More Fun with Poetry Month
I’m going to “cheat” a little today, re-printing an article I wrote on, what else – poetry month – that was published in a local magazine in my community, Journal Plus.
A little of this information will be a repetition, and some will be location-specific. But the sentiments are universal, and I wanted to share the thoughts and words of two people who love poetry at least as much as I do. I think you will enjoy their perspectives.
And since I am posting this well before April 26, Poem in Your Pocket Day, so you can officially participate in this fun experiment.
Disclaimer: The article and poems included here have been published elsewhere. I am simply sharing them as information and examples.
WANT TO FALL IN LOVE THIS APRIL?
By Diane Fanucchi
Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” —Claude Monet.
This can apply to any art form, but one art many people find hardest to love is poetry. Maybe Monet’s words explain why.
At some point, probably in school, you’ve likely tried to “understand” a poem, and felt inadequate because you couldn’t figure out the “right” answer. It felt like a test, a test you might fail. Not much to love there. However, if you take a closer look, get to know a particular poem or two, you just may find out you like it. You might even fall in love. And this new love could enrich your life in ways you never imagined.
April is National Poetry Month. This is a great time to start getting to know poetry, and see if you like it, or some of it, after all – to have your first “date,” so to speak. You could go to a reading, find suggestions about good poems to start with, maybe even try writing your own poem.
Jeanie Greensfelder, San Luis Obispo Poet Laureate, knows a few things about learning to love poetry. She started out as a psychologist, in order to try to understand herself and the human condition. As she put it, “I’m interested in people, and how we work.”
Not until much later in her life did she begin to appreciate poetry, and see the connection between psychology and poetry.
For her it started with two poems by Mary Oliver: “The Journey,” and “Wild Geese.” She began to see how poetry can give us psychological insight into the human condition, and speak to us personally.
She suggests sharing a poem you like with others. It might bring you closer together, or help you through a difficult time. Greensfelder uses poems this way in her work as a volunteer grief counselor for Hospice. She says, “The right poem offers the understanding that we seek; a poem can go to the heart of our shared experiences.”
Although she came formally to poetry later in life, Greensfelder thinks we are all born with the capacity to enjoy poetry. She expressed it this way: “Poetry is a natural thing. When we’re young we love rhyme and song. Then we go to school. It’s easy to lose it.” But “there’s pleasure in words.”
She invites: “Poetry is out there for everyone, to experiment with and to own. Every time we create something it expands us, and it feels good.” When someone asks her “when did you become a poet?” She replies, “when did you stop?”
If you want to reconnect with your inner poet, or just give poetry another try, Poetry Month can help. It was founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets (AAP) to become “the largest literary celebration in the world.” One of its goals is simply to “encourage the reading of poems.”
You can go to their website www.poets.org for their list of 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month. To find new poems you might love, you can try item 2 – sign up for Poem-a-Day – to receive one poem every day by email.
Item 26 is “Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day today! The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with coworkers, family, and friends.”
This echoes what Greensfelder suggests. According to the AAP website, “Poem in Your Pocket Day 2018 is on April 26 and is part of National Poetry Month. On this day, select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.”
Many local libraries give out free copies of poems. Call your branch for details.
There will be local events and readings in SLO County, so you can get involved right in our community. Leona Guidace, the new director of Arts Obispo, which works as an arm of the California Arts Council, says they will be focusing on poetry for their Art After Dark event in April. Art After Dark takes place in Downtown San Luis Obispo, the First Friday of the month, so in April that will be Friday April 6th.
The specific venues and events are not yet known, but Guidace, herself a poet who knows the power of finding the courage to share your poetic efforts with others, says they’ll be reaching out to vendors who can host a reading or a call for poems. Arts Obispo helps to enrich local visual, literary, and performance arts, and the community. They’ll be inviting local poets to submit poems and participate in readings.
Like Greensfelder, Guidace came to poetry on her own as an adult, in her case after a visual arts education. She finds satisfaction in combining the two. She offers encouragement, both to poets who hold back because they don’t feel qualified to share their work, and to readers who haven’t yet learned to see the power of poetry.
Guidace says, “I want to amplify, enrich, embolden and encourage all of the artists who don’t think that they have a right to have a voice.” She emphasized that poetry can be part of our wellness program, and help us become more still and observant. She says, “I think if one would open their thinking and invite the concept of wellness and humor and enrichment of our well-being, then you would thoroughly enjoy poetry.”
She adds: “It’s so prevalent in many cultures, and it’s such a beautiful art form, and it can be fun too. I would invite anyone to take another look at it or try experiencing it in a different way.”
In conclusion, a few themes keep presenting themselves: Poetry can be fun, playful, and open to anyone; it can be good for our health and well-being; and it can help us understand ourselves, communicate better with others, and experience the beauty and joy of a different approach to language.
So whether you’re a seasoned local poet, or brand new, an appreciative reader, or someone who hasn’t yet discovered how joyful and welcoming poetry can be, this April is a great time to experience the pleasure and power of poetry, and to explore community events that celebrate the poet in each of us.
I thought it would be fitting to end this post with some samples of Greensfelder’s poetry.
The sun sears hot this morning,
comes down hard.
At breakfast, we stop to laugh.
He laughs when I say
we need to do something
when I mean he needs to. I just said
we need to get the ladder to change a light bulb.
We laugh extra as we age,
look at each other a second too long,
see our inner roulette wheels spin,
and know the one left standing
will remember this moment.
The sun sears hot this morning,
comes down hard.
(from Biting the Apple, Penciled In, 2012
To the New Year
You burst from the starting gate
and though I pull on the reins,
I hang on for the ride,
longing for 1940’s snail-pace years
when I wanted to be older, faster, sooner.
Now you race through weeks and months,
rushing to your demise. Do you ever
think of jumping fence,
lying in green pasture,
letting me slip from the saddle
to the spacious terrain of silence
where I can breathe
reflections about my life,
feel the texture of grass,
and gaze into your tender eyes?
© by Jeanie Greensfelder.