National Poetry Month, Rich Paschall
There seems to be a day, a week, or even a month for just about everything. The types of things for which mayors, governors, and even presidents are willing to present a proclamation seem a bit strange to me. Did you miss One Cent Day on April 1st? No joke, it is a day to commemorate the history of the penny. I guess it doesn’t count for much anymore.
Certainly, you did not miss out on the fact that April 1 is also Sourdough Bread Day. No Foolin’! The stuff has been around a long time. I guess it deserves an entire day, especially when you consider some of the other things that get a day. Perhaps I should make a point to buy some. It was also National Burrito Day and I really should have purchased some of those. April 11th is National Submarine Day. I think they mean the ship, not the sandwich.
Poetry gets all of April. That seems fair when you consider the vast amount of poetry in the world that most students try to avoid reading. Maybe it is as good a month as any to push this literary format to the front of the classroom, library, den, coffee-house, or wherever you might find verse lurking in the shadows.
The celebration of a poetry month was introduced in 1996 as a way to increase awareness of the genre in the United States. President Clinton issued a Proclamation on April 1 of that year, declaring “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry.”
As libraries, classrooms, and bookstores put up posters of famous poets and feature collections of poetry, consider how much poetry you know. You don’t think you know any? How many song lyrics do you know by heart? I guess you know a lot of poetry after all.
In the 1970’s I would turn over album covers (you know, the cardboard sleeve that records came in) in order to see if the lyrics were printed on the back. There seemed to me to be a lot of thoughtful lyrics on a variety of social and emotional issues. I loved reading the poetry as much as hearing the music.
When I was in graduate school, I took a class in Poetry Writing. I thought I was good at it and wanted to see if I could learn some tricks to writing better poetry. I learned there are no real tricks. Either you are good at it and are willing to spend time working on it, or you are not so good and do not want to invest the time in a genre that is only pushed forward one month a year.
My professor of poetry writing did not like my first effort for the class. I thought it was the kind of thing he wanted, apparently not.
They hang softly in the distance.
They tell of something somewhere,
but not here.
They reveal that life goes on,
while deafening silence moves in to share my space.
Like seasons, they run in cycles.
Just as Spring moves to Summer and beyond,
sounds move to silence and beyond.
They have come to my life.
I know they are there,
yet I can only see
and not hear.
Don’t bother to analyze it. I am not sure what it means either, and I wrote it. Of course, that was more than 35 years ago, but I do recall the professor’s disdain. By the end of the semester, I was able to write something he liked. I believe he never realized the work was as much a commentary of his class and usual criticisms of poems, as it was the fulfillment of an assignment. Since April 11th is Cheese Fondue day, I suggest you go grab something to dip into a pot of hot cheese and enjoy the following.
The mood is tense.
Words are fighting for meaning.
These stressed soldiers cry out
but are not understood.
General Vague evaluates the conflict.
The consonants are not alliterating,
the end words not rhyming,
and the images “not working.”
Major Disaster declares the stanzas hopeless.
The transitions are lost,
the punctuation missing,
and the verse running free.
Private Joke laughs to himself.
He sees the experts
with no answers.
Robert Frost is among my favorites. I enjoyed reading his works in high school and college. Perhaps this is a good spot to recall one of his since I have miles yet to go.