For all you wordy people out there, you probably already know that April is National Poetry Month!
This month, inspired by the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, allows writers, poets, librarians, literary minds and the like celebrate the written verse.
I’ve seen articles listing ways you can celebrate the art of poetry, like attend readings or take a stab at writing yourself, but I like to reflect on my own National Poetry Month experience.
A college freshman in April 2008, I had just left the English Building onto the Quad and was walking back to my dorm. I noticed a group of bicyclists riding quickly toward me. They were sporadic in their pattern, so I stood frozen until they passed. I had no intention of being one of those people, thinking I can be clever and out-dart a bike in the nick of time. Due to my stillness, however, one of the bicyclists stuck out his hand as he passed by with a note and cheerfully said, “Happy Poetry Month!” I unwrinkled the piece of paper. It was William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” a poem we had just gone over in my poetry class with professor and poet Michael Madonick.
I love this poem. Now, at first glace, this poem might seem like an apology: “I’m sorry I’ve eaten your plums, but, gosh, were they delicious!” But, to paraphrase what I learn from probably one of my favorite and most expressive professor, this poem is more like a slap in the face: “This is just to say I know you were saving those plums for breakfast, but I still ate them anyway. I’m sorry I’m not sorry.” Think of how you could reword this to apply to someone in your own life. Does it sound familiar?
Since that day, I’ve kept this poem on my desk. I’ll look over to read these words and think of how often we encounter poetry, but don’t really see it. I think of class with Madonick and how he taught us that poetry can be fun yet raw. Our lives are poetic in nature, but we do not notice it. When we heard poetry, we think of Victorian poetry, Shakespeare and sonnets, or cliché rhyme schemes and couplets, or the ever-so popular “Roses are red/ Violets are blue…” and not what it is and what it can be.
Poetry, like any bit of literature, is powerful, especially when heard. Here is a video of Michael Madonick reading “The Sheep Child” by James Dickey and how a poem had an impact on an unlikely individual.
Do you have any stories about National Poetry Month or about poetry in general and its significance in your life?