Poetry is essential to good human living. For centuries, people have relied on poetry to help them understand the world around them, convey emotions, and mold the world into shape. Writing poetry allows you to put language to use by sketching your life onto the page using metaphor, imagery, and symbolic language. It teaches us how to speak and listen carefully, and it builds resilience; a well-crafted phrase or two in a poem can help us see the world in an entirely new light.
Poetry is filled with rhythm, sounds, and beats. It is the most kinesthetic of all literature. Poetry is physical and full-bodied; it activates your heart and soul. It’s no wonder that the entire month of April has been annually dedicated to poetry since the Academy of American Poets created National Poetry Month in 1996.
According to Poets.org the goals of National Poetry Month are to:
- Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
- Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
- Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
- Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
- Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
- Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
- Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry
Most bloggers participate in National Poetry Month through some form of writing challenge. However, I’m running a book review blog here so you should expect a little something different. I’m a poet myself and I will be participating in National Poetry Month by writing a poem a day (April 1st to April 30th) but I would also like to issue a new set of challenges for readers to choose from.
“…When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.” –Jeanette Winterson
This month I would like to challenge you to read more poetry and tell me about your experiences through comments on this post. I have compiled a list of several fun challenges to get you better acquainted with poetry (if you’re unfamiliar) and open up your mind to a brand new world.
National Poetry Month Challenges:
- Read one poem per day—Reading one poem per day is a super easy place to start if you have never read poetry before, feel that it’s boring, or feel that you have difficulty understanding it. You can go online to one of the literal thousands of literary journals available on the internet and check out their poetry submissions; PANK, Birdfeast, and ILK are some of my personal favorites. Or you could purchase a chapbook (a book of poetry usually containing 15-40 poems) and read one poem per day from the chapbook. Thrush Press, Redbird Chapbooks, and Black Lawrence Press are some great places to find breathtaking poetry chapbooks. The chapbook I reviewed this week, All The Heat We Could Carry is a fantastic read.
- Read 1-2 books of poetry during the month of April—I would recommend Mountain Redemption by Nick McRae or The Principle Agent by Sarah Suzor as these are some of my more recent favorites.
- Read and write one poem per day—I had a professor in college tell me that if I ever wanted to do something great with my poetry I had to read poetry that was not mine and write poetry that is.
Now, those aren’t so hard are they? Pick one and get started!
When you bring poetry into your life, don’t analyze it. Don’t try to make some grand meaning of it either. Just read it. Look for poems that wake you up and assault your emotions. Find the poems that communicate with the deepest part of your and forget the rest. The rest will come later.