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The Poetry of Everyday Life


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About the Author

Steve Zeitlin, the founding director of the nonprofit cultural center City Lore, is the author or coauthor of several award-winning books on America's folk culture, including Giving a Voice to Sorrow: Personal Responses to Death and Mourning and Because God Loves Stories: An Anthology of Jewish Storytelling. He is the author of a volume of poetry, I Hear AmericaSinging in the Rain, and three books for young readers. Bob Holman, a U.S. poet and poetry activist, is a leading figure in the spoken word and slam poetry movements. Winner of an American Book Award, he was a prime mover in creating The United States of Poetry and Language Matters for PBS.


"The Poetry of Everyday Life is a likeable and interesting book-an important and personal project, documenting a folklorist's aesthetic life view, well lived and hard won. Throughout, Steve Zeitlin asserts that ordinary life is beautiful; there is a way of experiencing its rhythm and cadence and pattern that is aesthetic and meaning making, like poetry. He argues that to live a creative life is a meaningful way to engage with the beauty of the everyday."-Jenny Factor, Antioch University, Los Angeles, author of Unraveling at the Name "Steve Zeitlin teaches his reader how to appreciate the world as a folklorist might-to find the poetry in everyday life. He uses acute observation, personal anecdote, and his own poetry to draw one in. He invites a general audience to find the poet within, to recognize poetry where one might not suspect it exists, to observe with intensity and appreciation. His examples are engaging, his observations often astute, and his writing is clear and often evocative."-Rachel Bernstein, New York University, coauthor of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives: A Pictorial History of Working People in New York City "Steve Zeitlin brilliantly sees poetry in everything, including something as simple (or complex) as a game of Ping-Pong."-Will Shortz, crossword editor, the New York Times "Reading The Poetry of Everyday Life, I'm reminded of the Bobby Kennedy quote: 'The greatest voice is the voice of the people-speaking out-in prose or poetry ... in homes and halls, streets and farms, court and cafes -let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.' For decades Steve Zeitlin has been leading the charge to honor and elevate the voices and stories of everyday people-a life's work that is captured magnificently in his latest book. We as a country owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his luminous life's work."-Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps "Folklorists carry a badge of permission to nose around in the intimate lives of the most diverse of people. Steve Zeitlin has carried that badge lovingly and expansively, a lifelong explorer into the wonders of everyday people, their everyday lives, and the alchemy to the poetic. Both memoir and study, this book is an important treatise on the meaning of life and the mortal attempt to express the inexplicable in words, story, and poetry."-Hal Cannon, founding director, Western Folklife Center and National Cowboy Poetry Gathering "The Poetry of Everyday Life chronicles poems inspired by the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Through these poems the folklorist Steve Zeitlin helps us look for beauty and art in everyday life. In the tradition of Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan, Zeitlin embraces poetry as the way each of us expresses our inner self and tells our own story."-William Ferris, author of The South in Color "In this inspirational praise poem to everyday artistry, Steve Zeitlin urges us to choose the creative life. We already speak and act creatively, he argues, as he places before us the wise words and heartfelt creations of people he's met throughout his years as a folklorist-a coffee shop philosopher, a graffiti artist, a man making the NYC subway tunnels his home, a Sierra Leone American recreating his homeland's epic song, Ping-Pong players, Navajo wedding singers, a rabbi with his miracle tales, a scientist explaining string theory through story, a cook who turn memories into bodily delights, witnesses to September 11, children crafting their fathers' coffin, porch sitters remembering relatives gone before. This celebration of the central role of artful words, spoken and written, will make you want to pick up your pen-or computer-and write."-Margaret R. Yocom, founder of the George Mason University Folklore Studies Program and the American Folklore Society's Folklore and Creative Writing Section "In The Poetry of Everyday Life Steve Zeitlin has given us an imaginative, humane, and moving account of the universal impulse to convert experience into stories. By merging poetry with folklore, he enhances our understanding of both, placing the oral narrative where it belongs-at the center of community and family life today."-Bill Ivey, former chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

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