At the National Book Festival, in addition to snagging the awesome commemorative poster (which, seriously, I’m pretty excited about), I also got a copy of the Poetry Out Loud Anthology, a collection of poems high schoolers can memorize for the National Recitation Contest. Among a lot of familiar classics, here’s one I hadn’t seen before:
How I Discovered Poetry
by Marilyn Nelson
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.