For impatient people: Because poetry has made me less self-absorbed and more empathetic, you can skip my explanation of why poetry is important enough to deserve a national month celebrating it, and jump straight to the 12 places to put poetry list. Just click here .
So here’s the story about why poetry is so important that we have a national poetry month to honor it:
My grandparents hated pizza. They were a quiet pair of baby-cuddlers, who stitched crewel work pillows (yes, both of them), and ran errands, all of their lives, for elderly parents, aunts, uncles, and overworked parents, always wearing serene, gentle expressions. But if we grandkids mentioned the word pizza, they screwed their faces into monstrous masks and made obnoxious gagging noises.
Recently I asked their only child, my mother, what happened when Grandpa-and-Grandma-Good-People tried pizza. They liked bread. Cheese. Spaghetti sauce. So why didn’t they like pizza? Did they get one with anchovies on it? Was it infected with salmonella and gave them food poisoning?
“Oh, they never tried it,” she said. “They couldn’t bring themselves to taste it. They didn’t like the idea of it.”
Hey, everyone, it’s April — National Poetry Month!! And while in my opinion, celebrating poetry month is like hearing a stream rushing after a long, frozen winter, I’ve discovered that for many people, the idea of poetry is like the idea of pizza was for my grandparents.
Well, I feel compelled to tell people who don’t like the idea of poetry — Try it! You don’t know what you’re missing!
That stream rushing after a long, frozen winter? Think of it as surging from one human heart to another. Poetry is an art form that attempts to express the inexpressible–what it feels like to be alive. And while nobody enjoys every poem, almost everyone, when introduced to poems that suit their taste, will experience a deeper connection to life, will feel more exquisitely alive. Don’t we all want that?
Yes, we do want that! That’s why I’m pleased to have been appointed Poetry Ambassador to the Blogosphere.
(Yeah, so I appointed myself, but that doesn’t make my job any less important. Most activists, including Gloria Steinem, Joan Baez, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, begin working by self-appointment.
I intend to use my recent (self) appointment to help people overcome their metro phobia,–their prejudice against and fear of poetry. Because it’s not a good thing to hate that which has the power to connect us to a deeper, more meaningful life, to make us more self aware, and to increase our understanding of and empathy for people, for all living things, for our earth, for the universe.
Yes, poetry does all that.
That’s why this month, I will be blogging about poetry’s important role in society and in my own life. But, even though I am officially Poetry Ambassador to the Blogosphere, I am only one voice among myriad voices, all who are believe that Poetry is Awesome and here’s a list to get you starting on the joyful, enlightening work of making room in the world for poetry.
12 places to put poetry
1. Read and write poetry. Appreciate poetry. Share poetry.
2. Host a poetry book group. Good launching texts are How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch (the first chapter is published online here), and Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader by New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel.
3. Read poetry to children—grandchildren, nieces, nephews. Don’t tell them it’s poetry. Just read it and let them respond to it. Good options: A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson; anything by Shel Silverstein; and A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poems for Children by Caroline Kennedy.
4. Keep favorite poems in a folder organized by subject or theme, then make the reading of one of them part of family and social gatherings when appropriate. If they are in the public domain, make some of them into greeting cards. If you want to distribute poems by living poets, get their permission before you print them.
5. Seek out local poets and if you like their work, support them by buying their books, attending readings, and inviting others to attend.
6. Subscribe to Poetry Sites online and share links to your favorite poems on social media.
7. Ask local media (radio, television, newspapers) and institutions/organizations (schools especially!) to recognize and celebrate National Poetry Month (April).
8. Participate in National Poem in Your Pocket Day in whatever way feels right for you (the website lists many ideas). Download and share a poem from the website and/or share a poem of your own.
9. Find out whether local high schools participate in Poetry Out Loud. If yes, attend the competitions to support the students who have expressed an interest in poetry. If they don’t participate, ask them to consider it.
10. Encourage municipalities, towns, and states to appoint a Poet Laureate, whose job it is to find creative ways to bring poetry to citizens.
11. Contact planning committees for local festivals and events and suggest ways to incorporate poets and poetry:
- host a reading by a renowned poet followed by an open mic
- if there will be live music, schedule poets to read a poem between music sets
- ask for submissions of little poems that fit the theme, then publish them around the festival on posters or banners
12. Collaborate with other artists and technicians to combine poetry with video, audio, music, theater, 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional art.
If you don’t love poetry, Try it! You don’t know what you’re missing!
And if you already love poetry, this list will help you join me as a poetry ambassador. Thank you.
Confession time: Do you or don’t you love poetry? Will you do anything to celebrate poetry this month?