National Poetry Month 2013

By Amy Hackworth.

I was taking a writing class the summer I fell in love with Justin, and our first date ended on a stone bench in a rose garden where I read from a book my teacher had just recommended. As I read Albert Goldbarth, Justin listened with attention and appreciation for the carefully crafted words and images. It was all I could do to keep from kissing him then and there.

Although there is much about poetry that I don’t understand, there is plenty and more to love — the isolation of a single moment, unexpected and evocative images, and the fantastic volley and play of language. And although April may be two-thirds over, there’s still plenty of time to celebrate National Poetry Month (find 30 great ideas here!). Maybe you’ve been celebrating all month long anyway. Or maybe you haven’t read a good poem since high school. In either case, enjoy a little poetry today.

Poetry 180 is a great place to start. In 2001, during his tenure as United States Poet Laureate, Billy Collins (well known for his extremely accessible and often hilarious poems) created the website to offer “a selection of short, clear, contemporary poems which any listener could basically ‘get’ on first hearing — poems whose injection of pleasure is immediate.”

Collins hoped to help poetry find its way down from the ivory tower of overwrought explication and into everyday life with a no-pressure invitation to just listen, to hear the words and feel the images, and then go about your day. Although created for high schoolers, trust me — you’ll find treasures there. Start with Collins’s own poem “Introduction to Poetry” or the very short “Tour” by Carol Snow or Christina Pugh’s ode to the rotary phone.

Collins’s book by the same name (though with variations in content) is subtitled, “A Turning Back to Poetry,” and it’s the perfect way to do just that. (While you’re at it, enjoy 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday and Billy Collins’s own collections Sailing Alone Around the Room or Picnic, Lightning).

So many other great ways to add poetry to your life:

– Designate and execute your own Poem in Your Pocket Day (We missed this year’s official date—April 18—but let’s all do this next year, ok? I love how Charlottesville, Virginia’s library celebrates!)

– Listen to great poets talk with Bill Moyers.

– Memorize a poem — find compelling reasons here.

– Plan to attend next year’s Dodge Poetry Festival. I’ve always wanted to go. Have you been? Tell me all about it! Watch footage from past years’ festivals here.

– Dive into Joyful Noise, Paul Fleischman’s Newbery winning, nothing-short-of-brilliant book of poems for two voices, with your child.

– Share darling poems and sweet illustrations from this anthology with your littlest ones or help your older children memorize poems from this accessible collection.

– Record and share a poem here.

– Listen and watch Billy Collins’s animated poetry at TED, and try to keep yourself from wishing he could come over for dinner and make you smile, especially when he reads that last poem, “To My Favorite Seventeen-Year-Old High School Girl.”

– Be inspired by my newfound role model Sarah Kay’s spoken word poetry and her beautiful outlook on poetry, courage, and life at TED and TEDx.

Judging by these comments on Carter’s post, I know at the very least there are William Carlos Williams fans among us. Who are other poets you enjoy? And what are the poems you love? Do you see yourself adding a little poetry to your everyday life, or is it already there, alive and well?