April has been dedicated as National Poetry Month in the United States since 1996. The Academy of American Poets saw how successful Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) had been at raising public awareness of those topics, and they felt the need to raise public awareness of poetry, especially in American public schools. According to the Academy of American Poets, the mission of National Poetry Month is to:
- highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets,
- encourage the reading of poems,
- assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms,
- increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media,
- encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and
- encourage support for poets and poetry.
We at Writers Forum would like to give you some resources for helping poets in their craft.
First, we have The Complete Rhyming Dictionary.
This great little book includes a one-hundred page Poet’s Craft Book. This teaches you rhythm, rhyme, stanza patterns, and various forms and techniques of poetry. The meat of the book, however, is a literal ‘rhyming dictionary’, helping you find rhymes to almost any word you would need in your poetry. Need a rhyme for ‘alabaster’, and you have already used ‘plaster’ and ‘master’, but you need more? Well, how about ‘blaster’, ‘disaster’, ‘faster’, ‘forecaster’, or ‘pastor’?
The photo is my beat up copy that I have been carrying around for twenty-five years or so. The Complete Rhyming Dictionary has been an important tool on my writing tool box.
Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: a Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry.
Mary Oliver goes into the nuts and bolts of writing poetry, and she does it in clear language that is easy for the non-poet to follow. She encourages practice, practice, practice in writing, and says, “One learns through thinking about writing, and by talking about writing–but primarily through writing.” Ms. Oliver gives us plenty of examples and suggestions for writing exercises.
Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winner and former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual.
The Poetry Home Repair Manual is especially geared towards beginning poets, but poets at any level can use Ted’s sage advice. He leaves most of the actual ‘how to’s for other books. Ted seems most concerned with the poet’s attitude and expectations, which mean everything to the heart and soul of poetry. He encourages us to write the type of poetry that we would like to read, which means accessible to most people. He writes:
The Poetry Home Repair Manual advocates for poems that can be read and understood without professional interpretation. My teacher and mentor, Karl Shapiro, once pointed out that the poetry of the twentieth century was the first poetry that had to be taught. He might have said that had to be explained. I believe with all my heart that it’s a virtue to show our appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them. Everything you’ll read here holds to that.
Kooser’s book is a great one for jump stating your motivation to write poetry.
And since we are in the 21st century, there are all sorts of on-line helps for the poet, from Rhyme Zone and Rhymes, to Poem-a-Day delivered directly to your e-mail box, the access we have today to poetry and writing helps is phenomenal. Don’t forget to look for poetry apps for your smart phone. Go to wherever you purchase and download your apps, and search for key words like ‘rhyming dictionary’. You might be surprised at all of the useful tools available for that marvelous little tool in your hand!
What poetry writing tools and helps have you found? What are your favorites? Please share them with us on our Facebook page, or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . We would love to hear from you!