In Honor of Poetry Month

No doubt about it, the month of April is a celebratory one for all of us who reside in the poetry world full time. Because the reach of National Poetry Month is so broad and wide, poets and their poetry are estimated to be appreciated by the public more throughout the entire month of April than at other times of the year.

Some say that due to all the hoopla surrounding Poetry Month, the market for poetry is now on the rise. This is good news for poetry journals and for publishers of poetry books, not to mention the poets themselves and their audiences. Whether you are all about, as poet, Lauren Yates puts it, “poetry on the page or poetry on the stage,” you can’t deny that the month of April, coupled with the impact of the Twittersphere and other social media sites, has helped to connect more poets than ever to growning audiences. 

Hashtags like #poetry community, #poetryvoice and #amwritingpoetry showcase just how much the poetry world has evolved and expanded. Perhaps this is a direct result of the cumulative impact of twenty-plus years of National Poetry Month-inspired activities.

In today’s world, readings and poetry book promotions are hailed through 20 second video clips and 250 character tweets. Book shops and online sites laud poetry book promotions and community poetry events through their Snapchat and Instagram sites.  We are all just a keyboard click away from an array of diverse poets and their work. This is more so true now than ever before. And is, in part, due to the influence of National Poetry Month.

Who wouldn’t agree that April’s collective focus on all things poetry is made all the more enjoyable since it is the season in which many of our friends, coworkers, and family members become more attuned to how and why we poets combine our poetic talents with a straight out passion for the written and spoken word. It is nice to be appreciated and understood for our art. Poetry Month celebrations and activities honor this.

For many, the best part of National Poetry Month is having non-poetry world people reach out with requests for poetry recommendations. And who would deny that flash of inner joy that comes when a non-poetry-world friend shares an experience with a new poem that came their way because of a Poetry Month activity?

One of my personal favorite National Poetry Month activities is “Poem in Your Pocket”   Yes,  I carry a miniature copy of W.S. Merwin's "January" in my wallet. #poeminyourpocket (Ask to read it should we meet.) I have even given loved ones gifts of wallet sized poems that I felt would be appreciated. With both experiences,  these Poetry Month strategies essentially became the gift that keeps on giving.  And by the way, “Poem in Your Pocket" Day 2018 is April 26, so start prepping.

National Poetry Month is a trademark by the Academy of American Poets which touts this event on its website,, as the “largest literary celebration in the world." The purpose of National Poetry Month, according to Wikipedia is, “ to increase the awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.” I believe that since its inception in 1996, National Poetry Month is directly responsible for making thousands of people aware that they actually do have a favorite poem once they discover it. #poetryexposure  

For these reasons alone, Poetry Month is awesome.  

Wondering what thoughts others have regarding National Poetry Month? Any unique experiences? Favorite activities? Projects? Events? Insights? Would love to hear about them. Please share!

~Judith Lagana

A Challenge: Memorize a Poem

Every poet knows April is National Poetry Month. And April is just about here. So why not challenge yourself, in honor of National Poetry Month, to memorize one of your favorite poems?  Do this for the joy of it. Select one poem from among your favorites. Make it one that you have not previously memorized for a performance or a reading. Make it one that you do not already partially know by heart because you’ve read it so many times it has already embedded part of itself into the fabric of your brain.

Consider this act of memorizing a creative exercise.  One that you are committing in an effort to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, but to also further your own practice as a poet.  

Accept the challenge to memorize all or part of your chosen poem.  But, be smart about it. Segment and chunk the poem in phrases, lines, or stanzas as you go. Know thyself in terms of how you’ll manage learning the lines best. If you need to consider the poem line by line over the course of a week or a month, then do it. If you are a quick study and can memorize a stanza or two easily within minutes or hours, go for it. If you need a few days or weeks, who is watching? If it takes you months, no one will be the wiser. This is not a competition.

Memorizing a poem is a creative and personal challenge.  So go pick a poem. Consider writing or typing out a copy of it to help you initially work through it.  Set the goal of memorizing individual lines first. Start small. Take the poem apart bit by bit. Honor the poem in your commitment to memorizing it.  Enjoy the words, the rhythm, the cadences. Remember that this is not a race. Unlike so many other things in our lives, there is no sense of urgency, other than committing to finishing what you start.

Try it. See what happens.

Memorizing a favorite poem may change your life. Or it may do nothing for you at all other than give you something to recite to yourself when you are stuck at a traffic light or going for a walk.

Both options could be wonderful. Are you in?

~Judith Lagana

When Creativity Calls

Being a good listener is not always easy.  Between real world and online connections, there are a lot of voices coming at us these days. Even if we have time to spare, remaining focused on what is being said in any conversation is challenging.

Experts say that the key to being a good listener is to tend to the task wholeheartedly.  This means focusing on a speaker's message while trying to withhold immediate judgement. This also means paying attention to any post-intellectual, psychological, or physical reactions we may have in response to what is being said. Listen first. Judge, react, respond, later.  

How might this be applied to our writing practice?

Writing is a creative process, so it stands to reason that all writers have an inner source of creative energy.  This creative energy has a voice, one that can energize us as we move through the stages of the writing process should we choose to listen.  Creative energy often manifests when we come across that which deeply resonates with us. It speaks to us when we feel inspired by another artist's work, albeit a piece of writing, music, or visual art.  These resonating moments usually come without notice and require that we pay attention to them. Some moments are akin to the loud person in the room whose voice and words rise above all else. In this case, if you’ll excuse the Arthur Miller allusion, attention can’t help but be paid. But what about those moments that are more subtle?  The soft spoken persons in the room also have something to say. Their words are equally worthy of our attention. 

The art of listening in conversation requires fully focusing on what is being said, even if we are not entirely interested at a particular moment. It requires trying not to get stuck in our own heads as we ready a comeback or think about how we will share our own take on things while another’s voice is coming our way.  For the writer who is fully engaged in the flow of creative inspiration, this means shutting down every doubt or inner-editorializing thought that might impede getting anything but the purest form of an idea down on the page.  Much the same way you would ask yourself,  “What might I learn from this person?" when engaging as a listener in a conversation, you should be asking yourself, “Where will this lead?” as you engage with your own creative ideas.  Listen and let inspiration take hold of the conversation. Those of us who note, afterwards, the psychological, emotional, or intellectual thoughts inspired by such moments of inspiration may be rewarded by new works-in-progress to add to our portfolio of work.

Giving of our full attention to the voice of our creativity is not always easy. But it is worth the effort. Allow the moments when your creative energies unexpectedly speak to you to fuel your writing practice.  Be available when your creative energies surprise you with a call.  Carry a pen and paper, keep your phone charged and have your digital recorder and writing apps at the ready. Pay attention. And, always listen.           

~Judith Lagana