It's April—time to tackle spring cleaning projects, to welcome returning birds, to wander the woods in search of wildflowers, and to celebrate poetry.
What? Celebrating poetry isn't on your agenda this month? Perhaps you'll make room for it when I tell you that this April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, first organized by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. The idea is to increase the visibility of poetry and poets everywhere. In that spirit, HeartWood will offer poetry-related posts all month, including guest posts from two of my favorite local poets, Jonathan Riedel and Sandra Bernard, who'll tell you about the place of poetry in their lives and share some of their poems.
I'll be celebrating in my own way, too. When I first started thinking about Poetry Month, I vowed to read poetry every day for the whole month. I used to do this year round, not only in April, but I've fallen out of the habit. The shelf of unread poetry books in my writing room reminds me it's time to begin again.
As I thought about reading poetry every day, another idea occurred to me: Why not write a poem a day? I should tell you that even though I usually write something every day, the idea of writing a poem every day makes my palms so sweaty I can hardly hold a pen. Except for a brief period in college, when I wrote poems that I thought were deep and Dadaesque but were really nonsensical gibberish, the idea of writing poetry has terrified me. I just wasn't that kind of writer.
But it's funny, isn't it, how the thing that terrifies also intrigues you? In the back of my mind, I always hoped I would someday face down my fear and give poetry writing a shot. That someday finally arrived last year, when Jonathan offered a four-week poetry class at Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo. I had met Jon at a weekly writing salon Sandra organized at River Stop Café, just down the street from the bookstore. I knew he was a friendly guy with a down-to-earth approach to poetry (after all, he wrote poems about kitchen utensils!), so I signed up.
At the weekly sessions, we learned about haiku, tanka, rhyme and meter, prose poems and more, and between sessions, we had assignments to complete. Yes, poems to write. So I wrote some, and to my surprise, I had fun doing it.
I'll share a couple here, not because I think they're particularly good, but to encourage you to try something that terrifies you.
Prism pendant's moonstone tip
Holds on, holds on, drops
Clear as empty space,
Launched from fingers nimble, young,
Pocket-sized planets of glass
Hurtle through playground cosmos
After Jon's class, I had every intention of continuing to write poetry, but other projects took precedence and somehow a year passed poem-less. Now, however, six days into my April poetry pledge, I have six new poems in my notebook, and I have read as many poems by poet and journalist David Tucker, whose collection Late for Work is my current fave. At the end of the month, I'll report on my progress and perhaps share another poem or two.
What about you? How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? Whether you read poems, write poems or commit to something else that has always intimidated or eluded you (a painting, drawing or photograph a day? a fitness challenge?) I'd like to hear about it. And you're invited to share the results here. You can either post them as a comment or send them to me using my contact form or the email (envelope) icon at the top of this page.
(If you need inspiration for writing poems, check out the Writer's Digest Poetic Asides blog, where you can find daily prompts all this month. You can also sign up for weekly poetry (and fiction and creative nonfiction) prompts through The Time Is Now E-Newsletter, offered year-round by Poets & Writers magazine. And don't forget Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 21. That's the day to carry a favorite piece of poetry on your person to share with others throughout the day. Don't have a favorite in mind? You can download one here.)
Happy April and Happy However-You-Decide-to-Celebrate-It!
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.