Miller Time

April being National Poetry Month, poet E. Ethelbert Miller enjoys an appreciable rise in popularity during the month.

Writers like myself receive numerous invitations to read around the country during the month of April, says Miller. The month has generated new interest in poetry.

One invite Miller said yes to was sent by the Tampa Hillsborough County Public Library for its free, month-long program Poets & Writers @ Your Library. While including writers and children's authors, the month skews more toward poetry as it winds down. Twenty-six national and local poets are participating, including Maxine Kumin, Peter Meinke and Phyllis McEwen. Miller adds his presence to the diverse bunch when he gives readings Wednesday, April 25, at John F. Germany Public Library and Thursday, April 26, at the College Hill Branch.

In many ways we are taking poetry to the people, Miller says. (The month) has made the genre more visible. Publishers have noted a significant increase in the sale of poetry books.

Might not happen here, Ethelbert. The John F. Germany Library, formerly known as the Main Library, happens to house one super-colossal poetry collection. According to principal librarian Elvia J. Vera, co-chair of the Poets & Writers organizing committee, Germany Library houses 500 volumes of poetry anthologies alone, and (has) over 1,500 reference volumes in that collection. It's the biggest one in the state of Florida.

We have all their books, Vera says of the participating bards. She also did an extra special order to get some more copies of their books. For several years, she'd been lobbying for a poetry month program, but it wasn't until the library received a $7,500 chunk of a $10,000 grant from the Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services, Vera says, that they were able to bring these poets to its libraries. (In one of life's twists, a library reorganization a couple of years ago saw Vera transferred from Humanities to History & Genealogy, but she was still offered a seat on the planning committee.)

As for having another event next year, Vera says, We'd love to do that. We'd maybe have to get another grant ... it's hard to say. Maybe this (year's) will give us a little indication. A lot of people say, We like it,' and keep doing it.' And they forget — next year, nobody comes. It's such a struggle to get people to come to the libraries, as much as we have.

Ethelbert Miller believes that poetry reading offers something that other media in this blaring electronic age can't or don't.

Reading poetry requires patience and concentration, he says. It encourages the reader to slow down. To enjoy and understand a poem requires multiple readings. It requires word exploration.

Like most writers, Miller finds that doing readings informs his writing. However, for poetry month, Miller will likely reach deeper into his bag than his latest book, a memoir titled Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer.

Though not a poetry collection, Miller believes his fans, and those of good writing in general, may find the book of interest.

It's a book for anyone interested in becoming a writer, he says. It's also a spiritual book. I discuss what it means to suffer the loss of a brother and father.

Remaining Poets & Writers @ Your Library Events:

April 19 Phyllis McEwen and Myron Jackson at Seminole Heights Library,

6:30 p.m.

April 21 Storytelling Festival at Hillsborough High School, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

April 22 Poetry Celebration with Silvia Curbelo, Gianna Russo and Nicholas Samaras, Brandon Regional, 2:30 p.m.

April 24 Phyllis McEwen, 78th Street Community Library, 9 a.m.

April 25 E. Ethelbert Miller, John F. Germany Public Library, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

April 26 E. Ethelbert Miller, College Hill Branch Library, 10 a.m.

April 27 Poetry Celebration, Dionisio Martinez and James Tokley, Ybor City Library, 1 p.m.

April 30 Poetry Fling, New Tampa Regional Library, 7 p.m.

Editor's Note: David Jasper's wife is a reference librarian at the John F. Germany Library. For information on these free events, call 813-273-3652, ext. 2. Contact Mr. Jasper at 813-248-8888, ext. 111, or e-mail [email protected].

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