April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of poets, poetry and their significance in our culture. Since 1996, when the annual event was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets, the month has been a time for libraries, schools, literary groups, publishers, and the poets themselves to encourage Americans to read, write and experience poetry.
When we think of poetry in Ohio, the first name that comes to mind is native son Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was recently featured on an Ohio Memory post in March. And literary figures like James Thurber and Harriet Beecher Stowe can often eclipse the names of other Ohio poets, those we might not be so familiar with. On Ohio Memory, we have images and materials relating to a number of names in poetry that are worth highlighting during this month where poetry is rightfully in the spotlight!
Coates Kinney (1826-1904) moved to Ohio in his early teens, settling close to Springboro in Warren County. This Antioch alum was not only a Civil War Army Paymaster, Ohio Senator and newspaper editor/owner–he also served as Poet Laureate of Ohio! His poem “Rain on the Roof” is his best remembered, but he also published three other volumes of poetry including “Ke-u-ka and Other Stories” (1855), “Lyrics of the Ideal and the Real” (1888) and “Mists of Fire and Some Eclogues” (1899). All of these texts are available in the Ohio History Center Research Room, as are additional papers from Kinney.
Jessie Brown Pounds (1861-1921) was another Ohio poet, as well as novelist, essayist, and composer of more than 800 hymns. Born in Hiram, Ohio, she was the daughter of a pastor and later married Reverend John Pounds, evident of the importance of religion in her life. Her most famous hymn, “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere,” was said to be President William McKinley’s favorite, and was sung at his funeral in 1901. Your can read more of Brown’s poems on Ohio Memory, including “Story of Hiram,” first published in the Hiram College yearbook in 1909, and “It Is God’s Way,” written in response to McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
Other Ohio poets you can explore on Ohio Memory include:
- Helen Rice (1900-1981), who was known as the “Poet Laureate of Inspirational Verse”
- John Hay (1838-1905), who was close friends with Abraham Lincoln and served as his personal secretary
- Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), who was best known for his forceful rhythms and his desire to popularize poetry among the American people. For several summers between 1906 and 1912, Lindsay traveled throughout the country reciting poetry in exchange for food and shelter!
Check out these lesser-known poets on Ohio Memory, or come to the Research Room at OHS to see their work in person!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!