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My Pledge to (Try and) Love Poetry

Not sure how many of you know April is National Poetry Month—an observance one publication deems “necessary because, for various reasons, most people don’t read much poetry.”

Amen to that. Of the tens of thousands of hours I’ve devoted to reading, very few of them have been dedicated to verse. Case in point:

My husband the other day, randomly: “April is the cruelest month…”

Me: “What’s that from? That’s some famous line isn’t it?”

Him [smacking his forehead]: “T.S. Eliot? The Wasteland?!”

You got me, babe. I’ve never read it. Just as I’ve never read anything from the minds of such poetic greats as Mr. Whitman, Hughes, or Cummings. I feel like my knowledge of poetry stops somewhere along that road in the yellow woods Robert Frost wrote about. Call it a giant case of reader’s block.

Yet I’m trying to become more of a fan. In large part because I respect the lyricism of poetry and understand that by reading more of it, I can improve my own writing. (A notion reenforced last fall when I finished Jandy Nelson’s remarkable I’ll Give You the Sun, a YA novel with a narrative that walked the line between poetry and prose.)

Recently I was speaking with a writer friend—a poet herself—who told me she believes one of the reasons more people don’t like poetry is because they remember what they were taught of it in school. How every poem recited in class was often accompanied by a teacher asking “So what does this poem mean?”

Her point was this: We’d all be more open to reading poetry if we let go of those long-held expectations that to enjoy it, we must understand it first. As a poet I recently interviewed shared: “It’s fine, the not knowing … don’t let that stop you from reading it.”

Bolstered by their encouragement, I’ve begun working my way through this beastly tome. (Confession: Why did I first turn to the poetry of this woman? I find her so strangely fascinating). Also, I’ve (re)dedicated myself to reading at least one poem a day (thanks Writer’s Alamanac for the gentle nudge). And at the recommendation of my poet friends, I’ve been pushing myself to discover the work of contemporary poets such as Sharon OldsDean Young, and Meghan O’Rourke.

In short, I’m trying guys. What about you? Do you love or hate poetry? Or are you just indifferent to it? Got any poets/poems to recommend (I really like narrative poetry best)?

And for some more reading about poetry (because this IS a month to give it some love):

Top 100 famous and best poems of all time

How to read a poem 

Carry a poem in your pocket 

Check out these cool National Poetry Month posters  (I’m particularly loving this one)

The book my friend Marissa was reading on how poets read poetry—I’m so intrigued!


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  • Kelly

    I took me a long time to find my niche as a poetry reader. I found out that I could always count on The Fireside Poets to engage my brain and my heart!

  • Ali

    I wrestle with poetry too. When I was deciding to quit the law I had “A Poem a Day for Mental Health” rule and it was lovely. When you find stuff that works it makes your heart sing. I like this one:

    I have a friend who is reading poetry every night to her son and I love when she posts her finds, including this:
    I have ordered a book of Transtromer’s poems and his memoir too.

  • Mary Saou

    Mike bought me a book of Rumi poetry when I had an itch to get into it, but I’m afraid to say I’ve only read a handful so far (and that was, oh, six months ago?!). I am a huge fan of poets-turned-prose writers, Wendell Berry being at the top of that list. I actually haven’t read any of his poetry (so embarrassed!!), but Jayber Crow is one of my all-time favorite reads. I’m excited to look at your links and try to honor National Poetry Month myself!

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