I remember the first poem to leave an impression on me. I was in my Freshman year English class at North Central High School in Indianapolis, and I wasn’t paying attention in class. Instead, I was flipping through the textbook and found myself looking at William Blake’s poem A Poison Tree. I got to the last couplet and saw this:
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
I had read maybe a few sonnets prior to this, a few love poems. But here we were at the end of the poem, and the speaker is talking about a dead body. This was poetry? I was 15 and had just discovered my first favorite poem. I’m pretty sure I ended up showing that poem to all my friends, insisting that they read it.
Since that time, I’ve had a lot of favorite poems. Each time I come across a really good poem, my first instinct is still the same: to either read it out loud, or to share it with someone else. It’s as though I feel the poem is too constrained, there on the page… and it needs to meet the air, it needs to be read by other people.
To help celebrate National Poetry Month I recently launched a project entitled A Poem From Us, a website featuring regular people, reading their favorite poems. The project’s goal is a simple one: to use technology to help folks share their love of poetry with others.
People are invited to participate in one of two ways. Online, they can record themselves and submit the video to the website.
Offline, they can request a set of free stickers which feature the project logo and a custom QR code. When these stickers are scanned by passers-by, a random video from the project website will play on the user’s mobile device. Think of it as a kind of “found poem” for the digital age.
The one rule for the project: the poem you read cannot be your own.
If you have a favorite poem that you really love, consider this an official invitation to share that poem with others. Don’t worry about your video quality or reading voice – the project is really not about HD video or recitation. There’s no judging, no evaluation or ratings.
It’s about sharing. It’s just you and your favorite poem. If you send a video in, so long as you’re not reading your own work… your video will get included on the project website.
I invite you to visit A Poem From Us, and to check out some of the videos people have posted up. And, if you’re feeling moved to do so, we’d love to have you contribute.
Felix Jung lives and works in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and two rabbits: Baxter and Professor Snugglesworth. He maintains a personal blog at avoision.com.
A Poem From Us was realized through a generous grant from the Chicago Awesome Foundation (an organization that gives micro-grants of $1,000 each month, to projects they deem awesome). Visit awesomefoundation.org for more information.