We believe that poetry is best experienced on a regular basis (every day, in fact) and not just carted out once a year like the big brown box with the crushed corner and bent flaps full of holiday decorations to be dusted off and displayed for a season. Even so, we think it’s very sweet to give poetry its own special month, to dress all up and go to the fancy balls and eat delicious little cocktail sandwiches at parties and find itself read and read and read again some more. Almost makes you want to be poetry, doesn’t it?
With National Poetry Month here, we recommend these five great resources to help you bring more poetry into your life in April. It would be okay to use them in May and June, too. We promise you, poetry won’t mind.
Remember the toy you opened for your birthday one year that didn’t do anything? It didn’t take batteries or make noise or flash lights or move anywhere. It (whatever it was) didn’t do anything. And that’s what you said, quietly, trying not to seem ungrateful: It doesn’t do anything. But before you knew it, that toy was the thing that went with you everywhere. The one you dragged up into the tree with you, and lay on its own pillow next to you at night, and told all your secrets and dreams to.
Sometimes, when we say that poetry was meant to be read (we might even say that more than we say it was meant to be written), that’s the kind of look we get. Poetry? It doesn’t do anything. No car chases, no explosions, no sexy … Stop right there. Poetry has all that, sometimes more. And National Poetry Month is a perfect time to invite yourself to read it. Tania Runyan’s How to Read a Poem is just such an invitation. Using images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem) this book will guide you into new ways of understanding—and enjoying poems.
National Poetry Month is also a perfect time to write poetry. Some folks write a poem a day during April. Others a poem a week. We don’t know if there’s a magic frequency, but we do know Runyan’s companion volume, How to Write a Poem, will give you some strategies—some tools, if you will—to assemble your personal, imaginative raw materials into poems that will surprise and intrigue. This volume also uses images from the Collins poem and would be a terrific guide to follow throughout your month of poem-writing.
Sometimes, reading or writing poems can lead us to feel a twinge of jealousy. Why can’t I write like that? Why don’t I have that kind of vocabulary? Why doesn’t my toy do anything? We think you should always listen closely to your jealous twinges, because they have something very important to say. Our Jealous Poem Stacks Writing Method is an excellent exercise in taking advantage of those feelings and turning them into action. In this case, asking a question and creating stacks of words that you can Jenga around into a fun new poem.
4. Poetry and Coloring
There’s no need to let National Poetry Month be one of those things that puts more on your list of things to do. Many people have discovered the stress-reducing benefits of coloring, for adults and not just children. We’ve combined that with poetry in our Coloring Page Poems series, for a colorful National Poetry Month.
And teachers, we know most of you are not in your classrooms during July when we celebrate Take Your Poet to Work Day. We’re pretty sure the grownups won’t mind if you borrow our poets-on-a-stick collection and plan a fun poets parade for your students this National Poetry Month. Get the whole collection in our Take Your Poet to Work Day Coloring Book. (You can also now celebrate Take Your Poet to School Week with your students!)
Now, if you decide to write some poems for NPM, you might from time to time (perhaps only on Wednesdays, or odd days of the week, or only on the 17th) find yourself short of just the right word. If you didn’t find the word you need in your jealous poem stack, you might try one of these great word tools, including a totally cool rhyming dictionary and a reverse dictionary and even a dictionary that finds words that are playing hard-to-get on the tip of your tongue.
Photo by 白士 李. Used with permission.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland
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