Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ten Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and you are celebrating that, aren't you? Here are some terrific ways to make the most of the occasion:

  1. If you think you don't like poetry, or if you usually avoid it, use the month of April to expose yourself to poetry for 30 days. Lots of poetry sites offer up daily doses during Poetry Month; I shamelessly suggest MY site, of course: Click the "Subscribe" button on the left-hand side of the page and sign up for the "April Poetry Parade." Give me 30 days, and you don't have to read another poem till next April. But don't be surprised if you come back begging for more!

  2. Write a fan letter to your favorite poet. If he/she is alive, try a Google search or Facebook to find contact information. If your favorite poet is deceased, write an open letter that you share on FB or your blog. Even if the poet can't read it firsthand, the rest of us will enjoy knowing what makes his/her words special to you.

  3. Check out a book of poetry from your school or public library. Read it all the way through then choose at least one poem to share with a friend or family member. If you have children in your life, you OWE it to them to share poetry with them at least this one month out of the year. Children love poetry; your librarian should be able to recommend sure-to-please titles. You can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Eve Merriam, Jack Prelutsky, Jane Yolen, or Frank Asch. I adore How Now, Brown Cow, by Alice Schertle.

  4. If you can afford it, buy a book of poetry. At your local independent bookstore is always best, or directly from a poet (at a reading, for example), but even a thrift store purchase helps the cause. Tons of people write poetry; not so many buy it. Set an example and be proud!

  5. Visit a poetic place. They're everywhere! Here where I live, near the Blue Ridge mountains, there's Carl Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, NC. Concord, MA, is teeming with poets' homes, as is Boston and New York. James Whitcomb Riley has two homes in and near Indianapolis . . . you'll find a listing of all sorts of poetic places here.

  6. Ask a favorite restaurant or business if they'll post a poem (or several!) during the month of April. Maybe the owner is a fan of Robert Frost or his daughter likes Jewel. If they don't have a preference, offer up a favorite of your own to post by the cash register or even on the bathroom mirror. The worst that can happen is that they'll say no, but if they agree, think how many people will read that poem in the course of a month. You might change somebody's life!

  7. Watch a movie in which poetry plays a role. "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Barfly," "Sophie's Choice," "Million Dollar Baby". . . you'd be astonished how many there are. Or go all out and watch a movie about a poet: "Bright Star," about John Keats; "Sylvia," about Sylvia Plath, and "Shakespeare in Love" come most immediately to mind. You'll find a gazillion other possibilities if you search online for 'poetry in movies.'

  8. Read a poet's biography. From the sheltered routine of Emily Dickinson to the bawdy brawls of Charles Bukowski, poets come from as diverse backgrounds as you can imagine. Treat yourself to some insider information and you might find a whole new layer of meaning beneath poems you only thought you understood.

  9. Host a poetry reading for your friends or family. We twenty-first centurions are missing out on a great tradition of the past: salons. Embrace your inner host/hostess, rearrange the furniture, borrow your Aunt Vinnie's antique punch bowl set and let the good times roll! If there's a poet in your circle of friends, invite him or her to be the guest of honor and read a few poems. Then let others read poems they've brought along--either something they've written themselves, or a favorite by somebody else. Add exotic wines or teas, an array of treats and finger foods, an impromptu ukelele or piano solo, and voila! Instant salon! Or keep it simple and invite every member of the family to select a poem to read and share at the supper table every Sunday night in April. Either way, you'll up your poetic (and cultural) horizon at least a notch.

  10. Commit Random Acts of Poetry. My friend Wendy Morton did this on an official scale for many years in Canada. Poets on the Loose is doing it in the Northwest. I challenge you to find the most creative ways you can think of to interject poetry into your life and the lives of those around you during the month of April. Volunteer to read poetry at your child's daycare center or your grandmother's nursing home. Ask your church if they'll print a poem in the bulletin every Sunday in April. Pair up with a buddy and hand out copies of your favorite poems to people at the bus station. Stage a 24-hour poetry reading marathon outside a truck stop. Your imagination knows no end and I know you'll astound me with the clever ways you'll come up with to celebrate National Poetry Month. Let me hear from you so your great ideas can inspire someone else!