One Poem at a Time
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!
4/6/2016 08:24:09 am
This month I will forego my spy novels and books on early US history and dig out a book I know is in my basement. An anthology of poems by Wisconsin authors found at a garage sale about 20 years ago. Thanks for the inspiration.
4/6/2016 08:37:30 am
Glad to hear you're inspired to dig out that book and get to know some Wisconsin poets.
4/7/2016 11:46:10 am
Oh Nancy you make me chuckle!!! Do you sleep? I never imagined you were up to so many things
4/20/2016 06:29:56 pm
Found it! New Poetry Out of Wisconsin published in 1969 and edited by August Derleth. Not too original of a title. In 1937 he published Poetry Out of Wisconsin. Need to finish it before April ends....
4/24/2016 08:40:46 am
If you don't finish it, I'll give you an extension through May. :-)
4/7/2016 11:57:26 am
As a matter of fact, Kitty, I only slept about 4 hours last night (not by choice and not typical!), and this morning I wrote a poem about my sleeplessness.
4/7/2016 11:59:30 am
You have definitely motivated me to dip into my favorite book of poems, 'Weweni', by Meg Noodin. They are poems in Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) as well as english, lyrical in both languages and a delight. Thank you!
4/7/2016 12:08:00 pm
Glad to hear it! We just might have to devote a post-yoga breakfast (or other get-together) to poetry sharing.
4/7/2016 05:57:38 pm
Nan, you have inspired to paint on a canvas! It has terrified me to even think about it let alone actually put paint on a canvas. Last year my granddaughter and I bought a bundle of 12x12 canvases. She keeps asking me, "Grandma, when are we going to paint on a canvas?" I tell her, "Soon, but not now." I come up with another excuse. So now in the next month, I WILL paint a canvas! Thanks for helping me make a commitment!
4/8/2016 06:44:18 am
This is so exciting! I'd love to see what you paint!
I didn't remember April was poetry month. Thanks for nudging me. I wrote a lot of poems when I was in school and sometimes as a young mother trying to vent my feelings on paper. I've written some really funny ones (I think so anyway-- like for my rving group and exercise group) but nothing profound lately. I've even tried "raps"and performed one for the counselors at Camp Newaygo--maybe one for our writer's group? I haven't written anything deep and profound in years and years. Maybe it's time to get serious? Thanks so much for the websites. I admire your commitment to writing a poem a day and reading one too! My poetry month may have to be May, not April.
4/15/2016 08:30:43 am
Looking forward to reading whatever you write in April/May, poetic or not!
Leave a Reply.
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.