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.

Poetry and music

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.

Subtle Sounds

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.

Word War

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.


Categories: language, Literature, poem, Poetry, Rich Paschall

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25 replies

  1. “Word War” not “War Word” — I’m correcting Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There were some War Words in the class. I tried to avoid them. You are right, of course. The teacher was likely a frustrated poet. I would have to hunt down my transcript but I think it was one of the few classes I got a B and was not happy about it.


  2. Not too bad Rich, not to bad. I like Robert Frost too. Have you heard of Robert Service? He wrote the Cremation of Sam McGee. One poem of his that I really like is : “There’s a race of men that don’t fit in, A race that can’t stay still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and they rove the flood, And they climb the mountain’s breast; Theirs is the curse of the gipsy blood, And they don’t know how to rest.” Robert Service.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wrote a submarine poem for the OLWG today. This weekend marks the 121st year that submarines have been part of the USN fleet. An anniversary of sorts.
    Please write more poems, I like ’em.
    One of my favourites is Adrienne Rich.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TN, did you serve on a submarine? Perhaps I’ve missed something — but I haven’t seen much stuff marking the anniversary. I’ll check the news today and tonight. If this was a Marine holiday, you bet your M-1 rifle, there would be plenty of noise out there.
      TN, how do I get your sub poem? I see OLWG and plead ignorance.
      I once did a TV news piece on a sub. It was quite an experience. Yes, lots of bumping elbows.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. I lie Word War a lot. Poetry is so individual. It lurks everywhere. To me, the sea is a poem without words. Frost us also one of my favorites.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. After all these years I still like Word War.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia, I also like “War Word” a lot. It certainly is very relevant.

      I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Robert Frost early in my days as a TV news reporter in Massachusetts. Truly, a memorable day. He was most gracious to the young reporter.

      I recall the assignment editor saying, “We have the opportunity to interview Robert Frost–“. I jumped out of my chair with hands raised before he could finish.

      Liked by 3 people

      • What a golden opportunity. It’s good to hear that he was gracious. Even when some celebrities acted as if they were celebrities around me, I still respected their talent. Actually, I can think of only one time when one actor rather regally told me to book him into a restaurant. I was a publicist for the studio at the time and asked him, Who was your social secretary last year?” He looked at me and then said, rather humbly, “Sorry. I’ll do it.” Later on, we became friends.

        Liked by 2 people

      • This would be a good month to tell that story here, or retell as the case may be.


  5. I like poetry. I hate bad poetry. Does anyone really understand that Robert Frost is NOT recommending building walls? We have his portrait (by Alfred Eisenstadt) downstairs. Let’s hope that everyone doesn’t start writing poetry. I might have to flee the country.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I promise to spare you more of my bad poetry.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I actually LIKE yours. That’s the problem with poetry. The good and the bad hang together and you get sucked in. Actually, I love limericks, too 😀 My mother was very big on dirty limericks from the 1930s. Some of them were downright indecent.

        Liked by 1 person

        • A friend gave me a book of dirty limericks as a birthday or Christmas gift one year. I guess I still have it somewhere. It’s not the sort of thing to donate to the Salvatioon Army Thrift Shop


      • No, Rich, we’ll take whatever you wish to share. Poetry is a precious commodity. The use of words as music is an effort to be praised.

        I don’t think your Lit Prof was a Mr. Chips. Sounds like the frustrated, would be poet turned teacher so many of us encountered.

        Rich, “War Word” is marvelous. Keep those poems coming.

        BTW: Rich, have you seen Ken Burns’ PBS trilogy “Hemingway” yet? It’s very good.
        “Papa” was an S.O.B. — But the S.O.B. could write.

        Liked by 1 person

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