Poem a Day

To spread the joy of poetry, the Academy of American Poets is offering a Poem a Day during April, National Poetry Month.

I haven’t attempted to post anything about this month because I don’t really read much (if any) poetry. My uncles and grandparents all learned poems by rote at school, but enforced memorization didn’t diminish their love of the verse. And it meant they had at their recall meaningful and touching phrases for every occasion or toast.

I’m embarrassed to say that the only poetry I know by heart are a few lines of Kathy Acker’s:

Blood and guts in high school,
This is all I know:
Parents, teachers, boyfriends,
All have got to go.

Why these lines (where so many others failed to catch hold)? I haven’t a clue. Like many of my generation, I tended to see song lyrics as my poetry and often got baffled when attempting to decipher poems in English class.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate poetry because I consider the art of honing the language to its descriptive essence to be the ultimate skill and success as a writer. It comes as no surprise that brilliant writers, like Shakespeare and Updike, wrote poems on a regular basis.

Recognizing a bit of a deficit in my writerly education, I unearthed my old Introduction to Poetry textbook from high school; reading it is one of my goals for this year. I’ve also downloaded the Poem a Day app to my phone and included a book of poems by the late Mick Imlah on my April reading list. Who knows where all this might lead?

In the meantime, you can celebrate National Poetry Month by subscribing to receive your Poem a Day via email, RSS or iPhone app or find the daily poem on the Poets.org website.

What about you? Have you always loved poetry? Found it confusing? Who are your favorite poets and what are your favorite verses?

Writing that inspired me this week:

But if, one night
As you stroll the verandah
Observing with wonder
The place of the white
Stars in the universe,
Brilliant, and clear,
Sipping your whisky
And pissed with fear

You happen to hear
Over the tinkle
Of ice and Schubert
A sawing – a drilling –
The bellow and trump
Of a vast pain –
Pity the hulks!
Play it again!

~ Mick Imlah, from “Tusking” in his Selected Poems

4 thoughts on “Poem a Day

  1. That’s brilliant – I love the idea of naming trees in your neighborhood! I think your resonant poems pretty much sums up how many of us feel about poetry.

    I’m hoping, as I read more, that – like math – poetry just gets a bad rap and that the older I get, the more I’ll enjoy it. I hope!

    • My favorite tree when I was in elementary school was a big oak that I named “Peter”. One weekend I was home from college at my parents house and I looked out the back window toward the forest where “Peter” stood. There was a gap in the canopy. I ran out the back door. “Peter” had fallen!
      Maybe I could write a poem about that!

      Well, I actually went and got a book called “Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize.” So, before National Poetry Month is over, I’m going to give it a try!

      • Hey Rita,

        Congrats on the poetry book! I finished the Mick Imlah collection the other night and definitely feel he’s gone too soon – it would be lovely to hear more of his poetic voice in the world.

        I sense an “Ode to Peter” coming soon!

  2. Well, Vickie, you’ve nailed my impression of poetry. While I appreciate the artistry of good poetry, I’m afraid I haven’t committed any poems to memory. The closest I came—and I’m ashamed to admit this—was trying to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” as a kid. Let’s see:

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    And that’s about all I remember! Why did I pick that (admittedly treacly) poem? Because as a kid I loved trees (I still love trees) and I even went so far as naming individual trees in my neighborhood.

    And maybe I picked that poem because I’ve found a lot of poetry confusing and confounding.
    But thanks to your post, I’ll look up, and maybe even memorize, an old beloved poem this month!

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