Without poetry, we lose our way.
Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate & Academy of American Poets Chancellor
It’s National Poetry Month and I confess, I am thrilled about that overwhelmingly lovely diversion from everything otherwise happening in the world at this moment in time. I mean, what a way to absorb the beauty of Spring and to embrace hope and all the possibilities of this particular season, in spite of soaring gas prices, surging Covid cases globally, and a war befuddling every nation except the one instigating it.
Pause with me and look to words, to refresh, renew, reinvigerate the mind, soul and spirit. I am thankful for a month that celebrates the power of poetry. Poetry is, to me, humanity’s love language. It allows simple snapshots and glimpses into our hearts…in all the rawness, with all the weakness and sometimes surprising strength. In the ugly, the precious, the beautiful, the wiping the nose, holding back tears moments. Poetry takes reality and hands it back to us like an unexpected gift…all the facets of our lives, reflected, back reminding us of our connectedness. Oh, I believe in the power of poetry, and the power of words, to cause us all to see. To hear. To listen…to one another.
So let me tell you how I am celebrating National Poetry Month this month (and quite possibly every month hereafter forevermore)…
My National Poetry Month Bucket List
- Attend a Poetry Gathering -specifically the Savoy Bookshop and Cafe (first mondays) ! I was so excited when Lisa Starr sent out the e-mail for this event to kick off the first Monday of April. For those of you who may not know, Lisa is beloved in the poetry community (and beyond) by everyone…including yours truly. She is our former state Poet Laureate here in Rhode Island. I know I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this gathering (and Lisa) because we had about 29 artists share their work, mostly poets, but some music was shared, as well. There were many who also came to listen and share in the magic and wonder of poetry. It was just SO GOOD to be there. With everyone. Together. Again. So very, VERY good. On a side note, any excuse to hang out in a bookstore is not a stretch for most of us…obviously.
- Finish reading a Book ABOUT Poetry. I picked up a book a while back and I decided I should give it a go and finish it this month. The title is Poetry RX : How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy To Your Life by Norman E. Rosenthal. Truth be told, I have a small collection of poetry reads I could have chosen, but this is the most recent purchase and so I figured I would, as Nike said (anyone remember them?), Just Do It!
- Read one new poet with whom I am not familiar. Pretty straightforward and simple.
- Write at least one post on the blog about National Poetry Month. Hello, that’s a CHECK MARK, right here with this blog post! Perhaps I should follow up with WHY we need a month for poetry. But it would turn into a complete argument for all of the creative arts. Let’s sum up my argument for this month with this statement: focusing on poetry in this way reminds me of how much value is added to my life with this form of creative expression and literature. If God thought it was important enough to use in throughout Holy Scripture as His creative revelation of Himself to the world, it’s good enough for me. Selah!
- Make time weekly to work on my poetry. If you are not one prone to poetry writing, you may not understand to write poetry regularly (or write anything at all), one has to have enough margin in their days to ponder…to reflect. Writing poetry can be like trying to pause a thunderstorm. You have to be available and present when it decides to rain down on you. You can’t be running in fifty different directions all the time. You have to say no. You have to be content to miss things and know that you are not missing anything unless you are missing out on your writing time. I do not need to do all the things. But I do need to write. I take my calling and passion seriously. This month allows me an excuse to look at my own work, as well as the work of others, with fresh eyes, new curiosity and appreciation.
- Gather and organize all my books of poetry and on poetry. I am pretty sure I could “shop” the books I have unread. This activity should allow me to curtail some of my “Buy all the Books!” enthusiasm for at least a few weeks. But…did I mention my love for bookstores, libraries and books? It sorta comes with the territory. Books are like stray cats…they tend to find me. And I don’t mind.
- Reconnect with (at least) one of my poetry compadres and plan a get together. I have enjoyed being part of some writers groups locally which have blessed me and caused me to grow well in my writing life. I have had some wonderful, and hilarious adventures with some of these folks. The reality is, they listen to your words like nobody’s business. They know what it is to wrestle with writing and the things that cause one to be distracted or discouraged from the writing life. They remind you why it matters to keep going. They offer helpful feedback and challenge you to be better. They are great in groups, but even more fun one-on-one.
- Visit one art galley and respond to a piece of art with a poem. Here in Little Rhody we have a plethora of art galleries and artists. One could say, Art is Us! I have not yet visited every art gallery in our small state. But I have a few I enjoy visiting regularly. One is the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly which happens to be located at a train station-or part of what used to be one and the train station is still there, just not actually in the gallery itself. Downtown, Westerly is one of the many beautiful areas rich with lovely architecture, outside beauty – especially Wilcox Park, and the library. The last time I walked in the park, I enjoyed a first sighting of bright purple crocuses for Spring! That was a poetic moment, for sure.
