"Poems are transmissions from the depths of whoever wrote them to the depths of the reader. To a greater extent than with any other kind of reading, the reader of a poem is making that poem, is inhabiting those words in the most personal sort of way. That doesn’t mean that you read a poem and make it whatever you want it to be, but that it’s operating so deeply in you, that it is the most special kind of reading." ~ Kay Ryan, U. S. Poet Laureate
April is National Poetry Month, so now is a good time to think ahead about how to celebrate the richness that poetry can bring to our lives. Here are few ideas to get you started:
1. Sign up to receive “Poem-a-Day” emails from The Academy of American Poets. Each day in April a fresh poem will be delivered straight to your email inbox.
2. Write a poem every day in April. Don’t worry about making it perfect or long. A good motivator is to find a poetry buddy and email each other your poems each morning or evening.
3. Become an expert on your favorite poet by reading all or most of his or her poetry, either online, such as for William Wordsworth (a project that will likely spill well beyond April) or in a collected printed anthology, such as The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou.
“Hello, this is Paul Chowder, and I'm going to try to tell you everything I know. Well, not everything I know, because a lot of what I know, you know. But everything I know about poetry. All my tips and tricks and woes and worries are going to come tumbling out before you. I'm going to divulge them.”
5. If you usually prefer free verse or more informal poems, challenge yourself to dip into more formal poetry and to learn about poetic forms beyond haiku and sonnets.
6. If you usually prefer rhymed or formal poetry, experiment with free verse.
8. Read or, better yet, buy a poetry chapbook, perhaps by a local poet. According to The Chapbook Review, chapbooks are “slim, soft-cover books, usually inexpensively produced and independently published.” Look for poetry chapbooks in libraries and independent bookstores, and learn about the history of chapbooks.
9. Write and create your own poetry chapbook. Keep it for your personal enjoyment, or make a few copies to give to family and friends. If you write a poem a day in April, you will have 30 poems for your chapbook by May 1.
10. Memorize one or more favorite poems. Once you have made a poem’s words your own, you can take them with you everywhere and call up their imagery whenever you please. The poem does not have to be long. Consider waking up to a foggy morning and recalling Carl Sandburg’s “Fog” as you drive to work: “The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on.” Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize, by John Hollander, is a good resource and inspiration for memorization.