Thursday, March 23, 2006

April is the kindest month

If you’re a poet, you know all about April. And if you’re not a poet, here’s a tip. That’s the month when Poetry takes center stage with a deliberately capital P.

Now there are poets who think this is silly. The thinking goes that poetry should be special every month. A few years ago, Charles Bernstein garnered quite a bit of press for himself by voicing anti-poetry month sentiments. He summed up further thoughts in an essay for the University of Chicago Press Net site, and later read a briefer version of the essay on public radio. Pretty good press for someone who doesn’t like the annual celebration.

Each to his or her own I say. As for me, I like the idea of National Poetry Month. Each year, I write a special poem to commemorate the occasion, and I get a number of invitations to speak about and read poetry. It’s always been a mission of mine to turn people onto poetry—not just my own, but to other poets as well. There are certain poems that stay with me, poems that I recommend to audiences because I admire the skill of the poets. Poems like Wendy Cope’s “The Orange,” Julie Carter’s “But Soon,” Kim Addonizio’s “Therapy”, and just about all verses by Emily Dickinson, many by James Wright, Charles Simic, Frank O’Hara, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Bishop and others too numerous to list—these are poems and poets I tell others about.

It’s easy to persuade people to read poetry if you’re passionate about it. I suppose from my list you can tell I’m a very diversified reader, and I confess to being a diversified poet as well. I bore easily.

The American people love poetry, all sorts of poetry. Smarmy poems and sophisticated poems, spoken word poems and prose poems, sonnets and rambling free verse. I know because I’ve logged thousands of miles traveling this great country to connect others to poetry. I’ve received many kind emails and expressions of appreciation for my own work, and I’ve enjoyed book sales that please my publisher.

But I’ve also been bashed on the trope by poets who didn’t care for my style or subject matter. On one occasion, I became very angry at a poet about that sort of thing, but in a short time, I let the anger go and never looked back. Because for me, poetry is a pleasure separate from love or friendship. I have many people in my life to ease my journey through the human condition. So I won’t worry about those who can't. And poetry, that purest form of writing, goes far beyond petty concerns of the human realm.

So I’ll pursue my usual NPM ramblings. I’m doing a very pleasant reading with Dorothy Fletcher at Starbucks Coffee Company (Authors at Starbucks) on April 9. Dorothy and I do these events together in part, as an outreach for the National League of American Pen Women, Jacksonville branch. And I’ll devote the entire month of April at Bookbeat to NPM events and themes.

Mainly I do poetry for me. I can’t sit still long enough to get a manicure, and I never did like to shop. That my efforts encourage others is the silver lining in a very intriguing cloud.

Visit The Writer online for a special celebration of National Poetry Month in April. The Writer’s Online Poetry Spotlight 2 will continue through the month. I’m enjoying reading the variety of poems submitted.

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