25 Apr

A Day for Poetry

Posted in Creativity, DIY MFA, Poetry, Writing

April is National Poetry Month and today I’d like to take some time to enjoy that genre where words really count.  In poetry the wrong word–no matter how small or innocent-looking–can be the difference between pretty or pathetic, inspiring or insipid.  Words rule in poetry in a way that isn’t possible for any other genre.

I can already see some of you rolling your eyes.  “Here she goes… getting all ga-ga over poetry.  Gross.”  I promise I’ll keep my love of verse under control.  All I ask is this: before you click away, take 30 seconds to read the following poem.  Not because I told you (though that’s also a very nice reason), but because you’re a writer and you love words in all flavors.  Take these 30 seconds to recharge your inner muse and enjoy words for their own sake.  This poem by Billy Collins is about reading poetry, but it continually helps refresh my perspective on all literature, regardless of genre.

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Homework: Today I’d like you to visit poets.org or break open an anthology and read one poem you’ve never read before.  It can be a poem with an interesting title, or a poem that you’ve been wanting to read but never got around to.  There are no requirements except that it be a poem.  Once you’ve read it, I’d love to hear about what you read.  Also, do you like poetry and read it for fun, or was this new for you?  If you love poetry, what about it speaks to you?  If you’re not a poetry-lover, what turns you off?


Comments on this post

  1. J.C. Martin says:

    Apart from the cute, rhyming poems you find in Hallmark cards, or the funny ones you get in e-mail forwards, I'm not much into poetry appreciation. I often find them a bit too…profound…for my tastes, as if there's always something I haven't quite deciphered. Perhaps that's the attraction of poems for some people, but oftentimes the ones I've read are just fancy words strung together to sound intellectual…at least that's what my simple brain sees it as!

    1. Kerryn Angell says:

      I don't read a lot of poetry and I wish I read more but every time I delve into it (like my brief visit to poets.org) I get turned off by the poems that I just don't get and don't resonate with me. That should be made up for when I do find poems that I love, phrases that tantalise and imagery that's fantastical.

      The poem you posted was great and I loved the verse:
      "I want them to waterski
      across the surface of a poem
      waving at the author's name on the shore."

      I will continue my exploration into poetry. I have a bookstore voucher I have yet to spend so perhaps I will track down a book of poems. I'd love to hear about the poems that you love!

      1. martine says:

        To the commenter above; then Billy Collins is the poet for you, completely accessible and unpretentious.
        I read and posted this poem last year, and have become a fan of Collins ever since. It is great to see him read his work, loads of clips on youtube.
        thanks for sharing

        1. Gabriela Pereira says:

          I know what you mean J.C. I used to have a massive aversion to poetry too. I thought the poets were trying too hard to be "deep" and "meaningful." Or worse yet, the poets were just stringing big words together to sound smart.

          Then I discovered that poem that I posted above and it opened up my understanding of poetry and broadened my expectations.

          Not all poetry is meant to be "understood." Sometimes it's just enough to enjoy it for what it is. I used to "beat poems with a hose" but now I realize that it's OK just to sit back and let the words wash over me.

          1. Kerryn Angell says:

            My approach is to let the words wash over me and then to see what reaction I get from them. I've just spent the past half hour reading some really fun and magical poems. Thanks!

            1. Girl Friday says:

              Ohhh, I love that poem, thanks for introducing me to it.

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