Thursday, April 10, 2014

What is Poetry to Me?

 Welcome to
National Poetry Month: 
Reach For the Horizon Blog Tour for 2014

For the complete schedule of participants mosey on over to Savvy Verse & Wit, where Serena will make sure you have everything you need.

I have two things to share with you. 


I ran across this article the other day, Against National Poetry Month As Such, by Charles Bernstein, and it made me think. You see, Mr. Bernstein believes that National Poetry Month is bad for poetry.  His argument:
National Poetry Month is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, an organization that uses its mainstream status to exclude from its promotional activities much of the formally innovative and "otherstream" poetries that form the inchoate heart of the art of poetry. The Academy's activities on behalf of National Poetry Month tend to focus on the most conventional of contemporary poetry; perhaps a more accurate name for the project might be National Mainstream Poetry Month. Then perhaps we could designate August as National Unpopular Poetry Month.  . . .

The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an "easy listening" station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. "Accessibility" has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn't be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry.  . . .
There is more to his argument, and I admit to finding parts of it compelling. With countless small presses and journals that support and nurture new, emerging poets, withering and dying (as are other publishing houses) this is an issue I cannot ignore. 

The fact remains that without the heightened visibility and increased push of National Poetry Month, poetry consumption would be further in decline than it already is. Would it not? 

Perhaps a radical rethinking of the issue is called for!

I had to ask myself, "Am I guilty of promoting 'safe' poetry?" Then another thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, not everything is about me.

And Second:
So the question remains, "What is poetry to me?"

I would have to say that it is ubiquitous. Yes. Poetry finds its way everywhere.

It is in the news and on the internet. It is in my mysteries and memoirs. It hides in the music swirling around us daily, even the irritating jingles that fill our shopping carts. Less often, it makes its way into the corporate speak that tries so hard to run our lives.

Some writers charm the language so effectively that their prose dances in the ear and around the brain in a way that challenges even some of the best poets.

If you listen for it you'll hear in it's call, the cry that says, "I am here. I am everywhere. I am in you. Hear me."

I search for poets that comfort me, educate me, challenge me, absolve me, and above all, inspire me to be better.

My greatest regret is that I cannot possibly buy all the poetry books that I would like, both to support the artists and to own their collections. Funny, I can be fairly satisfied in borrowing most books, but not poetry. Our local library has very little of it to borrow, especially from new and contemporary poets. I find some online occasionally, but am always hungry for more. And since I like to reread poetry many times, making notes and comments in the margins, borrowing books can be problematic anyway.

QUIZ time, girlz and boyz:

What is poetry to you? 

Which poets inspire and/or challenge you?

How would you promote poetry to others?

NOTE: All answers do not need to be in the form of complete sentences, nor do they require proper punctuation. Tell me, not what I want to know, but what you need to say. Extra points will be given for thinking that shows an absolute disregard of the directions.


  1. I do my best to promote poetry to others through the blog and the blog tour. I feature as many challenging and accessible poets as I can. I think to say that the National Poetry Month campaign is merely for mainstream or accessible poetry is just something that has been a focus to get those who are not interested in poetry at all to come back to the genre and read and enjoy it. I find that if you start reading a genre and no longer are biased against it (either because of preconceptions or a previously bad experience), you are more willing to keep looking for more in that genre...spreading your wings so to speak.

    I do wish that libraries had a bigger collection of poetry to borrow, but that must be based on demand.

  2. I agree with Serena that being accessible during the month is really important to reach out to people who think that they don't like poetry. People who already know they like it will seek it out during the other eleven months.
    I participate in a program called Poetry in the Halls at my kids' schools, where we put up oversize, laminated poems during National Poetry Month. I would love to have that during the whole school year, with the poems changing every month, but that is way too big of a project!
    Thanks for the reminder to buy poetry books and journals.

  3. I think of accessible poetry as a gateway drug, and sing a line from Tom Lehrer in my head "he gives the kids free samples because he knows full well that today's young innocent faces will be tomorrow's clientele" (from The Old Dope Peddler). Today, Billy Collins. Tomorrow, Audre Lord. Eventually...Wallace Stevens.

  4. I write poetry. I am all into promoting poetry. Poetry for me is....breathing...I cannot do without it. I need to write it. I need to read it.

    Here is my contribution for the National Poetry Month Tour

  5. The best part of words is poetry. That's all I know.

    Hope you will stop by Readerbuzz and take a look at my contribution to Poetry Month, The Official Readerbuzz Guide to All Things Children Poetry-ish.

  6. Thanks for giving me something to think about