More Fun With Poetry Month

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.

 

We

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

 
 

Knitting

by

Jeannie Greensfelder

 

There’s a thread you follow.
–From “The Way It Is” by William Stafford

I hold out my arms. Mother
puts coils of yarn around them.
Starting with a thread,
she winds ball after ball,
colors for her afghan.

I did not know then
that life holds out its arms
and starting with a thread,
I knit my story.

© by Jeanie Greensfelder.

To the New Year

by

Jeanie Greensfelder

 

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.

Enrich Your Life with Poetry, this April and Beyond

It’s finally here. April. In my world known as National Poetry Month.

A brief history. National Poetry Month was started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, in order to bring more support and recognition for poets and poetry.

A few of its stated goals are to:

  • “highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets”

  • “encourage the reading of poems”

  • “assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms”

  • “encourage support for poets and poetry”

Although poets and poetry certainly deserve more credit and notice, everyone benefits because reading poetry regularly and sharing it with others can be life-enriching, therapeutic, and fun.

Poetry can be an important part of our lives every month, but National Poetry Month just gives us a good way to get started becoming acquainted with poetry and its power and pleasure.

In many communities, poetry month activities include poetry readings, contests, and other events at schools, libraries, and other venues. Some local businesses also get involved. Going to a reading to hear a poet perform their poems or maybe even trying to write your own poem are great places to start. But if you do nothing else for Poetry Month, I suggest you simply read some poems.

In my first “poetry post” I introduced you to a website where you could read poems and possibly discover some that you love. Now here’s another site, with an added benefit. You can sign up for their free “poem-a-day” program, and receive one poem by email every day.

One poem each day doesn’t take long to read, and it gives you an easy way to make poetry a part of your everyday life, and to discover new poems you might not otherwise have had a chance to read, enjoy, and share. You probably won’t like all of them, and some might be “hard” poems better understood by other poets (sometimes), but you’ll likely find some that are a good fit for you.

Another helpful feature is that when the poem is by a living poet, the poet provides a paragraph or so explaining the background of the poem and what they meant it to say. This can be really helpful in adding insight into a poem. I would suggest reading the poem, seeing what you get out of it, then reading the comments and re-reading the poem, to see how your perception changes.

The website is “www.poetry.org.” It is the official site of the Academy of American Poets. On the site you can learn more about poetry month, and about poetry, and you can look up poems by poets you like, or by subject.

I’ve chosen one poem from this site by Jane Hirshfield, a poet I especially like. Her poems tend to combine simplicity, specificity, and emotional depth in a way that is easy to relate to, even if the poems themselves are not always “easy.”

This one is short, deceptively simple, and bittersweet. (I think I’ll need to choose something humorous next time)

Dog Tag

By Jane Hirshfield

At last understanding

that everything my friend had been saying

for the thirty-three months since he knew

were words of the dog tag, words of, whatever else,

the milled and stamped-into metal of what stays behind.

Blackcap Mountain. Blue scorpion venom. Persimmon pudding.

He spoke them.

He could not say love enough times.

It clinked against itself, in clinked against its little chain.

————————————————————————–

This is one of those poems that I understood a lot better after reading the poet’s comments.

The gist was fairly straightforward. A friend died after a long illness, with plenty of time to tell the important people in his life what they meant to him, and he used the time well. But some of the specifics, such as the italicized phrases, where not as clear, though they were clearly personal to both the subject and narrator of the poem.

I will not include the comments here, since they were longer than the poem. But one of the main parts I found helpful was her explanation of those italicized phrases. Such personal, specific word choices make the poem more powerful, but they can also be a bit puzzling to the reader.

Blackcap Mountain – a place they’d visited when they were young. Blue scorpion venom – a treatment used for his illness. Persimmon pudding – what she made for him to enjoy near the end, with persimmons from another friend’s tree. All this is about personal history, friendship, connection.

The explanations were helpful, but I think even if we don’t know their history or exact meaning, such personal, specific words and phrases help add meaning and interest to the poem, even if we have to make up part of the story for ourselves.

I didn’t really like the title, but after some research I think I got the point she was making – that all these personal details — the meaningful places and things; the people he loved and was loved by; the words and experiences they shared, were all part of what he left behind to identify him and the life he had lived.

I would love to hear in the comments any poems you discover that you like, and what you like about them.