Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Learning: The power of poetry

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996.
A friend of mine suggested sharing bits of poetry on Facebook during the month, and that got me thinking about other ways I could celebrate poetry and what it means to me.
Why poetry?
I’ve written before on this blog about my love of Mary Oliver’s poetry and the peace and calmness it brings me.
I have always enjoyed reading poetry, and even wrote a lot of it years ago.
I love words, and each word is important in a poem. The entire meaning of the poem can turn on one word and its definition and connotations.
Beyond that, great poets reach into their souls for their words and in turn have the possibility of touching others.
Reading poetry centers me. It’s harder for me to pay attention to the racing thoughts of anxiety when I’m caught up in the cadence of a poem.
Certainly reading poetry is a viable choice for me when I’m trying to redirect my attention away from compulsive urges that go along with obsessive-compulsion disorder.
And many a poem has offered me hope when I’ve been sunk in depression.
Poetry adds beauty and insight to my life, and that’s a good thing for anyone, not just those who suffer from OCD, depression and other anxiety disorders.
Let’s celebrate!
The website for National Poetry Month provides 30 suggestions on ways for individuals and the community to celebrate poetry. Here are some of my favorites:
Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day. This day is April 26. You are invited to carry a favorite poem in your pocket and share it with others.
I didn’t want to wait until April 26. I carried a poem in my pocket today. I liked reaching into my pocket and remembering the poem and reciting it to myself. It was an Emily Dickinson poem that reflects the power of words:

“A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.”

Read a book of poetry. I plan to revisit some poets I haven’t read for a while, and look for new ones.
Memorize a poem. I love memorizing poems. They are available to me whenever I need solace, encouragement or a bit of beauty.
Start a commonplace book. According to the website, commonplace books are personal anthologies. You copy favorite poems and quotations into the notebook. These notebooks “can be a source of enjoyment and solace, reminding the keeper of favorite books and poems, and can even become family heirlooms.”
I’ve done some of this in my journals, but I plan to begin devoting one journal to my favorite poems.
Integrate poetry and technology. This involves including poetry as part of your email signature, on your voice mail message and on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
I plan to share a bit of poetry every day on my Facebook page. It will keep me reading, and, I hope, share some beauty with others.
Write a letter to a poet. I’ve never done this. But I’d like to show some appreciation to poets who have touched my life in a positive way.
What is your relationship with poetry? How does reading poetry affect you? Who are your favorite poets? What poem would you carry in your pocket? Do you write poetry?


  1. Poetry is such a wonderful means of expression. I love these suggestions!

    1. Keith, I agree. And I think some things are best expressed in poetry. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Poetry is one of those things that I really want to like. I guess I must be dense or something, but I have a hard time understanding a lot of it. I do like Robert Frost, especially "Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening" and "The Road Not Taken." Plus, Frost lived in NH for a while, so we're very proud of that. When my child was young I purchased a collection of Frost's poems assembled for children, called "You Come Too." Sometimes we would read the little book together. We really liked the poem "Blueberries" that referred to blueberries as big as your thumb! Brings back happy memories just thinking about it. I would carry "The Road Not Taken" in my pocket.

    1. First of all, Sunny, you are not dense!!! I was an English major, so I gravitate towards poetry. But it's not for everyone.

      You don't have to like poetry, or all poetry. Robert Frost is wonderful. I love both "Stopping by Woods" and "The Road Not Taken." I haven't read "Blueberries," but I'm so glad that it brings back happy memories. That's the important thing about any piece of writing (doesn't have to be poetry), or music, or art, or drama, or whatever you love and brings you comfort and joy--it is good for YOU.

    2. That's a good point. Any art is about evoking feelings and memories. Some of it can be so comforting.

      So how does one go about learning to understand poetry better?

    3. Sunny, One way is to look through an anthology of poetry. They're usually divided by time period. For example, I was looking through one of my old literature anthologies this morning and noticed that it covers poetry from the late 1700s to the 20th century. Anthologies usually have commentary and notes that help in reading the poem. The library should have some.

      Or you could pick out a poet that you like and read just his or her work at first. I studied Emily Dickinson like that, and I learned a lot about the importance of word choice, how different meanings of a word can shade the meaning of the poem, etc. I felt a real kinship with Dickinson.

      Just enjoy yourself. If you are bored or you feel like you "have" to read a certain type of poetry (and you really don't), then just move on to something else. Life is too short to spend time reading something you don't want to read!

  3. My husband is a poet. We use to go to a lot of poetry lounges but not so much anymore. He still writes spoken word from time to time but his job consumes a lot of his writing time. Poetry is great and I really wish more people appreciated the art. :) Nice post.

    1. Thank you! That's neat that your husband is a poet. Do you write too?

  4. I wrote poetry all the time in high school. Once I had something published in a magazine. But I haven't written anything since.

    1. Lisa, That's great that you had a poem published. Ever think about going back to writing poetry?

  5. Tina, I love's just so free and much is said in few words....great post!

    1. Tracy, Thank you! Your posts are like poetry. Each word means something.

  6. Before medication, therapy and even understanding that I had all this anxiety, Poetry and music were my sole therapies. I have always turned to poetry. I even write it at times. I can't tell you how much poetry means to me and how the great poets have gotten me through many a hard day. I used to memorize the poems of Tennyson and Poe and Keats and recite them to myself to comfort myself. You may just have inspired my next blog post, my dear cuz :-)

    1. Elizabeth, The voices of the poets from far in the past can still touch us, can't they? I used to write a lot of poetry, but now only occasionally.

  7. What a great post today. A journal of favorite poetry...that sounds like fun & a learning experience. I confess that I'm a lazy poetry reader, but yet some of my favorites require multiple readings to get to the many layers & nuances.
    Robert Frost is a favorite poet. I've always loved BIRCHES; even more after seeing it interpreted by a young dancer.

    1. Carolyn, I have to read poems multiple times, too, and even after years, I can still find new meanings and nuances. That's one reason I love poetry.


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