National Poetry Month

Here it is, almost the end of April, and I have nearly missed writing about National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996 “to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters,” as we learn from the AAP website.

I know that Writers Forum has many poets in our membership. I also know that Writers Forum has many good writers who find themselves intimidated by poetry. I know, because until a short while ago, I was one of you.

Sure, I had dabbled in poetry in college. I tried my hand at free verse and sonnets. And once I didn’t have to write poetry for assignments anymore, I stopped writing it. Poetry was hard. I had a hard time reading it. I was much more comfortable writing in prose. I had been writing prose all of my life, and it worked just fine for me. Why change?

I’ll tell you why.

Writing poetry will make your prose stronger. I guarantee it.

Poetry took me by surprise. It ambushed me after a Writers Forum Read Around. I hadn’t even read any poetry. I had read a selection from my Backcountry Trails memoir. After the Read Around, a friend in Writers Forum approached me and asked me to join her poetry critique group. Just like that. I didn’t know what to say. She said that her poetry group had dwindled through attrition down to two people, and they really needed a third for it to remain a ‘group.’ I protested that I don’t even write poetry.

She said, “You are a writer. Writers write. Poetry is just another type of writing, and I am confident that your poetry is just fine.”

I thought about it for a minute. If for no other reason than to get to know these other writers better, I agreed to check out their group. I met them at a local restaurant the next week.

Did I mention that the other two people are language teachers and published authors? Do I need to tell you that I felt intimidated and way, way out of my league to be sharing poetry with them?

I also need to tell you that they did everything they could to make me feel at ease and to assure me that I am a writer, and poetry is one aspect of any writer’s craft. I had heard it said that writing poetry helps your word choice and concision in other writing.

It’s true.

After spending almost two years writing poetry, it turns out to be the single best thing I have done to improve my writing in a long time. Give it a shot!

Even after National Poetry Month ends, we will continue posting on this blog to help you build your poetry muscles. I will also be looking for poets interested in contributing articles about the craft of poetry.

Maybe we can make it a regular feature and call it Hitting the Poetry Gym. I am open to other suggestions.

If you are a poet and would like to contribute to the blog, or if you have other name suggestions for a ‘poetry workout’ feature, leave a comment, or email me at writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading,

Geo.


If you would like to contribute an original piece to Writers Forum for posting on the blog, please submit to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .  Please note ‘Submission’ in the subject line. All submissions are considered, but shorter pieces of 500-1500 words are preferred. We will consider all original works–poetry, short fiction, essays, memoir. We would also love to run your short pieces on writing as well. Share your writing insights with us. Thanks!

April is National Poetry Month

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:

We at Writers Forum would like to give you some resources for helping poets in their craft.

First, we have The Complete Rhyming Dictionary.

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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.

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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.

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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 writersforumeditor@gmail.com . We would love to hear from you!

#NationalPoetryMonth