Another pet project: Libraries, which she says are still critical places for young people to learn analytical skills. She’s the honorary chair of National Library Week next month. ‘‘I'm into things that are dying out,’’ she quips, then adds that actually they’re not: ‘‘My son goes to the library all the time (at college.) There’s a lot more socializing at the library than you think.’’
And she hints that she'll be writing other books, though not on poetry. ‘‘I think I'm pretty much done with the poetry books,’’ she says. ‘‘I haven’t figured out the next thing yet.’’
In any case, her attention to poetry has been a boon for all poets, says Stephen Young, program director at the Poetry Foundation, based in Chicago. ‘‘Selling poetry is, for most poets, a challenge,’’ Young says. ‘‘It certainly helps when someone like Caroline Kennedy, who has an earnest and genuine interest in poetry, puts together these anthologies.’’
And while many might think that in this world of tweets and texts, the art of poetry is slowly dying out, the truth is that it seems to be on the upswing among young people, Young says — partly because of poetry slams and the like, but also due to the Internet. ‘‘People can read AND listen to poems on the Web,’’ Young notes.
And clearly, kids like to recite out loud. Along with the National Endowment for the Arts, the poetry foundation sponsors Poetry Out Loud, a contest similar to the National Spelling Bee. In 2006, there were 40,000 participants. This year’s contest, which will hold its finals in Washington, D.C., in April, has 375,000, Young says.
It all speaks, in his view, to the fact that ‘‘poems are meant to be shared.’’ Kennedy says this too; In her book, along with more famous poems, she includes ‘‘Voices Rising,’’ a collaborative poem by students on the ‘‘slam team’’ at DreamYard Prep, a Bronx school Kennedy became familiar with in her work with public schools. Those students contributed ideas to the book, and three of them recited their poem together at Kennedy’s kickoff reading last week at Barnes & Noble in New York.
Speaking of young people, Kennedy asked each of her own three kids — Rose and Tatiana, who have finished college, and Jack, who is still there — to contribute a favorite poem to her new book. (Tatiana, the ‘‘bookworm’’ according to her mother, translated a poem from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from the original Latin.) But she herself has trouble picking her favorite.
Asked by an audience member at her book reading to do just that, though, she settled on ‘‘Don’t Worry if Your Job is Small.’’
‘‘Don’t worry if your job is small, and your rewards are few,’’ it says.
‘‘Remember that the mighty oak, was once a nut like you.’’