Our Big Read 2021 book announcement day was last week and there’s already lots of excitement around our chosen book, An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. We have lots of poetry fans along the Lakeshore, many of whom have been waiting a long time for our Big Read program to choose a book of poetry.

We’ve already heard from community members who have shared with us that they are nervous about poetry because they aren’t sure how to read or make sense of poems or even if they like poetry! If this is you, you are in good company!

When I read poetry in my high school English classes in high school, I was not a fan. I read the assigned poems diligently, but the deeper meanings my classmates often found were lost on me. Poems scared me!

It wasn’t until I took a creative writing class in college for my English secondary education major that I began to appreciate poetry. 

We had to write several poems, which I was incredibly nervous about. I had no experience with poetry other than several weeks of a poetry unit in high school. I was pleasantly surprised by how my perception of poetry changed and I respected poets more after writing some poetry myself. Poetry still makes me nervous, but with every poem I read, I enjoy it a little more.

Someone shared Billy Collin’s “Introduction to Poetry” with me recently and I felt it was the perfect way to kick off our first book of poetry. 

I enjoy the lines, “or walk inside the poem’s room/and feel the walls for a light switch.” In some instances, it is easier to find the “light” in certain poems than in others.

This poem reminds me of a few of my favorite lines from An American Sunrise. Harjo’s collection begins with the poem “Break My Heart”. She writes, “Before, though, even words/ Are creatures of habit./ You cannot force poetry/ With a ruler, or jail it at a desk.”

We are hopeful that with practice and an open mind An American Sunrise will be an impactful collection of poems. Harjo describes her story as a Mvskoke Native American and her emotions throughout are raw and powerful.

If you get a chance, read through our previous blog posts as for the past few weeks, we’ve featured poetry and strategies for how to read poems. We’re so excited to continue sharing strategies, reflections, and poems in the months and weeks leading up to our Big Read month! 

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