Tell Tale Art (National Poetry Month)

I’m sure many of you have stories about how much you hated reading poetry and learning about the hidden meaning of poems when you were growing up. Especially in junior high, also know as those years between 12-15 years old, if you aren’t Canadian.

I’ve always loved to read and to write myself, but I’ve never had much of an attention span for reading at hours on end, unless I was really committed to a book, but not much can do that.

Which is why I often enjoyed poems.

Poems can be short and sweet or incredibly long, because their forms vary between generations, authors and cultures. I think of it like this, if you can enjoy music, you certainly can enjoy a poem. Because poems can serve a similar purpose, invoking emotion.

But a fair number of people ignore poetry because it doesn’t have that same sexy appeal as music. Music can be enjoyed socially (more easily), you can dance to it, and you can walk away and then come back to it.

Which is probably why academics of the form became discouraged in the 1990s and decided to do something about it, to get your attention and share the beauty of the form.

National Poetry Month is an event in the United States which takes place every April and is celebrating it’s 20th year of existence.

Did you know that the Academy of American Poets came up with the celebration after the success of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March)? Now I am not going to assume any authority on black rights and women’s rights, because I am neither black nor a woman and I don’t know what it’s like to be either, but doesn’t mean that poetry and political rights are on the same level.

I can write that statement fairly safely. But you know what that tells me about poetry, a written art form that often gets the short end of the stick? We don’t give it nearly enough respect.

Luckily for me, you, and everyone else who loves to read beautiful words, national poetry month has grown rather organically over the past 20 years and publishers have taken note. Taken from Wikipedia:

Each year, publishers, booksellers, educators and literary organizations use April to promote poetry: publishers often release and publicize their poetry titles in April, teachers and librarians focus on poetry units during the month; and bookstores and reading series frequently hold special readings. National Poetry Writing Month encourages writing a poem a day in celebration.

Canada joined the efforts in 1999 and has been supporting this event ever since, so Canadians like timotheories benefit from this as well.

What is most fascinating to me about this month is the ability to draw up debate amongst its supporters and antagonists, because by drawing attention to poetry every April it draws attention to the art form, but potentially detracts from other months when writers release new works.

The National Poetry Website of course has some great content to help celebrate the history of poetry while encouraging increased publication and distribution of books to support poets and poetry. How the organization highlights the history of the form is through sharing both living poets and classic poets with readers, introducing poetry into the school curriculum, and facilitating positive attention through traditional media and the internet.

The website even has a list of 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. As you folks know already, I love list. But I’m not going to share the whole thing with you, just a taster.

Some of my favourite suggestions are as follows

  1. memorize a poem
  2. buy a book of poetry from a bookstore
  3. attend a poetry reading
  4. read a poem at an open mic
  5. learn about the different poetic forms

Now I’m not expecting you to leap onto the poetry train while it’s running full bore, but just consider for a minute that this type of creative writing could provide you with an experience you just cannot get from music or long form literature. Start with the more well known favourites like T. S. Eliot or Robert Frost and do yourself a favour and investigate another area of the arts. It may only be a theory right now, but growth only happens through change.

That’s all I have this week my friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves! Come back on Sunday for a new episode of Cross Talk, and of course, comment, subscribe and share!

Tim!

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