Let’s Talk About Poetry Volume 1 – National Poetry Month

So it’s the first Sunday in April and I’m not going to lie to you. I am writing this from earlier in the week, because as you read this I am actually going to be lounging by the pool at my aunt’s house in Florida. Don’t be jealous, because we’re going to talk about poetry!

What, poetry isn’t just as good as lounging by a pool? What if I promise to read poetry by the pool? Sounds like paradise to me!

I spend a lot of time talking about poetry on the internet. Somewhere along the way, it became my crusade to convince people to read poetry and now even I read it more than I did. (I walk the walk!) I think there is a certain misplaced gravitas associated with poetry. Poetry is always heavy, always difficult, always a challenge. Poetry is something you have to work hard to read. It’s not something you can just enjoy, it has to mean something.

Except I don’t believe that for a second.

Like any form, the world of poetry is vast. There are important, meaningful poems that are difficult to read. Moby Dick wasn’t easy to read, either. But there are just as many poems that are not a challenge. They can be beautiful, simple, silly. Poetry can be anything.

When you attack poetry with your highlighters and your literary terms and your symbols, we often forget one simple thing: to just hear the poem. Listen to it. See how it feels when you say it, when someone else says it, when you read it.

We learn how to analyze poems, but not how to love them. That’s a shame, because it’s not really so hard. You just have to find what you like. Maybe you’re like me and you love a little bit of everything. Or maybe you don’t, maybe you only love poems intended for children, or poems that rhyme, or sonnets, or free verse, or blank verse, or… well, I think you get the idea.

For me, the key to learning to love reading poetry was learning to write it. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who believed that the easiest way to learn about sonnets was to write a sonnet. Playing with language yourself helps you recognize when other people do it.

How did you learn to love poetry? Do you think that being taught to write poetry as a young adult would have made you more interested in it? What would have gotten you interested in poetry?



10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Poetry Volume 1 – National Poetry Month

  1. I remember being in middle school and carrying Emily Dickinson’s Selected Poems around with me everywhere I went. It was a book I picked up on whim and feel in love with. I think it would be easier to get people to read poetry if they saw or experienced it in its different forms. I also think poetry is something that should be read in all grades. Dr. Seuss is a great introduction along with favorites like e.e. cummings and William Carlos Williams.

    1. Exactly. Poetry exists for all ages. I don’t understand why we introduce children to it and then seem to forget about it until kids get to high school again.

    1. There aren’t many poetry lovers in my family, though I did just find out that my sister loves it. My birthday present for her this year is a subscription to Poetry Magazine. Maybe it’s genetic? 😉

  2. I started loving poetry better when I didn’t have to like any one particular poem. Does that make sense? I liked it better when I was bored at work and clicking through random poems on the Poetry Foundation website, and none of the poems I clicked was given any weight over any of the others. I felt much more free to enjoy what I enjoyed, and discard what I wasn’t enjoying, and that made it possible for me to love some of the poems and poets. It’s how I discovered my girl-crush, June Jordan! ❤ June Jordan.

    1. That makes sense completely. I feel like that is very much true for me, too. Learning to love poetry apart from writing it or studying it is something that I still had to do and I did it by just reading it whenever I felt like it. I have never read anything by June Jordan. I must investigate!

  3. Here in America poetry is all around us, but in the form of song lyrics. I think it’s too bad that we so seldom look at song lyrics as poetry. I’ll grant that there are a lot over very bad song lyrics out there. I think if we allowed ourselves to look at lyrics and poetry side by side, both would benefit.

    During my senior year I did a poetry unit that looked at Shakespeare and the lyrics of a then young Bruce Springsteen. I’m still a big fan of both.

    1. IOh, I agree with this 100%! We don’t value contemporary music as poetry often enough. I think so much of it truly is poetry. I’ve often thought if I could teach a class on poetry, I would love to include music, not only to compare, but to recognize it for the poetry it is. I’ll be sure to include some songs in my daily national poetry month posts!

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