“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Plato
In honor of National Poetry Month, I tip my hat to this wonderful art form. Beginning in April of 1996, the Academy of American Poets was inspired by other successful celebratory months to create National Poetry Month. It aims to encourage the reading of poems, assist teachers in bringing poetry into classrooms, increase publication and distribution of poetry books, encourage support for poets and poetry, and to highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets. The month long observance has become the largest literary celebration in the world.
“Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings.” – W.H. Auden
To many people, poetry is daunting. Between the lines, stanzas, breaths, and sometimes odd language, it can be difficult to teach or even understand a poem especially compared with prose. Poetry is different because it invites the reader to bring their own experiences to the poem and to be a more active participant in the poem’s meaning. However, it doesn’t have to be frightening as it can not only release your own wells of creativity, it can also strike chords within you and create ways to discuss difficult topics. To learn more about poetry, I found a few things for you to try:
- Read the essay “How to Read a Poem” by Edward Hirsch
- Coursera, an online education platform, has a poetry workshop that starts April 23rd called Sharpened Visions
- Coursera also has a course on Modern & Contemporary American Poetry that begins September 2nd
- Listen to the Talk About Poetry podcast where working poets gather and discuss what they have been recently reading
“Poetry’s medium is not merely light as air, it is air: vital and deep as ordinary breath.” – Robert Pinsky
Poetry can be very different when you hear it rather than reading it which I intellectually knew but never experienced in a powerful way until a few years ago. I fell in love with the poetry of former United States Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway. A friend told me that there are several videos of her performing her poems on YouTube. Listening to her performance changed the way I experience poetry. I was able to close my eyes and really feel rather than focusing on the words. I also realized I was pausing in different places as well as reading it with a different tone when I saw her performance. Although I still mainly read poetry, here are a few ways I have found to enjoy listening to it:
- The Poetry Foundation has a few great podcasts including Poetry Magazine Podcast, Poem Off the Shelf and Poem Talk
- YouTube has tons of videos of poets reading their own works
- Check out your local library for any readings that they are hosting
- The Uptown Arts Bar has a poetry slam the first Wednesday of every month. The next one is May 2nd.
- The Writer’s Place has a poetry reading circle on April 16th and a poetry reading series on April 17th.
“ Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove
- Here are a few of my favorite collections that I have read recently:
- How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes
- Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
- The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace (published by our local group Andrews McMeel)
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
- No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
- Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
- Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life by Cleo Wade
I hope you have a chance to take a breath and enjoy a poem this month.
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