingers they would learn to dig
And I’d plunge home!