I have a new student from the Master’s program at the Dalhousie School of Information Management working with me this month. Kathleen kindly offered to write this month’s birthday blog post for The Reader.
It’s National Poetry Month in Canada and we decided to celebrate this event by featuring some poets born in April. Because most people are probably very familiar with the big names in poetry, those who have been long dead and frequently read, I tried to focus on more contemporary poets (with one big exception). Hopefully one of these will spark your interest. If not, come on down to your local branch and check out our poetry collections.
Juliana Spahr is a contemporary American poet, born in Ohio on April 7th, 1966. She has been publishing since 1994 and has been featured in a number of anthologies including An Anthology of New (American) Poets and American women poets in the 21st century : where lyric meets language. She is also an editor, teacher and critic. Her work draws on a number of influences, among which are her frequent travels. Her publisher has called previous works “conceptually provocative”.
The most famous name on our list is undoubtedly William Shakespeare. He has been credited with authoring over 200 works of theatre and poetry and has been called the greatest poet who has ever lived. Although he is clearly not a modern poet, his works continue to be popular and have inspired a number of contemporary remakes including literature, film, and song. Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems edited by Harold Bloom offers a good overview of his poetry. Shakespeare was born on April 26th, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
Another female poet born in April is Margaret Avison. Born in Galt, Ontario, she lived to be 89 years old and won numerous awards throughout her life. Her first collection of poetry, Winter Sun was awarded the Governor General’s Award. She has also been awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. She has been called a spiritual or metaphysical poet. She was outspoken about the Christian inspiration for many of her poems. Her death in 2007 prompted many Canadians to mourn the loss of this national treasure.
Gary Soto, a Mexican-American poet and children’s fiction author, also celebrates his birthday in April. He was born in California on April 12th, 1952 and spent his childhood as a farm labourer while reading such classic authors as Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, and Robert Frost. His poetry, books, and plays are described as funny and realistic, which is perhaps why he has gained such a popular following.
Last is an Irish poet born on the 13th in 1939. Seamus Heaney is probably one of the most famous poets of our time. His childhood in rural Ireland is a strong theme running through his work, as is the thread of industrialization of this rural land. His poetry became famous in the 1960’s but has grown in popularity since then. He currently lives in Dublin where he continues to write.