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April 2024 is National Poetry Month

Poetry is a literary art form that is used by many writers to thoughtfully convey ideas and feelings, often using imagery in doing so. There are many different forms that poems can take, involving stanzas, structure and rhyme. Poetry can be read silently, or out loud at many different types of poetry readings.

According to the American Academy of Poets,

Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month is a special occasion that celebrates poets’ integral role in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. 

If you are already a poet or a poetry fan, this is a great time to get involved in poetry events located near you. It is also a great time for anyone interested in poetry to learn something new, and try reading a different genre than you are used to. There are many famous historical poets, as well as contemporary writers. Poetry can be great for adults and kids alike.

According to Mississippi State University, here are some ways that poetry is being supported on college campuses this month:

As more and more people are introduced to poets and poetry as an art form, we can celebrate the legacy of historical poets, as well as uplift voices of new writers.

This April, people are celebrating National Poetry Month all across the country, and there is even an official poster being used to promote this month's events.

According to Publishers Weekly,

The national organization and publisher of contemporary poetry, along with Scholastic, has announced author-illustrator Jack Wong as the artist for its annual Poetry Month poster. Featuring lines from Lucille Clifton’s poem “blessing the boats,” the poster will be distributed free of charge to 85,000 classrooms, libraries, bookstores, community centers, and homes to commemorate the month-long event in April.

Personally, poetry was the first way that I started writing when I was in Middle School. I was a poet before I wrote essays, research papers, blogs or books. It allowed me to set my feelings free onto the page, without judgement or restraint. I write in freeform, just letting things flow. It let me communicate in a way that I had never been able to before.

I was introduced to poetry in my 8th grade English class, and we were told to bring in lyrics to a song that we liked, to analyze as poetry. Our teacher told us that songs are poetry put to music. Since I had always been a musician, that idea deeply resonated with me. It helped me to broaden my mind, and think about writing in a way I had never considered before. Since then, I have spent over 20 years writing my own poetry.

Do you want to write poetry?

If you have ever considered writing your own poetry, this is a great time to get started. Really, all you need is a blank page, and some ideas. You can write stream of consciousness the way I do, or you can study more structured forms of poetry. Each form and each poem is truly a unique piece of art, and you can write something that will be special to you for years to come.

According to Penguin Books, there are 9 different types of poetry:

  • Haiku

  • Free verse

  • Sonnet

  • Acrostic

  • Villanelle

  • Limerick

  • Ode

  • Elegy

  • Ballad

If you want to get started writing your own poetry, you can first read through some other poetry to try and get a feel for which style will work best for you. It is an exploration, and you may find that your tastes will change over time. This is a perfectly natural part of your exploration as a poet.

According to Grammarly, here are some tips to get started with writing your first poem:

  1. Decide what you want to write about

  2. Determine the best format for your topic

  3. Explore words, rhymes, and rhythm

  4. Write the poem

  5. Edit what you’ve written

They also recommend not writing and editing in the same sitting. Often, if you wait a day or two to come back and edit, it will give you fresh clarity when reading what you originally wrote. Sometimes, you may edit once, or you may come back to your piece a couple of times to get it sounding the way you like.

You can also seek feedback on your poem in online poetry communities, from friends or classmates, or you could even join a local poetry group! You may be surprised at the number of people writing poetry today! Recently, I discovered some of my friends that I game with write poetry as well, and we are going to start sharing poems after our weekly game day.

Famous Poets

Over the course of poetry's history, there have been many famous voices that stand out, and whose words stand the test of time. Reading their work can serve as an inspiration for any poet, poetry fan or aspiring poet.

According to Biography, here are 10 of history's most famous poets:

  1. Homer

  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. Edgar Allan Poe

  4. Walt Whitman

  5. Emily Dickinson

  6. William Butler Yeats

  7. Robert Frost

  8. Pablo Neruda

  9. Maya Angelou

  10. Sylvia Plath

There are many places where you can read their poetry free online if you do a search. This is especially true of older works that are now part of the public domain due to the expiration of copyright laws.

In addition to the poets on this list, a couple of my personal favorites are Kahlil Gibran and Nikki Giovanni. Although both of them wrote in different times and about different topics, I fell in love with their writing because of the feelings that they invoke so carefully in their writing.

If you visit All Poetry, you can find the work of more famous poets, as well as contemporary writers.

Poetry Slam

When I was in my late teens, my then-boyfriend introduced me to a form of spoken-word poetry contest called the Poetry Slam. It is a live, weekly competition of poets, who write a 3-minute piece to perform in front of an audience, as well as judges. The poets compete to win the hearts of the judges, and it is breathtaking to watch.

According to Brittanica,

The concept of slam poetry originated in the 1980s in Chicago, Illinois, when a local poet and construction worker, Marc Kelly Smith, feeling that poetry readings and poetry in general had lost their true passion, had an idea to bring poetry back to the people. He created a weekly poetry event—the poetry slam—where anyone could participate. Poets would perform their work and then be judged by five random audience members on a scale of 0 to 10. Out of the five, the highest and lowest scores were dropped and the three remaining scores were added to give the poet an overall score. Whoever had the highest score at the end of the competition was deemed the winner.

It's hard to explain just how evocative the pieces presented at the poetry slam are, without seeing for yourself. It is as though you go into that room, full of poets, fans, family and friends, and you leave transformed. You feel the pain and glory that the poets give you, pieces of their own hearts torn out and left on the stage at the end of the night. No one who was there is ever the same.

I always loved going to the Poetry Slam at the Mercury Cafe here in Denver, in fact, people are going to be slamming there tonight:

Poets compete for $50 and the fame/glory of a Sunday night. Who wins? That’s up to the unswayable judges, who are randomly selected/pier-pressured from the audience. Had a bad day? Have a bad life? Snoozed on the sign up sheet? This is your chance to take it all out on a vulnerable, hungry poet! Or to be one!

Here are some of Denver's slam poets competing in the National Poetry Slam in 2009:

When you are in the room for poetry slam on a Sunday night, it is like you are transported to other places and times. You feel what the poets are feeling, and they throw every ounce of energy into their work. With every word, it is like you die and are born again, leaving with a new perspective on life. Filled with new energy and new hope for the world and life itself.

Guys, it is indescribable the way that poetry changes lives.

If nothing else, I know it has changed the trajectory of mine many times.

Let me know what you think in the comments! Are you a poet? A reader? A writer? Or someone discovering what poetry feels like for the first time? I would love to hear your thoughts and questions, and address them in a future blog post!

If you like, you can also check out my 3 collections of poetry on Amazon:

I hope you all enjoy National Poetry Month, and discover poems that breathe new life into you. Be well, my lovelies. Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

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