April is Poetry Month!
Join me and take the April Poetry Month Challenge. Everyone is welcome and it doesn’t matter whether you think of yourself as “a poet” or not.
I know that some of you have probably had little exposure to poetry. Some of you may dabble in poetry. Some of you are already accomplished published poets. And some of you, like me, may have had bad early experiences with poetry. (I’ll be sharing my poetry horror stories with you later.)
But here’s the thing: poetry is wonderful. It expands your horizons both as a writer and as a reader. Your reading diet isn’t balanced without it. And your writing tool set needs poetry to be complete.
Why Poetry is Good For Writers
Poetry is good for you as a writer, whether you think of yourself as a “serious poet” or not. (Whatever that means!)
I spent several years studying poetry intensely and writing it regularly: the experience of immersing myself in poetry transformed my writing. Poetry gave me a new appreciation for language, syntax, grammar, and punctuation; near rhyme and slant rhyme; the rhythm and meter of language; the importance of the final word in a line; even the shape of a word on the page. (If I’ve ever done notes for you, you may recognize some of those elements from comments I’ve made on your work.) In short, poetry opened my eyes to new possibilities in language, that apply to everything I write.
What if it was easier to describe your scenes? Find the striking detail that epitomizes your character? Supercharge your action verbs? Write stirring prose that moved your readers?
There’s a lot writers of all forms can learn from poetry.
But What If I Hate Poetry?
I want to acknowledge that some of us have had truly awful experiences with poetry, especially at school. But there’s more to poetry than public humiliation in front of a hostile crowd of spotty classmates! There’s also more to poetry than complicated forms, archaic language, and dead white guys. There are living, breathing people who look just like you who are writing compelling, vibrant poetry today that speaks to your life. If you think you hate poetry, I’d wager that you just haven’t met the right poem yet or encountered poetry in the right circumstances. Let’s fix that!
If you absolutely have zero interest in playing with poetry this month (which frankly would surprise me, as you strike me as an open-minded and adventurous lot), don’t despair: there’s going to be a lot of poetry flying around but I promise there will still be lots of non-poetry stuff, too. Besides, when you see what I have in store for you I think you’ll want to play, too.
What’s the April Poetry Month Challenge?
Okay, now for the good stuff. I want to challenge you to celebrate Poetry Month with me by:
- Reading a poem a day for 30 days;
- Writing a poem a day for 30 days;
- Reading a poem a day and writing a poem a day for 30 days; or
- Setting your own Poetry Month reading and/or writing goal.
Why? Because it will expand your horizons, make you a better writer, and put hair on your chest. Most of all, because it’s fun!
Also, let’s be real about this: if you pledge to read and/or write poems every day this month and you fall short, YOU STILL WIN. Every poem is to the plus. Please don’t make the April Poetry Month Challenge a source of stress: let it be a source of adventure.
Where Do I Find Poems To Read?
You’re in luck! One of the exciting things about Poetry Month is that all kinds of poetry groups offer poem-a-day subscriptions, where you sign up to get a new poem every day by email. Here are a few to get you started.
- Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day
- Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day (scroll down, sign up is on bottom left)
- The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor
I’m sure other great poem-a-day services will pop up in the month of April. As you find good ones, please share them in the comments. Also, if there are poems, poets, or books of poetry that you love and want to recommend, please do!
How (The Hell) Do I Write a Poem A Day?
First of all, we’re not taking about epic Norse sagas here: a couplet or a haiku will do.
Second, the idea of writing a poem a day isn’t about putting pressure on you to write Great Monuments of Literary Achievement. I just want to get you to stretch your writing muscles in a new direction and see what you discover. This is really all about committing to write a quantity of poems (hasn’t the idea of creative quantity come up before?), to take risks, to give yourself permission to fail, and most of all to have fun.
Third, I’m asking you to trust me. This will be really fun, I promise. For one thing, I’ve got some collaborative poetry writing games up my sleeve that are absolutely zany–and every contribution you make counts as a poem, so you’ll hit 30 poems in no time. For another thing, if you’re prepared to commit to the April Poetry Month Challenge, I will do my best to provide you with all the support you need, including really fun writing prompts that should work for you whether you’ve ever written a poem before in your life or not. Does that sound a little safer and more fun? That’s the point. I wouldn’t throw you out there without a net, ever.
Here’s a writing prompt about epigrams to get you started.
How Do We Share Our Work
Here’s what you need to know about posting poetry online: if you put your work up on a publicly accessible website, most publishers will consider that work to already be published and won’t consider it for professional publication. Now on one hand, I don’t want you to worry about writing Big Important Poems as part of the April Poetry Month Challenge. On the other hand, I have a strong feeling some of you are going to surprise yourselves and write some good stuff, and I don’t want to close off any opportunities for you.
Therefore, I’m looking at ways you can share your work on this site in special password-protected areas. They won’t be indexed by search engines, they will only be visible to human beings who log in, and your work will still be eligible to submit for publication. I’m going to start with a password-protected post to share your poems for this week and if we find that enough people are participating that we’d like more breathing room, I can increase that to a new place to post your poems each day. The password is: poetrymonth. I will also make a note of the password in the current weekly check in so it’s easy for you to find.
[When I mentioned something about “special content for email subscribers” in this week’s weekly check in, I was cryptically alluding to the new password-protected areas. I considered making the password available through the email updates, but I realized that this place doesn’t need security measures to be that complicated. I want to set the record straight that while you’re always welcome to sign up for email updates, you do not need to be an email subscriber to use the password-protected areas.]
I hope you will share your daily poems and I look forward to sharing mine with you, too.
- Share your April 1 / Day 1 poems here
- Share your April 2 / Day 2 poems here
- Share your April 3 / Day 3 poems here
Keeping Track of Our Pledge Progress
As we already have the weekly check in, let’s share how many poems we’re reading and writing each week, at least to get started. That way we can all keep a running tally.
Questions? Comments? Let Me Know
Please share your feedback with me about what kind of support would help you do this. I’m looking forward to playing poetry with you and I want you to have all the tools and resources you need
Make Your April Poetry Month Challenge Pledge!
Make your pledge below and let’s do this! Happy Poetry Month.