I am not a poet. My expertise goes as far as Dr Seuss. My rhyming skills only go as far as, “Roses are red, violets are blue,” and I cringe at sappy love sonnets. The structure of a haiku confuses me as much as advanced physics. But after exploring the Urbana Free Library’s poetry section I felt more in-tune with poetry than ever before.
Located on the second floor, the library’s main poetry collection consists of two bookshelves in the adult services section. This consists of American, British and international poetry collections and includes authors such as Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Caroline Kennedy. The section, while only a fraction of the library, holds poetry from every viewpoint.
“We try to keep up with who’s popular,” adult services librarian Carol Inskeep said. “We check who wins awards, Pulitzer prizes, and look at reviews on new books that come out.”
Inskeep said favorites include classical poetry, such as Emily Dickinson and E. E. Cummings. The section’s poetry dinosaur is the 1904 copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Poems, Household Edition.
“This book has probably been here since the actual library,” Inskeep said. “We’ve had to get it rebound, and its pages are very fragile.”
Walking through the poetry section gave me instant nostalgia. I recognized books such as Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends and Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew From Concrete,” and instantly began flipping through the pages, recognizing the unique drawings and silly verses. Silverstein is still the main reason why I believe unicorns actually exist, but were just too dumb to jump on Noah’s boat when they were told. And while I knew Tupac for his legendary rap skills, I was in awe of the beautiful poetry he produced in his high school notebook.
Recognizing alternative forms of poetry, the section also highlights spoken word poetry with book and CD packages, so the reader can experience the poems as if they were at a performance. Inskeep attributes spoken word poetry as representing poetry in other aspects, like rap music. She even goes as far as discussing a Macklemore song in the library, which is pretty awesome.
“Macklemore’s song ‘Same Love’ is basically poetry,” Inskeep said. “Here he’s telling a story, in the simplest words, in a way that affects people.”
This trip down the poetry section put a happy ending to my horrifying week, amid the national craziness and constant downpour. While I still cannot write a poem to save my life, relating to the verses can uplift the soul much better than a cathartic rant on Facebook or Twitter. Inskeep relates this emotional capacity of poetry to the power of the words.
“Sometimes when hard times occur, such as breakups, deaths, national tragedies, people just don’t have the words for the depth of feeling,” Inskeep said. “Poetry can put those feelings into words.”
So if you are having a bad day, go to the poetry section and kick back. But if you are looking for those Tupac Shakur and Shel Silverstein copies, tough luck. I’m keeping those for my rainy days.