In Honor of National Poetry Month

Lilacs in honor of T.S. Eliot...

It’s April 1st today.  While most people are dreaming up pranks t o play on their friends, family, and complete strangers in honor of April Fool’s Day, I’m thinking about something else.  (I was never very good at thinking up pranks anyway.)  So, what am I thinking about?  Poetry.  Because April is National Poetry Month.  (For info on how this got started go to the info page on The Academy of American Poets website.)

There is all sorts of speculation about why April was chosen as National Poetry Month.  They probably just picked a month out of a hat, to be honest, but there also seems to be an association between poets and April.  Consider, for instance, what are probably T.S. Eliot’s most famous lines (from The Waste Land):

“April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

Also consider how many poets were born in April: John Wilmot, Robert Browning, William Wordsworth, Seamus Heaney, George Herbert, Mark Strand, and the all-mighty William Shakespeare himself, just to name a few.

So, in honor of National Poetry Month I am going to spend some time during the month of April, talking about poetry.  Maybe possibly even sharing a few poems of my own (though possibly not, I’m still debating that…).  I know my main focus in writing is fantasy and science fiction, but I did warn you that I will delve into other writing topics (it’s even in the subheading – “my love affair with the written word”), and poetry is one of my favorite things.  I write poetry occasionally, though admittedly not very well, and I read it voraciously.  I hope you all won’t mind the slight detour.

To get us started, I thought I would share a poem I absolutely love by W.D. Snodgrass, which happens to be called “April Inventory.”

April Inventory

by W.D. Snodgrass

 

The green catalpa tree has turned

All white; the cherry blooms once more.

In one whole year I haven’t learned

A blessed thing they pay you for.

The blossoms snow down in my hair;

The trees and I will soon be bare.

 

The trees have more than I to spare.

The sleek, expensive girls I teach,

Younger and pinker every year,

Bloom gradually out of reach.

The pear tree lets its petals drop

Like dandruff on a tabletop.

 

The girls have grown so young by now

I have to nudge myself to stare.

This year they smile and mind me how

My teeth are falling with my hair.

In thirty years I may not get

Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

 

The tenth time, just a year ago,

I made myself a little list

Of all the things I’d ought to know,

Then told my parents, analyst,

And everyone who’s trusted me

I’d be substantial, presently.

 

I haven’t read one book about

A book or memorized one plot.

Or found a mind I did not doubt.

I learned one date.  And then forgot.

And one by one the solid scholars

Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

 

And smile above their starchy collars.

I taught my classes Whitehead’s notions;

One lovely girl, a song of Mahler’s.

Lacking a source-book or promotions,

I showed one child the colors of

A luna moth and how to love.

 

I taught myself to name my name,

To bark back, loosen love and crying;

To ease my woman so she came,

To ease an old man who was dying.

I have not learned how often I

Can win, can love, but choose to die.

 

I have not learned there is a lie

Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;

That my equivocating eye

Loves only by my body’s hunger;

That I have forces true to feel,

Or that the lovely world is real.

 

While scholars speak authority

And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,

My eyes in spectacles shall see

These trees procure and spend their leaves.

There is a value underneath

The gold and silver in my teeth.

 

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,

We shall afford our costly seasons;

There is a gentleness survives

That will outspeak and has its reasons.

There is a loveliness exists,

Preserves us, not for specialists.

Does anyone else have any plans to celebrate National Poetry Month?  Do you have any poems you like (or wrote) that feature the month of April?  Which poets (if any) do you love?  And if you don’t read poetry in general, why not?  (I’d love to change your mind… ^_^ )

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6 thoughts on “In Honor of National Poetry Month

  1. I wrote a LOT of poetry in high school, and all of it (even the good ones) are all highly angsty and emo… thus unsuitable for lovely April.

    My favorite poet is probably Homer, followed by Thomas Moore and Shakespeare. Percy Bysshe Shelley is also up there with Edgar Allen Poe.

    I have a habit of thinking of song lyrics as poetry set to music, so in that vein, my favorite poets are Simon LeBon, JC Chasez, and Christina Aguilera. Oh! I can’t forget David Bowie, Pink, and Joss Whedon.

    Why Joss Whedon? Have you ever seen the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Brilliant.

    • Oh yes, all of my high school was pretty darn angsty and emo too. I think its just a natural part of the high school experience for the writerly types.

      I think I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorites and one of the first poets I was ever exposed to. And I definitely agree that lyrics are also in essence poetry. (Or at least the GOOD lyrics are). For instance: Leonard Cohen is a brilliant poet.

      (And yes, The musical episode of Buffy was CLASSIC).

  2. I wrote some poetry in High School but not sure where it is. Must be in storage in Blue Springs. As far as favorite poets I must say Edgar Allen Poe. His dark imagery just stirs my creative juices. One of my most treasured presents from my mom is a leather bound Complete works of Edgar Allen Poe I got for Christmas one year.

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