- Take a meditative hike or walk outdoors and respond with a poem about the experience. There are places we long to visit again and again, because we meet with our souls there. They are the places where we know our soul will rush to meet us. I have a few, where this is possible, but there is one place I go where I sense a strong connection with God, nature, and my soul. It’s my favorite place to rendevous with God. Do you have a place where you can take a meditative hike where your mind, body, spirit and soul can come together and rejoice? Find a place, or revisit the place and give it a try. I think I will explore a new path this month for this…but if not, I know where I will look to begin again, and respond with words.
- Write 1-3 poems in a new form. When I am weak, I am strong! Honestly speaking, I am a novice poet, so I still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I buck against the forms. But as anyone who has ever been good at anything understands, practice makes perfect. Or at least, practicing allows one to improve in the discipline they practice. I am not an academic. But I am a chronically curious individual. I can “why?” you into the next decade. What I lack in education, I make up for in enthusaism, persistance and earnestness. God knows my strong will. Where there is a will, there is a way. I don’t know everything about poetry forms, and facts, but what I love is learning about these: words, people, and the world around me. I am insatiably curious. I miss my poetry group for this, it helped expose me to different ways of poetry, even if I was not always willing to comply with the prompt forms.
- Learn something new about the history of poetry to deepen my understanding. Out on a limb here…this is on my list, but I am not sure where I will go with this…open to suggestions!
- Research the lives of 3-5 Poets and add to my “Poetry Journal”. I am fascinated with the lives of poets (and people in general). What makes them choose one way of life or thinking over another, what things impacted them while they were growing up, what was happening in history during their lives, what influenced their writing, or perspective. Most recently I have been learning about Cecil Frances Alexander. I find taking these biographical journeys with poets is deeply enriching and eye opening. They allow me a glimpse into the human heart and history simultaneously. I record these snippets in a notebook.
- Watch one movie connected or related to poetry. The only one that comes to my mind off the top of my head is Dead Poets Society. But I know there must be more. Of course I’d rather be reading and writing than watching movies, so there’s that. Any suggestions? Otherwise I will rewatch Dead Poets Society. And always Lord of The Rings. But I digress with that suggestion…
- Submit poetry to the Wickford Poetry and Art event. This yearly collaborative effort is one of my favorite events of the year. The gallery matches artists with poets and has them respond to the work of one another. Each year it alternates between whether the artist or poet responds. This year the artists respond to poet submissions. Are you an artist or a poet? Depending when you read this post there may still be time to submit your work! They have extended the deadline to April 14th 2022 for BOTH artists and poets!
- Participate in a poetry reading where I recite one of my poems. I have a confession to make. At my age (which is for me to know and you to take a wild guess at) both my vision and memory are not optimal. OK, second confession, even before I was this age, I was always a terrible rememberer! The thought of reciting my home address causes me to blank, never mind 20-30 lines of poetry…even if I did write the words! I write them and then just forget about them mostly…However, I want to tell you a story about the little poet who couldn’t. There was once a little poet with a terrible memory who loved to write and wished she could recite her poems by memory. But she also found when she opend her mouth to read her poetry, her emotions would choke and embarass her. They behaved like wild beasts every time she tried to tell the truth through her words, and they would stampede her throat so badly that she could hardly breathe! Whenever she tried to read in front of others- never mind by memory- the beasts would come and choke her. One day after hearing a trumpet call for poets to gather and read their work, she decided she would try again even though there were only three days to prepare. So she chose a short poem she had written with just 15 lines, and practiced and practiced and practiced. First thing in the morning when her eyes opened, she spoke the heartfelt lines. Before bed, 15 lines. In the shower again the 15 lines, before a meal, the same lines. To a friend in the parking lot after a workout, and on and on she practiced. Sometimes, even still, she would mess up a word or line but still she was pleased with the progress she made! At last the day arrived. The poets all came to share and enjoy one another’s words. When her time came she started to speak the lines…and once again, the beasts arrived just as she finished the first stanza! She felt her emotions take hold of her throat and time stood still. All the poets waited with her for her words to come forth…but then a funny thing happened. She waited…and while she waited for her breath to return, hoping to overcome those ghastly beasts by sheer will, the leader in the poetry circle, wanting to impart courage to her, told her to start again. From the top. All the poets chimed in their agreement saying- yes, yes, start again! So she did and out from her mouth came the 15 lines she had practiced, and this time the wild beasts did not return. The End.
Well, you probably already figured out the little poet who couldn’t is me. And the event that it happened at is listed in the number one spot on my National Poetry Month Bucket List (April 3rd) when I read Blood of Every Nation with a little help from my friends at the Poetry Salon. This Poetry Salon will be meeting the 1st Monday of every month.
How are you celebrating National Poetry Month? I’d love to know. Favorite poet? Let me know if you have one!
If you are an educator head over to Poets.org and check out the Dear Poet Project for grades five through twelve : 2022 Dear Poet Project OR just pop over and check the list of all the goings on HERE!
Dawn Paoletta likes to write, ignore rules, and confess her transgressions while driving. She believes caffeine enhances her personality, and is self -admittedly, the only living expert on the subject of how to conduct one’s vehicle at a 4-way stop sign. Check out more here.