A POEM A DAY KEEP THE DOCTOR
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”-William Wordsworth
World Poetry Day (recognized by UNESCO) is observed on March 21st. In the United States, April is National Poetry Month. Spend 2023 (and especially the month of April) becoming more poetic. This can mean reading more or writing poetry, attending readings, thinking like a poet and supporting your fellow poets.
“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” -Plato
A poem a day
Whether it’s reading or writing, indulging in a poem a day is a wonderful practice. It’s not solely literary; it’s also life-affirming and meditative. This practice not only helps us with language, written and verbal communication, learning and understanding the music and cadence of words, it also aids in our ability to slow down and even understand our own emotions more clearly.
The purpose of poetry is to play with language and to dance with words. We articulate our innermost feelings with verse. Baudelaire said that one should “always be a poet, even in prose.” So, if you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, try to always choose the best word and try to use as few words as possible. Remember: verbosity is the enemy of a poet.
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” T.S. Eliot
Some poets to look to for guidance and to read this year:
- Ancient epics by Homer (“The Odyssey”) and Virgil (“The Aeneid”)
- The Romantics (Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Lord Byron, John Keats)
- The Naturalists (Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”)
- The Modernists (T.S. Eliot: most notably “The Waste Land,” Ezra Pound’s “Cantos” and translations of Li Po, etc.)
- The Beats (Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”)
- Dream poets (like John Berryman)
- African American female poets (Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou)
Read and Write
“Poets are shameless with their experiences: they exploit them.”
- Read a poem a day! Poets.org is an incredibly helpful and inclusive resource! They have a catalog of thousands of poems and lots of insightful guides on how to read poetry more effectively and with purpose. This is invaluable for aspiring and established poets out there.
- The Poetry Foundation also publishes a poem a day; check them out for your daily inspiration.
- Go to readings and listen to poetry! It’s all about the sound of the words. Read your favorite poems out loud, and when you write your own, read those aloud as well.
- New poems by emerging poets are published daily by Poets.org.
Keep in mind when reading poetry that there is no right or wrong way, you’re not going to be tested on the material, and every insight and interpretation is valid. “The goal of careful reading is often to take up a question of meaning, an interpretive question that has more than one answer.”
- Just look through your own library when in search of new things to read (dust off those college poetry anthologies), or, better yet, go to the library (or a rare and used book store) and peruse the poetry section.
- Sign up (through various channels such as The Poetry Foundation) to get a poem a day on your phone or electronic device.
- Share your favorite poems with friends and have them do the same.
- Get a calendar for your desk with a different poetic insight for each day.
When you start writing a poem a day, it’s good to keep a few things in mind:
- No one else is going to see it (unless you want them to), so be as open and honest as possible. Poetry is about emotion.
- It doesn’t have to be good. Don’t have expectations. Just do it.
- It can take a long time to finish a poem; incomplete verse counts!
- This will make you a better writer. Establishing a routine of writing is half the battle. We like to call this “flow” or “getting into the groove.”
- Try all the styles and get acquainted with the language of poetry. Try the book of forms as a guide.
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