It’s National Poetry Month, which is a perfect time to add more poetry into your everyday life. The Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month in 1996 to remind people to appreciate the beauty of poetry and understand the important cultural role it plays in our society. Every year, teachers, librarians, booksellers, writers, and readers come together to participate in this literary celebration.
While some may consider poetry old fashioned, Amanda Gorman’s recitation of “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration sparked a renewed interest in the art form. Her poem showed that poetry doesn’t just belong in the classroom or the past. Poetry can respond to the present moment. It can create meaning, capture emotions, and help readers understand what is happening right now.
There are many ways to incorporate poetry into your literary repertoire. Here are some ideas for ways to read, listen to, and learn about different poems this month or throughout the year.
Kaur gave her poetry a global platform by taking to Instagram with her eloquent verse and beautiful illustrations. This collection celebrates love, feminine strength, and overcoming abuse and trauma. The poems are grouped into sections based on the lifecycle of a flower: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.
This collection won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry along with many other honors. The subjects of the poem include ancient, mythological, and spiritual allusions. But, even when discussing the importance of history, the poems are concerned with the present moment. Brown explores the intersection of safety and freedom through the lens of his own Black, queer identity. Besides being deeply emotional, Brown is a master of form in poetry. This collection even includes the Duplex poem, a form Brown created by mixing together aspects of sonnets, pantoums, ghazals, and the Blues structure.
Dickinson wrote over 1,800 poems in her lifetime. However, less than 20 were published while she was still alive. Her short lines, use of slant rhyme, and unusual rhythms are staples of her innovative work. Today, she is among the most acclaimed American poets and an inspiration for many contemporary writers. Her ruminations on death, immortality, and hope still resonates. Short and easy to digest, listening to Dickinson’s collected poems is a wonderful way to celebrate poetry this month.
Alice Walker is best known for her novel The Color Purple, but she is also a prolific poet. In this collection, she both celebrates and grieves through her poems. She rejoices in nature, but mourns for the destruction of the environment. She contemplates joy, but describes the pain of loved ones dying and the devastation of war. Even amid the pain she captures, Walker returns to a message of hope. In her poem “Calling All Grandmothers” she writes: “We have to live different or we will die in the same old ways.” This and other illuminating wisdom is present in each of her poems.
In 1903, a student mailed some of his poems to the acclaimed poet Rilke asking for his critique. Rilke responded with a series of letters which offer a glimpse into his creative process, views on an artistic life, and belief in the power of poetry. Poetry lovers consider these some of the most important letters written in the 20th century. Rilke himself describes how he thinks these letters capture a part of his creative genius. This is a beautiful collection to read or listen to, especially for people looking for artistic inspiration or motivation for their own writing.
The Poetry Magazine Podcast features interviews from one poet to another, poetry readings, and free association conversations about poetry. In a recent episode, Suzi F. Garcia is in conversation with Joy Harjo, the nation’s first Native American poet laureate. In their talk, the two discuss Harjo’s mixture of music and poetry into albums, her friendship with Audre Lorde, her memoir, and her poetry. This podcast does a great job mixing information about poets’ artistic and writing processes with the inspirational stories of their lives.
Oliver’s poetry is primarily a celebration of nature. Her poems contemplate how nature can help make us feel more alive and in love with the world. She uses simple descriptions of the animals, plants, and landscape around her to impart profound wisdom. This return to simplicity in her work has made her a favorite poet during the pandemic. In West Wind you can read many of her most famous and beloved poems.
About the Author: Alison Doherty
Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.