A Poetry Dare for National Poetry Month

Once upon a time, we dared a friend who claimed to be afraid of poetry to read a poem a day. Just yesterday, I saw she tweeted this:

Later, we dared another friend who wasn’t afraid of poetry but might have been keeping her distance from certain poets to read T.S. Eliot every day. After a few days, she had this to say:

We’ve noticed something about people who read poetry every day: they write better, whether it’s poetry or prose. Maybe it comes from exposure to well-crafted lines. A little like osmosis, so to speak. Or maybe a corollary to what your mother always told you about the kind of friends you keep. I like to think it also comes from what the words do once they get inside you. Those well-crafted lines have a way of opening passages into our souls. They gently (and sometimes not so gently) push us to look at things differently. And they sometimes require that we not have an answer for things. I tend to think these sorts of developments can make us better at writing, yes. I also tend to think they can make us better at being human.

With the release of her new collection, Love, Etc.: poems of love, laughter, longing & loss, L.L. Barkat demonstrates this once again, explaining how poems such as those featured in the collection came about: “It came mostly of reading others’ poems. Every day. Often multiple poems a day. It was that practice, extended over several years’ time, that had taken my poetry to the next level. And I believe there is no way around it: if you want to be a good poet, you must read excellent poetry.”

One of my roles as Director of Many Things at Tweetspeak is the Poetry Darer. As such, it is my pleasure to officially dare you to read a poem every day during the month of April, in celebration of National Poetry Month. This is a dare is for all of us—even the official Poetry Darer.

National Poetry Month Group Poetry Dare

1. If you don’t already read poetry every day, start with a subscription to Every Day Poems. We carefully choose the poems and pair them with beautiful art.

2. If you do already read a poem a day, we suggest you choose a single poet to read from each day. There’s an excellent list of poetry collections in L.L.’s post, How to Write a Poem (or a Hundred), the very collections in which she was immersed as she wrote many of the poems in Love, Etc.

3. Don’t stop at reading a poem a day, but copy the poem out on paper. See how the words feel in your hand, how their shape alters from the printed page to your notebook.

4. Consider sharing your thoughts with a Poetry Buddy during the month, or in the alternative, let Tania Runyan guide your experience through How to Read a Poem.

5. Join us here on Wednesdays during the month. I’ve dared myself to read daily from Wislawa Szymborska and will share thoughts as I go as well as invite you to share your experience in the comments.

If you’re not sure where to begin, and would like a personalized dare for the month, let us know in the comments and we’ll give you a recommendation.

Well? I dare you.

Photo by Rudy, Creative Commons License via Flickr. Post by L.Willingham Lindquist.


Buy How to Read a Poem

Buy Love, Etc.


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  1. says

    I’m reading Tania’s Second Sky, (purchased at AWP when she was here in Seattle). I also have Luci Shaw’s newest ‘Scape’ also from the conference. I’m up to the challenge–a poem (or two) a day! You’re on, Franson.

  2. says

    I’m tempted to accept your dare, not because I want to write more poetry (I’m not much of a poet at the best of times) but gaining “exposure to well-crafted lines” is why novelists read extensively, even when it’s difficult to find the time. Learning to recognize good writing is a prerequisite to being able to write it.

  3. says


    For L.L.: Tomas Transtromer

    For HisFireFly: Jack Mapanje

    Lex Leonard: Diane Ackerman

    Sandra: Li-Young Lee

    Elizabeth/Kelly: Loe poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu (See Jane Hirshfield’s translations.)

    Anyone else need a dare?

    • says

      Oh Maureen. I’m so sorry. I just saw this. For some reason I thought your reply would pop up in my in-box. I’m really so lame at all this tech. stuff. (Not very poetical of me.) I’m already a day behind now, but I’ll do my best to catch up.
      Thank you so much.

    • says

      Okay. I’m all set. I just downloaded “fuel” on my kindle. Looking forward to getting to know naomi shihab nye.
      Thank you Maureen.

  4. says

    Some other suggestions for anyone:

    John Siddique, marvelous British poet

    Any of the state poets laureate, such as Joseph Bathanti of North Carolina and Kelly Cherry (I have posts about all of them on my blog.)

    Jake Adam York, a terrific poet who left this world much too soon

    Meena Alexander

    Patty Paine

    Maxine Kumin

    Donald Justice

    Jane Hirshfield

    Amanda Auchter

    Shaindel Beers

    Edward Byrne

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    Mark Doty

  5. says

    Oh! My comments don’t seem to be showing up!I’m having problems lately. I’ll try it this way. :)

    Thank you Lyla and Maureen! I will check into both of them. Maybe one for April and one for May. <3

  6. Gerry Hendershot says

    Dare accepted. I will be reading poets represented in a course I’m taking at Wesley Theological Seminary (DC), and the Festival of Faith and Writing I’m attending in Grand Rapids.

  7. says

    What a lot of fun this will be! And for all of the newcomers, WELCOME! Please stop over to our Mischief Cafe, settle in with your favorite hot cuppa cuppa, and have a little look around. Let your poetry baristas know if you need anything! You know, directions to the newest infographic, cool bling for your blog, or the nearest ‘facilities’. 😉 http://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/mischief-cafe/

    You can find your 3 poetry baristas on twitter, too –
    Sandra @SandraHeskaKing
    Elizabeth @graceappears
    Donna @brightersideblg

  8. says

    Inhaling a daily poem, exhaling a sigh of wonder. Small morsels here and there to nibble upon.

    Scribbling a few along the way, too, I hope.

    No dare this go-round. Two weddings and a move are daring enough. 😉


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