Rediscovering PR as Poetry Reading

April is National Poetry Month and before it slips away, let’s celebrate together. Share your favorite poet or passage in the comments section, will you please? Need help finding one? Check out the poem flow app or read about an inspiring collection of poems.

In April 2008, I wrote about a poet's PR during National Poetry Month:
One of the biggest benefits to blogging for me is seeing how others use the information they find here. Did you know poets and artists write press releases? Thanks to Adan, a reader who shared his National Poetry Month press release and a report on how his online PR campaign is going.

Thanks to Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library, I was jolted from three years of silence into writing this National Poetry Month post.

“In a funny way, poems are suited to modern life. They’re short, they’re intense. Nobody has time to read a 700-page book. People read magazines, and a poem takes less time than an article. The biggest problem is people are afraid of poetry, think they can’t understand it or that it will be boring. So I tried to pick poems that I responded to, and hopefully others will, too.” Source: Lilli Kuzma in Chicago Sun-Times Caroline Kennedy Opens Up With New Book of Poems

The slightly fuzzy image you see accompanying this post is of Caroline Kennedy signing her new book, a collection of poetry called "She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems".

Here’s the story of how I got that image . . .

We grew up together, but we didn’t know each other.

Tonight, it was time to meet.

What would I say to the woman who got a pony, named Macaroni, just like the pony I wanted?

Although my daughter first suggested we go to Caroline Kennedy’s book signing together, it was my son with the 102 degree fever who insisted I leave him home shivering by himself to venture out into a misty spring night.

Backing out of the driveway, I had second thoughts. Bad mother images did not dispel until 20 minutes later when I had to park the car.

Thinking I had allowed ample time to get a good spot, both in the parking lot and at the book signing, when I saw the TV truck parked in front of Borders I feared that even though I thought I was early, I was already too late.

Confirmation came as soon as I rushed past several other people attempting to squeeze in the door. A greeter welcomed each of us latecomers with

“Sorry, we’re sold of out books. Here’s a brochure.”

A brochure?

Although we couldn’t buy a book, we did get a small gift, a thoughtful poetry reading guide with quotes like this one: “Poems distill our deepest emotions into a very few words – words that we can remember, carry with us and share with others as we talk and weave the cloth of life.”

Grabbing my brochure, I walked confidently into the store, still thinking I could find a place to stand in the crowd where I could spot the speaker. If I didn’t have any trouble asking Charlie Trotter about his creative muse in this space a few years ago, why would I have any now?

But, there was no spot open that had a sight line. Why didn’t they have this event in an auditorium somewhere I wondered? Maybe because the presentation was so brief?

Although I couldn’t see Ms. Kennedy, I did get to hear her speak.

Elizabeth Goldsmith wrote about what it was like to be at a book signing event in Boston.

In about 12 minutes, Ms. Kennedy covered politics, government, her mother, her life as a mother and what it’s like to be over 50 – and still look fabulous.

And she does . . . here's an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

Before she spoke, we were told there would be no audio or video recording, but there would be a place to take pictures during the signing.

Wandering around the store, I found the paparazzi section.

Crowded together in a tight heap of camera clenchers, our group snapped split second photo opps in unison. With a fast-moving line, it was hard to get a clear view.

“All this picture-taking can be so stressful for authors,” one of the employees commented.

While I didn’t get the 15 second personal exchange that those with books got, I took the opportunity to tell my friends on Facebook and twitter that I was there.

And then, I thought about what really sent me out that night not my son, not my daughter, not a book but something welcome, yet unexpected - memories and a love of poetry.

You see, reading and reciting poetry was so important to my mother that she made me take lessons. Reciting poetry for the family wasn’t something I was thrilled about, but it was something I could do.

As a nine year-old former ballerina who hadn’t quite learned enough music yet to perform, reciting poetry was a good act – and a tough one to follow. No one else had memorized the poem, “Peach Pie.”

Why was poetry so important to my mother?

Was it because President Kennedy invited the 85-year-old poet Robert Frost to be first poet to read at a presidential inauguration?

Was it because she, herself, was a unrecognized, but prolific writer?

Although I’d love to call her up or email her and ask her, I’ll never know.

I lost my mother my freshman year in college at a time when the type of questions you ask later in life have yet to be formed.

There are no answers now.

Like a poet’s riddles, the unanswered memory questions must be more pondered, than solved.

My own children cherish poems.

Although I didn’t push them to recite poetry for anyone, we did read and recite poetry together over and over and over again.

My trio especially love Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein.

Often, when a teacher assigned a book report, they proposed writing about a book of poetry instead.

"She Walks in Beauty" is now on my Mother's Day wish list.

For now, here's a thoughtful review by Susan Rich. I did read Ms. Kennedy's earlier collection. A gift from a friend, this book is a collection of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis', best-loved poems.

In an Oprah.com interview, Ms. Kennedy answers this question: what is one of the great misconceptions about poetry? That reading it and writing it is a very solitary act. Poetry is really a way of sharing feelings and ideas.

In thinking about how I got into blogging, online PR, social media and so many other places where it was so lonely at first, these lines from “The Road Less Taken” by Robert Frost came to mind . . . .

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What do you think? How does poetry inspire you?

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