Shelf Life: You’re a poet and you know it

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fancy yourself a poet?

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Polk County Public Libraries by entering our poetry contest! Entries are due by Tuesday, April 10.

Anyone may submit their original work of up to three poems per person and 40 lines per poem. Personal information should not be included on the poems themselves to maintain anonymity. The poems should be placed in a sealed envelope and handed in to the front desk or placed in the book drop at the Saluda Library. First and last name and a contact email or phone number should be written on the envelope.

Winners will be chosen by the Saluda Teen Advisory Group and contacted by Friday, April 13. There will also be a reception at Saluda Library on Tuesday, April 17 at 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be available and participants are encouraged to read their poems aloud at this event.

If you’re not a writer, pick up a book of poetry instead in honor of National Poetry Month. All of the following titles are available at Polk County Public Libraries.

“Runny Babbit”

This book, by the well-known author and cartoonist Shel Silverstein, was published posthumously in 2005. It is mostly composed of spoonerisms (when letters are switched between two words in a phrase, like the title “Runny Babbit”) in rhyming verse. Check it out along with his classics “A Light in the Attic” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”

“Brown Girl Dreaming”

Author Jacqueline Woodson describes her childhood as an African American growing up in the 1960s in Greenville, South Carolina. The 2014 children’s novel told in verse was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the Coretta Scott King Book Award, and was a Newbery Honor Book as well.

“Inside Out & Back Again”

Another award-winning novel written in verse and based on the author’s childhood, Thanhha Lai’s book is one I read several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. It tells of a Vietnamese family forced to move to the U.S. due to the Vietnam War. They relocate in Alabama, where the daughter struggles with learning English and confronting bullies.


This 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner shares the story and suffering of first generation freed slaves. Author Tyehimba Jess teaches poetry and fiction at the College of Staten Island and his first first book of poetry, “leadbelly,” was named one of the Best Poetry Books of 2005 by Library Journal.

“The Performance of Becoming Human”

Chilean-American Daniel Borzutzky’s latest collection of poems won the 2016 National Book Award. The work draws connections between the U.S. and Latin America, touching on issues such as immigration, economic disparity, and political violence.

“The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson”

Last but certainly not least, my favorite poet – perhaps partly because we (almost) share the same last name! Recognized as one of America’s greatest and most original poets of all time, Dickinson challenged the existing definitions of poetry and experimented with expression.

There are many more amazing books of poetry in the library! Browse the “811” shelves of the children’s, young adult, and adult nonfiction sections to discover them all.

Jen Pace Dickenson is the youth services librarian for Polk County Public Libraries. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit or call 828-894-8721.