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Poetry in April

WILLIAM Carlos Williams wrote that "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there."


This news might be summed up as: How and what one feels matters a great deal. Of course it's almost April, so it's wise to pay taxes on time and to have earned the money being taxed in order to pay the bills and keep the children in sandwiches and shoes. But it's also National Poetry Month, a gimmick with the noble goal of making people stop and smell the metaphors.

Now that daylight lingers, it's easier to see that objects and moments have emotional echoes that might suddenly solidify into poetry -- that great warehouse crowded with wars and love, bird-sung dawns and purple dusks, subway rides and people eating fruit.

No need to settle for the usual thin televised entertainment. Poetry Month means heady excess. Today in Amherst at the Emily Dickinson Museum, revelers will start a marathon reading of all the poet's work, almost 1,800 poems. The marathon, called "Can I expound the skies" after a line in one of Dickinson's poems, is a first-ever event that will run through Saturday.

Tonight the Boston Adult Literacy Fund shows off poetry's literacy-boosting and unsung fund-raising powers with a benefit reading featuring three poets: Martin Espada, Mary Oliver, and Kevin Young. They'll each read some of their own work. Then they'll each read classic poems -- including W.H. Auden's "Stop All the Clocks" and Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." The classic works will also be sung by the Jubilee Trio, a local group. The event has convinced existing donors to give money and attracted new donors. Some 5,000 adults are on literacy class waiting lists.

This weekend is the fourth annual Boston National Poetry Month Festival, hosted by the Boston Public Library and Northeastern University and organized by the Kaji Aso Studio, an arts institute, and Tapestry of Voices, a local organization dedicated to "weaving poetry into the social fabric at all levels." Second-graders from Saint Margaret's School in Dorchester will kick off the event, reciting their own and famous poets' works. Then 56 poets will follow.

So join the party while it's noisy. Go to readings. Buy poetry books. Replace those chain letters and here's-a-good-joke e-mails with here's-the-best-poem-I-ever-read e-mails. Because soon May will come, and poetry will be shuffled off the publicity stage. Fortunately, the drive to keep the public well fed on verse will remain. The organizers of these events dream of next year, of new poetry workshops and contests, of events that run for a week instead of days. This is part of the news from poems: They leave people wanting more. CORRECTION -- An editorial yesterday incorrectly referred to West Roxbury Democrat Marian Walsh as a state representative. She is a state senator.

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