4.02.2012

National Poetry Month 2012


Welcome to April, friends!  Perhaps you're like me, and you didn't notice that March was almost over until it was gone?  Well, I'm here to remind you that April is here, and (at least where I'm from) it is gorgeous.  Also, it is National Poetry Month.  Many of you may know Serena who blogs at Savvy Verse & Wit, and if so, you may appreciate her encouragement to read and discuss more poetry.  This month, she is hosting a blog tour to celebrate National Poetry Month, and I am happy to be participating on this first day of the tour.

Lately, I've been writing little to no poetry, but I have been reading some beautiful poems and thinking about poetry, especially as I've been reading Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook.  Oliver is a poet I haven't read extensively, but I love to dip into her collected poems because it always provides such a satisfying return.  And her handbook is no different.  It is simplistic and instructive, so it is possible, I suppose, for a reader to find it boring or overly didactic.  I don't, and I don't think even the most accomplished of poets would have much to quibble over in this passage from the first chapter:
If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet -- one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere -- there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them.  Writing a poem is not so different -- it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind.  They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen.  Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.
I love the way she paints this image for us while also reminding us of the importance of discipline.  The contrast between the foolhardy passion of Romeo and Juliet and the disciplined writerly life is surprising and intentional and, at least in my mind, highly effective.   She reminds me that to be a writer I have to write.  I have to make room for my work if I want the words to come.

She also provides good, solid instruction on such matters as meter, scansion, and rhyme.  She stresses the importance of reading "widely and deeply," going on to say, "Good poems are the best teachers.  Perhaps they are the only teachers" (10).  She tackles free verse, tone, and diction, and throughout she scatters such phrases as:
There is a seed of silence at the edge of the sound. (24)
and
language is a living material, full of shadow and sudden moments of up-leap and endless nuance. (43)
and at the end
For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.  Yes, indeed. (122)
This April, whether you read Mary Oliver's handbook or her poems or those of the countless amazing poets out there, join us in appreciating Poetry.  Considering poetry.  And, perhaps, writing poetry.  For my part, I plan to revive my Friday First Drafts feature, so come back on Friday to read and give me some feedback or even to share your own work.  I'd love to hear it.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for joining the tour and sharing Oliver's handbook. This is one book I don't have of hers. I have several collections. I was first introduced to her poetry through a friend many years ago. I love it. This handbook sounds like a great addition to my collection.

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  2. Was not aware of this collection, so thank you for that I especially like the line that starts "For poems are not words, after all," it reminded me of a quote by Eli Khamarov "Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession
    of definition"

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  3. This is on my list of books to own and cherish, read and love. I love all the quotes you pulled. They're really wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. I haven't seen this book -- it sounds wonderful, especially the line you've quoted about a "seed of silence at the edge of sound". Gave me shivers!

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  5. "Writing a poem is not so different -- it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen."

    Thank you and Mary Oliver.

    http://elizabeth-inthemoment.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-is-poetry-month-childrens-poetry.html

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  6. Thanks for all these great comments. I'm sorry I didn't respond individually - must have slipped my mind.

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I love a good conversation, even (or especially) one that gets heated, so fire away! I try to respond to all in a timely manner.