"Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own."
― Dylan Thomas
Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month begins on April 1st and runs through April 30th. The largest literary celebration in the world, this month-long celebration of poetry is held every April “to widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.” During April, poets, poetry lovers, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and schools throughout the United States celebrate poetry.
One of the challenges of NPM is to read and/or write a poem every day. So ... in the spirit of the observance, as I’ve done for the past five years, I offer you what I hope will inspire you on each of April’s thirty days.
1. Each day, think about the key word (in caps next to the date).
2. Then click on the link below the title, and read the poem—one each day of the month. Let each day’s poem inspire you.
3. After thinking a bit about the content of the poem you read, identify something in that poem that “strikes a chord” for you.
4. Working from that “chord,” try to write a poem of your own that somehow incorporates the key word (doesn’t have to be exact) and that may or may involve content similar to the example poem.
5. I’ve deliberately made some leaps in the ways my key words sometimes differ from the content of the poems to which I’ve matched them—take some leaps yourself!
1. Don’t feel compelled to match your content to the examples’—in fact, do just the opposite and make your poems as different as you possibly can. The inspiration titles and the example poems are only intended to trigger some poetry-spark that’s unique to you, to guide your thinking a little—don’t let them enter too deeply into your poems, don’t let their content become your content.
2. Let your reactions to the key words and poems surprise you. Begin with no expectations, and let your poems take you where they want to go.
3. Give the topics your own spin, twist and turn them, let the phrases trigger personal responses: pin down your ghosts, identify your frailties, build bridges and cross rivers, take chances!
4. Keep in mind that writing a poem a day doesn’t mean you have to “finish” each poem immediately. You can write a draft each day and set your drafts aside to work on later.
5. I've added some additional tips after the list of dates and poems, so be sure to check them out!
6. Whatever you do this month, find some time (a little or a lot) to enjoy poetry!
As always, your sharing is welcome,
so please consider this an invitation to
post your thoughts and poems as comments!
post your thoughts and poems as comments!
Regular weekly prompts will resume on April 30th.
In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful and poetry-filled April!
Happy National Poetry Month!
“If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda
April 2—THE COLOR RED
“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats
April 4—PEACE OF MIND
“Where the Mind Is Without Fear” by Rabindranath Tagore
April 5—SOUND or SOUNDS
“Echo” by Christina Rossetti
“I Am in Need of Music” by Elizabeth Bishop
April 7—A DAY TO REMEMBER
“A Golden Day” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar
April 8—BEING ALONE
“Alone Looking at the Mountain” by Li Po
“A Moment of Happiness” by Jalal al-Din Rumi
“April Love” by Ernest Christopher Dowson
“My Husband Discovers Poetry” by Diane Lockward
“Patterns” by Amy Lowell
“The Rain” by Robert Creeley
“Dream Song 14” by John Berryman
“The Promise” by Jane Hirschfield
“Twilight” by Henri Cole
April 17—SOMETHING GOOD
“One Good Thing” by Edwin Romond
“The Risk of Listening to Brahms” by Michael T. Young
“The Moment I Knew My Life Had Changed” by Maria Mazziotti Gillan
“Why I Wake Early’ by Mary Oliver (Audio)
“Failure” by Philip Schultz
April 22—SOMETHING LOST
“Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet” by Eavan Boland
“I Have a Theory about Reflection” by Renee Ashley
“Yes” by Catherine Doty
April 25—PLANETS AND STARS
“The Astronomer” By Laura Boss
April 26—THE FUTIRE
“To the Next Centuries” by James Richardson
“Which Way Is Up?” by Tony Gruenewald
“You Are My GPS” by Linda Radice
“The Star-Ledger” by BJ Ward
“A History of Weather” by Billy Collins
1. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).
2. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).
3. The great author Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)
4. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).
5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.
6. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.
7. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”
8. If you take a risk, make it a big one; if your poem is edgy, take it all the way to the farthest edge.
9. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Think about this: a poem with only five great lines should be five lines long.
10. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)
Happy Poetry Month!