National Poetry Month

I love that April is National Poetry Month. Heck, I love that National Poetry Month exists at all, but there’s something appropriate about it being in April. April is just-Spring, when the world is mud-luscious. April is also the cruelest month. Poetry conveys both sentiments, and everything in between.

When I was in second and third grade, I got pulled out of class every week or so with about five other kids for Poetry Enrichment. Well, that’s what I call it now. I didn’t have a name for it then. I think I just called it Poetry. Back then all I knew was that a few other smart misfits and I would head to an empty classroom at an appointed time, and a long-haired, flowy-skirted, bespectacled woman would be waiting for us with a stack of mimeographed pages, damp and heavy with purple ink. Somehow I picked up on the other teachers’ feeling that this woman was a little daft. But I loved the experience.

We read poems, we did the grade-school version of “analysis” of them, we memorized them, and, if I jimmy the lock on that steamer trunk of awkward repressed memory, I think we actually recited them at a school assembly. We learned a lot of Lewis Carroll. I still know “Jabberwocky” backwards and forwards, and have a traumatic spelling bee experience related to the word “chortle.” “The Walrus and the Carpenter” still makes me giggle. I didn’t know back then what a vacant and pensive mood was all about, but I longed for a field of daffodils anyway.

I have no idea who tapped me for this group. Did a note go home for my parents to sign? Did a teacher take it upon herself to nudge me into this activity? Or did the school issue a blanket invitation that I accepted? I probably won’t ever know exactly how it happened, but I owe the universe a debt of gratitude. It set some pretty major things in motion for me. In college, I realized a new acquaintance was going to be a good friend when I said, “Let us go then…” and she added, “…you and I.” And this seminary class changed my life and helped make me the preacher/poet I am, some 25 years after the purple mimeographed sheets. (Teachers, mentors, school volunteers—you make a huge difference.)

Every year during National Poetry Month I resolve to write a poem a day, and I never make it very far. But hope springs eternal…

As for poetry resources to share, I love the Writers’ Almanac daily e-mail, of course. Knopf also sends out a poem each day in April. And I have enjoyed the Poetry Off the Shelf podcast for many years.

Do you have a favorite poem? Do you like poetry? Find it boring? Intimidating? I tend to agree with W.C. Williams, who wrote,

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.


2 thoughts on “National Poetry Month

  1. Teri says:

    My favorite poem (however weird this might sound) is T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. There’s just something about it that I love love love love love.

  2. anne says:

    and for high school students there is the library of congress poetry 180 option which sends a poem a day for the school year. (these are not read aloud to you as w. a. does.)

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