Star Spangled Poetry

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July 4th Fireworks by Flickr User Always Shooting, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s Independence Day—you know the drill. Throw on your American flag tank top and get ready for parades, watermelon, baseball, explosions, trips to the emergency room, and… poetry?

Poetry, rap’s shy and occasionally awkward cousin, can offer a quirky introduction to any 4th of July celebration. Your fireworks are faulty, there’s a poem for that. You only drink BudLight, there’s a poem for that. You’re an immigrant family trying to understand this crazy holiday, there is a poem for that too.

Imagine turning to a crowd, fingers stroking your imaginary beard, and reciting “Listen, my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”. And if Longfellow isn’t your style, maybe Whitman can serve as a substitute. After all, what’s more American than climbing on top of furniture and proclaiming, “O Captain! My Captain!”?

Two weeks ago William Logan, a poet and critic from Boston, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. In it he proposes to “teach America’s kids to read by making them read poetry.” He offers a revised tongue-in-cheek curriculum for American schools that includes learning an obscure foreign language, memorizing at least one poem a week, and somersaults. Logan is honest in his piece and acknowledges that “Poetry will never have the audience of ‘Game of Thrones’”. This seems fair enough, but as the saying goes, “When God gives you a crowd, stand up on a picnic table and read some Billy Collins to them.” Or something like that.

Logan’s poetic education reform may be a herculean task, but on Independence Day everything you need for a quick and quirky poetry recitation is at hand—a crowd, hard cider, the sunset, things to stand on. Now it’s up to you to find a poem. So, blow the dust off of your copy of Leaves of Grass or The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson or maybe even Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, and put on your bard face, it’s time for a truly patriotic and poetic July 4th.

 

Do you have any good poems for celebrating?  Let us know below. We’ve got a few poems to get you started.

 

The Landlord’s Tale. Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

To the Right and Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth by Phillis Wheatley

I Too by Langston Hughes

The Armadillo by Elizabeth Bishop

next to of course god america i by E. E. Cummings

America by Claude McKay

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Immigrant Picnic By Gregory Djanikian

The Names by Billy Collins

 

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