This last year as Tweetspeak’s inaugural Poet Laura has been interesting indeed. I’ve read and written poems about people named Laura, sat in a coop to recite Dickinson to chickens in blustery weather, fallen in love with my bedroom window (again, Dickinson), eaten/analyzed/written about chocolate, taken the form of a small paper cutout to accompany people on Take Your Poet to Work Day, collected poems about pizza, and, well, written poetry. And that’s what I’m most excited about.
When I began my reign as Poet Laura last fall, I’d been languishing in the middle of a poetic dry spell. Then I started to have some fun because the position required that I be “able, willing, or impressionable” in 10 or so matters or activities.
With no pressure or perfectionism attached, I practiced what I preach in How to Write a Poem, focusing on how “important it is to be free, open, and fluid when beginning to write in order to let the poem find itself.”
In the process of letting loose, I began to find poetry again. I experimented with my Poet Laura duties, responded to poetry prompts every day of the month in April, and wrote quite a few poems in form (spoiler alert from my forthcoming How to Write a Form Poem: there’s freedom in form). In fact, now I have a new collection underway: epistolary poems, most of which are written in form. I’m fully submerged in poetry again, and I have the illustrious position of Poet Laura to thank.
As I pass the pen to our next Poet Laura (whose name actually is Laura, to make things less (or more?) confusing, I have some advice:
1. Enjoy the company of words. Consider the process of writing a poem a playdate with your favorite nouns, adjectives, and verbs (but especially verbs).
2. Don’t be afraid to do something weird in service of poetry. I never thought I’d read poetry to chickens, for example, but the experience has stuck in my imagination and inspires me whenever I need a creative kick.
3. Develop a serious body of poetry by not taking your poetry too seriously. Experiment, explore, and go where the poetry takes you.
4. Spread the joy to others by writing poems for people and joyfully receiving poems back. A couple highlights of my year were writing about two Lauras in my life and receiving a “custom” poem about New York-style pizza by Faisal Mohyuddin. Perhaps this is why I’m enjoying writing letter poems these days. Human connection seems even more important in these difficult times.
So dear Laura, I bequeath all my best wishes on your journey. I can’t wait to see what discoveries and creations emerge.
Photo by a.canvas.of.light, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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