National Poetry Month begins tomorrow

Are you ready?  I have my National Poetry Month poster up in my office and a stack of poetry volumes on my desk.  Of course poetry is for every day, as some poetry month detractors like to point out, but I’m glad for specific opportunities like this to celebrate and promote poetic literacy.  So many people think of poetry (at best) as a luxury, but in this time of economic despair, spare words and fresh perspective help peel away the externals and reveal the core of human experience — a humbling but hopeful revelation, and the sort that invites us to participate.  Umberto Eco defines the “poetic effect” as “the capacity a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.”  That’s what I love about poetry: that it speaks to each person uniquely, based on our differing backgrounds and experiences, and in that way, the reader participates in the writing.

As always, the American Academy of Poets has lots of resources to help us celebrate this month, including: Poetry 101 (reading guides, essays, glossaries, and more for beginners); the Poem-A-Day (a daily email of poems from new collections); the Free Verse Photo Project (contribute your images of poetry “in the wild”); Mobile Poetry (access to poems and poet biographies on your cell phone); NaPoWriMo (challenge yourself to write a poem every day in April); and the Poetcast (monthly podcast of poets discussing poetry).  And you’ll find lots of other resources elsewhere, including video poems, ReadWriteThink’s Word Mover interactive tool for students, and the Favorite Poem Project.

For my part, I’ll be posting a poem here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April and inviting you to reflect on it with me.  In preparation, I leave you with this favorite Billy Collins poem (which I’ve posted here in the past).  See you tomorrow!

“Introduction to Poetry”
from Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means. 

31. March 2009 by Mindy
Categories: Poetry | 9 comments

Comments (9)

  1. I love that poem, Mindy. I think I first came across it on your blog. It perfectly sums up how I feel about the way biblical interpreters generally treat poetry.

  2. I know what you mean, Ros. And other “non-poetic” texts as well, biblical or otherwise. Lots of attention given to “what does it mean?” and not enough to “how might I respond?” I hope you’ll be posting some poetry this month, too–looking forward to discussing with you!

  3. Ah, to be in England now that April’s here…

    is the poem that most comes to mind today. ;) But I’ll try to find some other interesting ones to post too.

  4. I wouldn’t mind being in England, either! I figured you wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk poetry. I’ll keep an eye out for your posts.

  5. I’m ready to celebrate too, Mindy!

    I love this poem. There’s a wonderful YouTube video out there of someone reading the poem and drawing it out… Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it but it’s something like that. I will have to search for it :)

    Looking forward to your poem posts!

  6. Thanks, Iliana. Now I have to look up that video! :o)

  7. This is a wonderful Billy Collins poem; I love the way he uses such specific images to show the different ways we can experience poetry (enjoyment, or torture for understanding). Sailing Alone Around the Room is one of the books of poetry I am going to try and read this month.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I just looked through your reading list, and you have a lot of books I loved or am planning to read. Reading Lolita in Tehran is one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to The Year of Magical Thinking. I haven’t read Amelia Peabody in awhile, but like you the series is one of the few mystery series I’ve ever been sort of obsessed with :)


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